I was at the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth this week, and one thing I always try to do while I’m there is hold a professional development event for aspiring scouts. We have so many young evaluators who come here to network that I always want to make sure I do all I can to help them. 

In the past, we’ve had former scouts like Danton Barto (Rams) and Bob Morris (49ers, Browns) as well as scouts who are in the league now like Shawn Heinlen (Eagles) and Chris Hall (Cowboys). The point is not to talk about prospects, or even how to evaluate, but how to build a network that can launch your career. Many evaluators that I greatly respect have been willing to give back.

Tuesday evening, Vikings National Scout Mike Sholiton was kind enough to give about an hour of his time to 8-10 scouting hopefuls in one of the smaller ballrooms at the Fort Worth Sheraton. 

Here are a few highlights from Mike’s talk with the guys.

  • Like everyone else, Mike is a human being who likes to hear positive things. He encouraged scouting wannabes to get to know people in the industry, learn their backgrounds and preferences (perhaps by using our Know Your Scouts feature?), and use that knowledge to send encouragement. Know a scout’s birthday? Send him best wishes. His alma mater secure a great recruiting class? Great time to send him congratulations. Mike gave one specific example of when he loves to hear from his friends and family, but I’ll leave that to those who listened in on Tuesday evening.
  • Mike also cautioned members of his audience not to expect instant gratification. Just because an aspiring scout makes the effort to initiate a conversation or make a new contact, it’s not reasonable to expect it to lead directly to a job opportunity. The goal should be to make a new friend, and to develop and cultivate a meaningful relationship over time. Through those relationships, and the skills honed while developing said relationships, you will be more front-of-mind when job opportunities arise.
  • Sometimes effort isn’t enough. Mike told the story of his early days as a Vikings intern when combine interviews were taking place, and Minnesota’s scouts and executives were eager to spend some time with Florida DE Jevon Kearse. At the time, interviews had no time limits, and Mike waited more than an hour as Denver chopped it up with Kearse. Finally, Kearse emerged from the room, and just as Mike stepped forward to seize his opportunity, an older, much bigger scout (a former offensive lineman) stepped forward, grabbed Kearse’s arm, and commanded, “come with me.”

We’ll talk more about the week in Fort Worth in today’s Friday Wrap. You can register for it here.

Also, if you aspire to work in an NFL front office someday, I hope you join us in Fort Worth next year. Get started here.