If you’re like me, you love talking football with people who are fully engaged and highly evolved students of the game, and that’s why this was an incredibly enriching (and even fun) week for me as we welcomed four guests to Zoom sessions Tuesday, Wednesday (two) and Thursday.
Here are the guests who joined 30-40 aspiring scouts and football professionals and what I learned from each.
Ethan Waugh, Vice President of Player Personnel, 49ers: From Ethan, I took away that the 49ers are very analytical and measured in their evaluation of scouting assistant candidates. You better know players and evaluation if you come in for an interview. I was also shocked to learn that everyone who comes in to interview for a scouting job takes the Wonderlic, the same exam scouts have administered to prospects for decades. It is clear to me that the Niners are looking for lifers, and focus on true evaluators, not fact-gatherers, as so many modern teams have come to seek.
Mike Sholiton, Director of College Scouting, Vikings: From Mike, I learned that the Vikings are looking for someone who will be a seamless member of the team. Mike related a story about Scott Studwell, who once ran the draft for the team. When he’d solicit opinions from scouts on a player, if he disagreed with their assessment, he would never challenge or belittle them. Instead, he’d allow that the scout might have a different opinion, but that didn’t make him wrong. To be a Vikings scout, you must be poised, professional and able to handle adversity smoothly, never losing sight of your respect for your fellow scouts. I don’t know all of Minnesota’s scouts, but my sense is that the Vikings have a tight-knit group.
Kevin Kelly, Director of College Scouting, Chargers: From Kevin, I got the impression that Los Angeles is looking for competitors. He wants scouts who are willing to stay after practice to get the extra interview from a coach, or watch the extra game film, or seek out one more doctor’s opinion on a player’s injury before making a final evaluation. Like the Vikings, the Chargers aren’t looking for a polished evaluator, per se. They’re looking for someone with the heart of a champion who has a burning passion to win and to get things right. And in case you didn’t think Kevin was giving, he gave out his email address — and cell number — when he got done.
Brian Woods, President of Football Operations, USFL: Though Brian isn’t a scout, he is no less engaged in team-building or, in his case, league-building. I went into the session believing the USFL would just be The Spring League 2.0, a bigger and better version of Brian’s previous project. What I learned was that he has much bigger plans for the league, and while it won’t compete with the NFL, obviously, it will compete with college teams, especially G5 teams. The USFL will grow to become a contender for players who enter the transfer portal and others who are at least three years removed from high school graduation. The USFL will not be the place for six- and seven-year veterans looking to cash a few last checks before cycling out of pro football.
If you saw any of our numerous tweets about this week and you considered joining us, but didn’t, you missed out. Everyone who participated got relevant, critical insights on how to get a job in the game. If we do this again next year, I hope you’ll give us a shot. In the meantime, make sure to register for our Friday Wrap for more information on how to get into the game.