May is about new commencement exercises and big life changes, so when my friend Mark Gorscak texted me Thursday telling me, “I’m going to graduate tomorrow from the Steelers,” it was perfect for a man who has been so influential, even a teacher, for so many people.
If you’re a fan of the game, you know Mark as the guy sitting at the start of the 40 on timing day at the NFL Combine. He’s been doing that for as long as I remember, and definitely for as long as the NFL Network has broadcast the 40. At the same time, if you work for a school’s personnel department and you aspired to work in the league, you know him a different way. I can’t tell you how many budding evaluators I know on the college side who talk about how much time Mark was willing to give them, the tips he provided, or the doors he opened.
In February of 2022, I was lucky enough to present Mark with the C.O. Brocato Memorial Award for Lifetime Service to NFL Scouting. I have to admit that of all the awards we hand out at our annual ITL Combine Seminar, the Brocato Award is my favorite, mainly because it gives me a chance to give some good, humble men a little recognition. Mark certainly fits that description. I remember when he accepted the award a little over a year ago. It was touching to see the whole Steelers scouting department show up, mobbing him shortly before the seminar as they took pictures in the hallway. Even GM Kevin Colbert, in one of his last acts with the team, showed up for Mark. Once the ceremony was under way and I’d presented Mark with his plaque, his remarks were just perfect. He talked about how scouting, and so much of football, is not about the game itself but about people. I mean, chef’s kiss. If there’s anyone in this game who’s constantly selfless, it’s Mark. Of course, I could say that about all the Brocato Award winners so far (Chicago’s Jeff Shiver, Miami Hurricanes executive Alonzo Highsmith and the Giants’ Jeremiah Davis), but Mark has always been that kind of person.
I think the first time I met Mark was in January 2008, when I was running the Hula Bowl, but I didn’t really befriend him until maybe four or five years later, when I reached out, hoping to expand ITL’s work with scouts. I needed to know more about the job, the life, the goods and bads, so he suggested we had lunch at the combine. I mean, here’s an accomplished NFL evaluator offering to spend an hour with some idiot website guy. I felt like I had arrived — I would have been no more honored to have been invited to lunch by Roger Goodell himself. Mark was totally legit, established, loved and accepted by people across the game, but there we were at Weber Grill that day several years ago, discussing the game. He treated me like an equal, though I’m far from that.
Of course, Mark is more than just a good guy. In his 28 years evaluating for the Steelers, there have been few organizations more successful, and it all goes back to scouts like Mark. I mean, the Steelers enter the 2023 season having won at least as many as it lost for 19 straight years. That’s remarkable, and though Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin deserve a lot of credit for that (as well as hundreds of great players, of course), Pittsburgh doesn’t go to eight Super Bowls, winning six, without guys like Mark roaming the roads every fall.
There are probably hundreds of people who could write a blog like this, telling stories of what Mark has done for them. Those people, like myself, will miss Mark and the impact he has had on the game. Mark is not unique in being a good scout and a great man, but any time someone like that “graduates,” it creates a vacancy, a void. It’s a noticeable loss.
Mark has made it clear he’s not done with football, and my guess is that he’ll get a little more time to spend checking out blues and jazz acts around the Pittsburgh area and beyond. At least I hope he does. Music has always been a passion for him. At any rate, I hope I can, in some way, help people the way Mark has.