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NFL scouts: the journey to find the next star player

Scouting takes recruiters to schools across the country in search of promising athletes

Photo by Allison Neri

Allison Neri, Foods Editor, Puma Press

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When football season approaches each year and the fantasy football league participants strategically draft their teams, the scouts for the National Football League hit the road again. Regional and area scouts travel across the country looking at college players in hopes to find the superstar player that will help take their team to the next Super Bowl.

Every spring, we wait with anticipation to find out who our favorite team is going to choose to become a part of our football community; while it’s exciting to watch the production in the comfort of our own homes, the draft rooms are buzzing with talk of trades, deals and the selection of available players. The draft is a three-day extravaganza that gets fans excited for the upcoming season and gets the scouts excited to see their year of hard work come to a successful conclusion by picking the future Pro Bowl player.

I wanted to see what it was like to be an NFL scout for a day so I went with Phil Neri, regional scout for the Tennessee Titans, who also happens to be my father, to a University to evaluate players.

The morning started with a rough 4:00 a.m. wake-up call and a two-hour drive to the school; the early mornings and the long drives are the day-to-day normal for scouts on the road. Once we arrived, we met with the pro liaison that is in charge of handling professional NFL scouts when they visit the schools. From there we went to an office that is specifically for scouts to conduct their film evaluations. The majority of schools have their practices in the afternoon to facilitate a player’s educational requirement of attending classes. This practice was early in the morning, which is common for West Coast schools.

When watching the tapes of a player, it consists of a lot of rewinding the same play multiple times to watch and critique every single move a player makes in those few seconds.

The scouts also talk to strength coaches to determine if the player’s strength increases over the collegians career and also to trainers to determine their pain threshold and ability to perform with minor injuries. Under federal law, players have the choice to sign a release form to be able to discuss their documented injuries.

To be a scout you have to have a special eye for talent, love for the game and knowledge of every position.

Q: What is the most difficult thing to look for in a player?

A: Phil Neri: The most difficult thing to evaluate is a player’s passion and desire to compete at a high level.

Q: What do scouts look for in a player?

A: Along with the physical aspects of the evaluation, each scout pays attention to a player’s work ethic, character, coachability, leadership, accountability and temperament.

Q: Approximately how many days are you on the road?

A: 220 days out of the year.

Q: What is the hardest part of scouting?

A: The hardest part of scouting is the traveling and being away from home.

Q: What is the best part of being a scout?

A: Finding players who have been not only successful on the field but in life.

Q: How many scouts are there?

A: It works as a tier system. There are six area scouts that cover 49 states, two regional scouts that split the country in half and one director of personnel who will see the top players.

After a long day at the school, scouts will either retire to their hotel room to prepare for the next day or off the airport for their next flight.

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Regional, national and global student reporting.
NFL scouts: the journey to find the next star player