For those college football players eligible for the NFL draft, the preparation has already begun for the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February. Every NCAA athlete, from every football program, thinks he has the talent to step onto an NFL field and compete at a professional level.
But according to the NFL Players Association
, of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, only 215 will ever make an NFL roster. It's the job of the professional scout to weed out the real talent and splash a cup of Gatorade in the face of all the dreamers.
Over his 13-year career, Mr. Scout (name changed to remain anonymous) has been on hand to watch future NFL superstars pop the eyeballs of pro scouts. He's also witnessed more than his fair share of not-so-great athletes attempt to impress NFL scouts to comical results.
When Mr. Scout first started in the business he did so the way most young scouts do, traveling the country and testing players from hundreds of college programs. He thought he'd found his diamond in the rough at a small school in Virginia.
"I'm doing the weigh-in and this kid steps up," Mr. Scout remembers, "and he is a beast. Absolutely jacked. Probably one of the greatest physical specimens I'd ever seen in my life. I measure the guy and he is about 6-foot-3 and about 255 lbs. with not an ounce of fat on his frame. I ask him, 'What position do you play?' and he answers that he is a fullback."
Unable to fathom why a guy this size only plays fullback, Mr. Scout completes the indoor testing portion and takes the group outside to run the 40-yard dash. He is excited at the promise of this monster and can't wait to see him on the field.
"I'm standing at the finish line," Mr. Scout continues "and the coach joined me after being absent for the weigh-in process. After a couple guys go, the Greek god of a specimen gets up to the line to run and I turn to the coach and ask the guy's story.
The coach looks at the player, looks down at his roster, and looks at him again. He turns to Mr. Scout to admit he has "no idea who this kid is." The specimen takes off and clocks a time of 5.6 which Mr. Scout explains "isn't even acceptable for an offensive or defensive lineman." The kid wasn't a member of the team. He snuck down to the weight room just to say he worked out for an NFL scout.
Not Always As Advertised
"The agent handling the next Peyton Manning," Mr. Scout explains, "isn't bothering to call scouts. He has people calling his phone. We get tons of calls from the guy getting paid to represent players that might not get a look unless an agent is getting paid good money to get him face time in front of a scout."
An agent bombarded Mr. Scout's friend with a week's worth of phone calls prior to the tryouts. This tryout was open to anyone who played high school football in the area.
This particular agent was representing a former lacrosse player at the University of Notre Dame who aspired to be an NFL safety. The agent claimed his client was 5-foot-11, 235 lbs. of solid muscle and could run the 40-yard dash no slower than a 4.35. That's amazingly fast speed even for NFL players. Every day for a week the agent called to confirm his client got his opportunity.
Mr. Scout paints the picture of what went down; "I'm doing the testing and I can see out the window to the area where my friend had set up the 40-yard dash. So the kid runs the 40, and I can see everything but obviously can't hear what's going on. I can tell even from that distance that the kid isn't close to 5-foot-11. A measurement of 5-foot-8 would be rounding up. The kid crosses the line and my friend checks the stopwatch and immediately comes storming toward the building. The kid and the agent are running behind him saying something but my friend is looking straight ahead and not even acknowledging either of them. He looks pissed. I'm trying my best not laugh. Luckily all of the kids were done with the written test and had exited, so they don't see him storm into the room and slam the stopwatch down on the desk. The time was 5.10."
Everybody Is an All-American
The auditions don't always occur on the field. Sometimes, due to unforeseen issues, the tests get moved to parking lots, inside gymnasiums and sometimes right out on a crowded street. On some occasions the guy isn't even an athlete.
"Another scout and I had some time to kill before the players showed up for the weigh-in so we grabbed some sandwiches from the cart in front of the practice complex," says Mr. Scout. "We are standing out on the sidewalk, eating sandwiches and just shooting the crap."
Both scouts were in full team gear with insignias on their warm-up jackets and stopwatches around their neck. Mr. Scout noticed a man about 20 yards away walking straight toward the two of them: "The reason he caught my eye was because he was wearing a three-piece suit. What got my attention was the fact that none of the items of the suit matched. His jacket was blue, his vest green and his pants a dark brown. He approaches and stares at our team logos. Without a word he takes off his jacket and folds it nicely on the pavement. He drops to the ground and does 10 perfectly executed military push-ups, slings his jacket over his shoulder, nods his head and walks away. I think he was trying out. They were pretty damn good push-ups."