How does a sports talent scout paint a picture of “character” when making football player evaluations? You often hear “I’m a good judge of character” or “I had a read on that guy from the start”.
If that were the case then there wouldn’t be any character issues in the NFL, would there? The “Days Without an Arrest” clock would always be in triple digits, and the “Check the Police Blotter” link would always be empty. Why is it that NFL scouts seem to “miss” certain aspects pointing directly towards bad character on and off the field?
“The sum of all parts…”
Like the “puzzle analogy” used to describe player evaluation as a whole, character can only be assessed by building it with a thousand pieces versus just ten. You have to dig deep to discover the various aspects that make up a person’s character. In the “real world” these are questions that you just don’t ask, in the NFL they have become vital to “getting it right”.
Sports talent scouts (especially football) look at “personal” character separate from “on field” character. Players have a propensity to be two different people, sort of a “Jeckyll and Hyde” syndrome. Away from football they display a certain set of principles, but during competition scouts look for an entirely different dynamic. Switching “on & off” between the two can be quite daunting. A thin line divides “trained assassin” from “mild mannered neighbor”.
Keys to the locks
To know what makes anyone “tick”, it’s important to know their background, the history that brought them to this point. Sports talent scouts look to answer questions like;
- Where is he from? – What type of neighborhood and socioeconomic background was the player raised in. The scout looks to answer the where and why of the player’s education as well.
- What is his family structure? – You want to learn about his parents, their own influence (both good and bad) on the player’s upbringing. Does he know right from wrong? Any traumatic events growing up? Were his parents supportive or distant?
- What is his support system? – To further understand the player it’s helpful to know who he trusts for advice. Does he rely on coaches, counselors, pastors or other family members?
- Does he have his own family? – Some players are thrust into the role of husband and father at an early age. Does he have a wife or girlfriend, and what is their influence? Are there children and is he responsible for their care?
Some might question the relevance, but outside pressures will usually come from within the player’s own family. Knowing his ability to handle these pressures in the past has been a sure indicator of success in the future.
“When the cat’s away…”
Though football has become a 24/7 job, players seek ways to “get away” from the game as much as possible. Sports talent scouts are wise to know how a prospect handles life off the field and away from football. Can you say “Sam Hurd”?
What does he do when not at the complex?
- Arrests? What was the situation & resolution?
- Any off field incidents where he wasn’t arrested or charged?
- Introvert or Partier? Use of alcohol, illicit drugs?
- Religious? Does he affiliate with any religious groups?
- Type of crowd he runs with, does he have a “posse”?
- Would you let him; watch your kids, borrow the car, house sit?
- How will he handle money?
- Does he show commons sense, academic sense?
What is his “Dr. Jeckyll”?
- Shy, outgoing, talkative, jokester or analytical?
- Liked by the football staff, professors and or counselors?
- Enjoy community service?
- A leader or follower outside of football?
- Blend well with students and society?
- Top candidate for press conferences or as team spokesman?
- Mature enough to handle himself correctly?
“The whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Some of these questions are like an “interrogation”, but a club better have a handle on the answers. Character has become such an important factor in the “evaluation & selection” process of young talent, it would behoove clubs to use outside (unbiased) sources to provide professional judgment. Coaches and scouts are too often clouded by the player’s on field abilities to a make sound conclusion about those off the field.
Don’t think for a second that agents don’t understand this as well. There are only limited opportunities to interview prospects prior to the draft and many have already been schooled in combating “interrogation techniques”.
Ultimately it’s in the interest of all those involved that the true picture be painted. Without a “thousand conclusive pieces” on the board, the chances of the “Arrest Clock” going back to zero, or the “Police Blotter” being stained, are as likely as the player transforming into his own Mr. Hyde.
“Rather certain”, Dr. Jeckyll.