Three-Two-One, Hack. Twelve days, three hours and twelve minutes until kickoff according to the official website of the Wells Fargo Senior Bowl. Mobile, Alabama will become the epicenter of professional football scouts for the better part of four days. Just about every head coach, General Manager and Director of Player Personnel will descend upon Ladd-Peebles Stadium for a series of two a day practices scouting college football (once by the North, once by the South) in hopes of getting their first glimpse of future additions to their club for 2012.
It also has become a sort of job hunting expo, as out of work coaches and scouts hope to catch a minute or two with someone who’ll give them a minute or two. On top of that, football hungry southerners will show up in droves to hang along the fence with their mini-helmets and binders of 8 X 10 glossy action shots clamoring for an autograph of a future NFL star. Like the Combine, the media will show up as well and paint the picture of knowing everything and everyone both inside and outside the chain link fence.
Those football scouts who’ve participated in the annual trek to the Gulf Coast of Alabama all have their own stories both on and off the field. Somehow my thoughts always revolve around spending time with my old scouting group on the Broncos at the Original Oyster House (great times!).
I also remember one of my first visits and scouting “1 on 1” drills with my friend and football scouting mentor, the late Jerry Frei. We marveled at the skills of Boston College’s Tom Nalen and his ability to control players 30 to 50 pounds heavier with his hands. Every good scouting story has an equal and opposite bad one, as I recall Mississippi State’s Dorsett Davis dominated anyone they put in front of him, only to struggle and wash out at the next level. Such is life in football scouting.
Perhaps the greatest Senior Bowl accomplishment of all-time for me was back in 2004 and had nothing to do with the impending NFL draft preparations. I was entering my third season as General Manager of the Denver Broncos, we’d just come off a 10-6 record and a Wildcard “spanking” at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. Our secondary had been badly exposed by Peyton Manning & Company and we desperately needed a shutdown Cornerback.
The perfect West Coast fit
The draft of 2002 had given us a unique opportunity. Though only two seasons removed from Mike Anderson’s Offensive “Rookie of the Year” campaign, University of Miami’s Clinton Portis was staring at us in the 2nd round. To me it was a “no brainer”. Portis was rated a 1st round pick on our board, and though the need for another RB wasn’t really there, we were able to convince the Head Coach we should take Clinton. The result would be back to back 1500 yard seasons and his own “Rookie of the Year” honors. It would be one of my favorite picks we ever made in Denver.
But after the 2004 season, Portis and NFL sports agent Drew Rosenhaus grew weary of his rookie contract and began pressuring the club to renegotiate, something that didn’t sit well with the then Executive VP of Football Ops and Head Coach.
One begets the next
Just a few seasons earlier, football agent Jack Reale and I had a contract negotiation on behalf of our Pro Bowl placekicker Jason Elam. Over this series of discussions we both took the opportunity to earn each other’s trust and respect. I had worked contract negotiations with Jack in the past but not to this extent. Whimsically I caught his attention when during one discussion I argued the effects of “air density altitude” in Denver and Jason’s overall kicking success. The life of a young GM, you do what you have to do.
To be continued….