“How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?” – An ancient proverb
Strange question for many in this hurry up world we live in. Seems history is being made each and every minute (if not second) with the amount of media coverage focused on documenting the drama of the moment and the details of every situation. Nothing goes unnoticed and nothing goes unanalyzed; be it politics, sports, fashion, entertainment or religion. Everyone has an opinion and an angle on the who, what, how, when and where of life. Somewhere it’s being recorded.
Know your history
I have always been infatuated with the study of history. To me, history is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the future. I studied Russian history at the United States Air Force Academy and it served as a foundation for three years stationed in Berlin, Germany (with THE WALL and THE SOVIETS). To understand your mission was to understand how we got there in the first place. The timeline of people, places and events brought clarity to a divided city and the Cold War.
Find your mentor
I entered the National Football League in 1992 as a Player Personnel Assistant and aspiring scout. The vocation itself was about to enter the most major transition in the history of scouting, the development and use of the personal computer. Still I was fortunate enough to learn from and associate with some of the “founding fathers” of professional football scouting. Jerry Frei, the former head coach of the University of Oregon, World War II P-38 pilot and member of the Wisconsin Badgers National Championship team in 1942, was my friend and mentor. You can only imagine the history of scouting taught to me by a man who had John Robinson, George Seifert, Gunther Cunningham, John Marshall and Bruce Snyder on his staff with the Ducks.
Frei coached in the NFL from 1972-1981 and then later moved into the Denver Broncos scouting department. When a man with this history speaks, you listen. You listen to everything. Jerry taught me about the scouting world and introduced me to its living history. The history of scouting is out there you know, you just have to go find them. These are TRUE talent evaluators; men who played, coached and administered in the NFL before, during and after ESPN, FOX Sports and the NFL Network glitzed and glamorized college scouting with “on air” personalities who never set foot in an NLF War Room.
Listen and learn
As former football scout Dan Shonka puts it on Ourlads.com – “Over their careers these men played the game, coached, and recruited. They were responsible for all the schools in their area. They evaluated, interviewed, tested, and cross-checked NFL prospects for the draft. They participated in draft meetings in the fall and in the spring. They were talent evaluators, not just information gatherers. They carried Kodak analyst projectors before tapes became popular. Their appearance and demeanor was a direct reflection on their team and they were professional in every way. These men knew it was a privilege to be invited on campus and respected that opportunity.”
Study the best
So for those of you who aspire to be a sports talent scout (not just info gathers), I challenge you to study your history of scouting. Research and or reach out to men like Hal Athon, Bill Dannenhauer, Jerry Reichow, Mickey Marvin, John Wooten, Oscar Lofton, Bo Bollinger, C.O. Brocato, Duke Babb, Hamp Cook, Cornell Green, Jack Butler, Jerry Shay, John Peterson, Harry Buffington and yes, Dan Shonka. Let me know what you find.
These are just a very few of the many names that forged a history worth exploring, men with a real eye for talent and a real love for the game. If you find your own “Jerry Frei”, you’ll certainly be on the right path to your own clarity of scouting, and “you’ll know where you’re going because you’ll know where they’ve been.”