- Floyd Reese, NFL
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The scouting combine is complete, college pro days are in full swing and the draft is approaching. This is a nerve-racking time for everyone involved in the decision-making process. It's also the culmination of a long, hectic process, and college scouts are at its core. Here are five issues that make the job of a college scout difficult:
1. The schedule: Scouting is not a leisurely stroll across a college campus to watch a sunny afternoon practice. Right after the draft ends, scouts must start preparing for the next one. A scout determines where potential prospects are located, then puts together a detailed schedule of visits. Smaller schools, with few if any noteworthy players, will be seen early. This allows the bulk of the college season to be spent visiting the best prospects. Most major prospects will be seen a minimum of three times -- two school visits and pro day. After the season, juniors declare for the draft, and then their evaluations begin. After that come the all-star games, the combine, pro days, lengthy meetings and finally, the draft at the end of April.
During the college season, scouts will begin visits on Monday, and their best chance to see a player practice will be between Tuesday and Thursday. A scout shows up on campus between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and spends about six hours visiting with coaches and watching film until practice. He then watches practice for about two hours in the afternoon. Afterward, he jumps into the car and drives to the next campus, checks into a hotel, and spends hours writing reports on the players he just evaluated.
Friday is either a film day or a travel day, depending on the location of the game he will watch on Saturday. A scout's average Sunday consists of completing reports, washing clothes and preparing for the next week. For most scouts, this routine is a way of life from mid-August through December.
2. Restrictions: College visits and general information are becoming increasingly restricted. Some schools will limit visits to one specified day a week, while others open up only one week the entire season. Paranoia runs deep in the football world, and concerns of scouts sharing information about preparation, game plans or injuries are commonplace.
Some schools refuse questions on players' backgrounds or health.
Every year, we read articles in which an unidentified scout claims to have information about a chronic physical problem, failed drug tests, an arrest or probation. These are issues that may affect a player's value, and such articles can have a significant impact on the school or scout. If a player feels he lost millions because a trainer or coach disclosed an injury or character flaw, the possibility of a lawsuit exists.
3. Scouting juniors: The annual debates about whether particular juniors may declare for the draft are strictly off-limits for a scout. Colleges want to keep the players they have spent time and money recruiting. Scouts do not talk to juniors, talk to the media about juniors or write reports on them. The NFL has a process to help these players determine their worth, but only after they have declared eligible. Once a junior declares eligible, his scouting begins immediately.
4. National scouting: All but one or two franchises in the NFL belong to a scouting combine. Each organization will provide a scout who will be assigned to a specific area of the country. Even though these scouts are employed by NFL franchises, their primary obligation is to the combine. They will identify, evaluate and report on all prospects in their area to every franchise participating in the combine. Twice annually, weeklong meetings are dedicated to the scouting combine. The same reports, grades and information go out to each participating team.
5. No public glory: Following a successful draft, the general manager or decision-maker will be labeled a genius. The position coach is applauded for developing the player. The coordinator is crowned for using the player correctly. The head coach will make millions for winning. No one will know the group of scouts who pieced together the draft. Although all of the above individuals deserve a piece of the success, no one is more deserving than the scouts. Every great player on every Super Bowl team was, at some point, identified by an overworked, underpaid and underappreciated scout.
Former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese frequently contributes to ESPN.com.