Information taken from www.collegefortn.org (2009)
Former NFL scout with the Atlanta Falcons and director of National Football Scouting
In professional football, where the number of people actually playing the sport is miniscule, how do you get noticed? What would make a pro team or scout look at you? The bottom line is, you have to play well. Someone who knows the challenge of getting noticed by the pros is Duke Babb of National Football Scouting. National Football Scouting is one of two scouting “combines” that actually work for the NFL.
“We have the country broken into 11 areas. We have an in-area resident scout that works directly for National Scouting, and he’s assigned to one area. He scouts all the colleges and universities in his area year-round, spring and fall. We keep a composite list of all the current players that are senior eligible at each school. We also designate which ones we write up and recommend to the clubs as possible professional prospects. Those are broken down on different levels, with some of them rated as draft choices, some as priority free agents, and some designated as camp prospects,” explains Babb.
The group doesn’t negotiate salaries, but they’re responsible for scouting the best players all over the country. “Most of the clubs have four to six scouts, whereas we have 11. They can’t blanket the country with four to six. We do all the basic groundwork, make the recommendations and give them to the clubs.” During the fall of every year, National Football Scouting compiles reports on the best of the best in college football. Then clubs meet in Tulsa in December to review each report. During all star and bowl games, the clubs watch certain players closely, based on recommendations from the scouting organization.
“Immediately following that, we put on the National Invitational Camp….We go through a selection process and select the top rated players in each position, about 340 of them, and bring them in by position for two to three days. The players go through a complete medical exam, and each position is put through a set of tests for quickness, agility and balance — but no contact. Coaches who coach those positions in the league conduct the tests. All of this is videotaped, so the teams can watch it over and over again before the draft,” says Babb. The NFL draft is held in April.
“After the draft is completed, regardless of what their rating level was before then, all of the remaining players are free agents and are at liberty to sign with whomever they choose or whoever makes the best offer.” What do the pro teams look for when scouting for new players? “Each player is evaluated in relation to a set of skills based on his position. Different skills are tied to each position,” says Babb. “We have height, weight and speed charts that are based on the averages in each position in the NFL. When we start looking at a player, the first things we look at are his height, weight and speed and how they compare to the averages. “You can have a player who is low in the height, weight, and speed factor, but he may be highly productive.”
Football players are expected to keep themselves in excellent physical condition year-round. During the season, they work very long and tough hours building the skills necessary to be professionals. “Medical issues are a number one priority. They’re signing some pretty big contracts,” says Babb.
Babb is a former player for the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Oilers, and San Francisco 49ers. He later turned his skills to coaching at Austin College, Southern Methodist University, and Oklahoma State University. He scouted for the Atlanta Falcons before joining National Football Scouting, Inc., in 1982.