How to Become an NFL Scout

Two Parts:Establishing CredentialsGetting noticed

National Football League (or NFL) scouts evaluate the talent of high school and college football players. They are responsible for identifying players that have the potential to succeed in the NFL. Working as an NFL scout allows you to work closely with the game of football and the players, but without having to play the game. But the odds are stacked against you - pro teams employ about 7-10 full time scouts.[1] That adds up to about 224-320 league-wide. You’ll need a demonstrated combination of management and organizational skills, a deep knowledge of the game, an instinct for identifying talent, passion and persistence, and networking acumen. There is no guaranteed path to becoming an NFL scout, but you can develop and demonstrate the skills that NFL organizations value.

Part 1
Establishing Credentials

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    Complete a relevant Bachelor’s degree. While a college degree isn’t necessary, earning one demonstrates to teams that you have more to offer, distinguishing you from your peers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that scouts typically have degrees in business, marketing, sales, or sports management.[2] Earning these degrees signals to NFL teams that you have developed practiced writing, communication, management, leadership, organization, and time-management skills, which are crucial to being a successful scout.
    • If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, or you have a degree in another field, taking courses in management and business can also help you to develop and demonstrate these skills.
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    Be involved in the game of football. Scouting requires a high level of football knowledge and understanding - you need to be able to successfully identify and predict talent, a skill that only comes from years of living within the sport. NFL teams are therefore looking for people who are passionate about the game and know it well. Having a background as a player, coach, or even student manager is important. [3]
    • You don’t need to have played at a high level; many scouts played lower levels of college or high school football, or not at all, but still have a high football IQ. But you will need some background in the sport in order to develop a total understanding of the game.
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    Take a course in NFL scouting. Courses such as those offered by Sports Management Worldwide[4] and The Scouting Academy[5] offer invaluable educational and networking opportunities. Their curricula weave together business and management skills with scout-specific skills, such as how to rate talent and write scouting reports. These courses are also taught by successful football scouts, who are important contacts to cultivate, and offer access to extensive networks in professional football.
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    Practice scouting. Developing an eye for talent is crucial. Attend high school and college games. Bring along a digital camera to record the game. Use a pen and notepad to take notes on each player. Write down specifics about them. Pay attention to how the players handle the ball and how they carry out each play.[6] Developing an understanding about how the game is played and what each position does is essential to becoming a good NFL scout. You should know what qualities (body types, mentalities, and abilities) a good player must have, and also what qualities are important for each position on the team. You should be able to get an idea if a player possesses such qualities by watching him play. The time you spend practicing and the reports you generate will become the basis for your professional portfolio.

Part 2
Getting noticed

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    Keep your options open. Professional scouts usually start low. Some start their careers as part-time talent spotters, others as independent contractors or for a sports agency, and still others work as trainers or coaches and slowly move to scouting at a higher levels. Many more simply don't make it. Have reasonable hopes and keep an eye out for opportunities. There are also options even if you fail to get that coveted spot. Would-be scouts have gone on to do things like open their own agencies to represent prospects, for example, or assume management roles with teams. There are other ways for you to be involved with football outside of scouting.[7]
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    Network. Courses in NFL scouting should give you a start, but you need to develop those connections and form new professional relationships. Often it isn’t what you know, but who you know that will help you get your foot in the door. Former football players may already know people,[8] but others need to do whatever it takes to meet football insiders. Going to the Scouting Combine[9] or to the Owners’ meetings,[10] will give you opportunities to get your name and face out there.
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    Make your job materials stand out. In order to distinguish yourself from other would-be scouts, you need to be polished, persistent, and memorable in the ways you network and share job materials (letters, resumes, portfolios). For instance, Daniel Kelly wrote a 350 page draft guide that he circulated in triplicate to multiple people in every organization in the NFL.[11] This is what got him noticed, and less-so for the evaluations it contained than the passion, work ethic, and attention to detail that it demonstrated.
    • Send your materials to everyone from interns to owners, and all in-between; if you catch the eye of just one person, they could be the one to put it in front of the decision makers in the organization. [12]
    • Stress in your resume and cover letter that you want to be a scout. You will not be hired to scout if you say “I’ll do anything.”[13]
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    Get an NFL scouting internship. You can gain valuable experience interning as a scout for local arena football or college teams, but in order to gain experience in the NFL, demonstrate your skills and value, and go on to a successful NFL scouting career, you’ll need to intern for an NFL team. [14] Many NFL teams offer internship programs.[15]
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    Believe in your calling. Former NFL scout Daniel Kelly has written that belief - and commitment to the calling - is essential to becoming a pro scout [16] Getting into the league will not be easy. The skills that it takes come from a total passion for the game - a willingness to watch endless hours of tape, travel long distances, and perhaps toil for years at lower levels at low pay. You will not get these skills with a bachelor's degree or from an online course alone. Credentials help, but, ultimately, you will need desire and self-belief.

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