OK, for the sake of honesty, maybe that last name, and the impressive lineage and inherent entree it carries in the NFL, really did help provide Eliot Wolf a healthy head start in the league. But make no mistake: The son of former longtime league general manager Ron Wolf, named the Green Bay Packers' assistant director of player personnel Friday, earned the promotion the hard way, the way his famous father would expect.
He earned it.
"He's sharp, he studies the game, he does his work thoroughly, he isn't afraid of the long hours, and he doesn't want anything handed to him," said Ken Herock, another longtime NFL personnel chief, now retired, and a former Eliot Wolf boss. "He does it the right way. You remember."
Do we ever.
It was the summer of 1997, and a skinny, 14-year-old kid in a white T-shirt and team-issued coaching shorts wandered onto the practice fields at Suwanee, Ga., with most of the media assuming he was a ball-boy. Turns out it was the younger Wolf, barely old enough to get behind the wheel of the equipment cart at the time, but obviously assimilating everything that transpired at training camp. Already a veteran at breaking down tape — four years earlier, at an age when most kids would have been out playing with their G.I. Joe figures, he began accompanying his dad to the office for film review — Eliot Wolf was building a resume.
Fourteen years later — Man, we're getting old! — he is a step closer to running his own team.
"It'll happen; it's just a matter of time," said Herock, who as one of Ron Wolf's best friends provided an internship for his kid, but who was also smart enough to discern the youngster's potential.
Then again, as a father and grizzled NFL scout, and a guy who understood that good judges of talent are as much made as they are born, Herock would know. His own son, Shaun, who is the assistant director of college scouting for the Packers, has pretty much followed the same career path. The longest tenured member of the Green Bay scouting staff, Shaun Herock, entering his 18th season with the franchise, has unearthed more than his share of talent for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
One of the several impressive hallmarks of the Packers, under the direction of general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, is that the club has amassed great depth. With Wolf and Herock on the staff, that might be as true in the personnel department as it is in the locker room.
It might not be hyperbole to suggest that the Packers might well be as strong behind the scenes as they are on the field.
In recalling Eliot Wolf's tenure as an intern on the Falcons' staff with Ken Herock the other day, we remembered a couple things: First, the younger Wolf, while more reticent than Shaun Herock, was always polite and articulate and helpful, and more than willing to discuss football; but, in the tradition of standout personnel guys, he never breached the trust of those for whom he worked. Second, even though he had the usual office responsibilities, Wolf enjoyed watching practice, observing the nuances of the game.
Joked Ken Herock: "Yeah, I used to tell him that he was probably reporting back to his father on everything we were doing."
The two young men are football junkies, by choice not bloodlines, and they know full well that you've got to embrace the game and not tout the name. Football might be in their DNA, but it also in their shared work ethics. The elder Herock used to have a favored axiom — "You've got to keep turning over the stone" — that he insisted to his scouting staff. Translation: Look under every rock.
In their short lives (Wolf is only 28, Herock 40) but impressive careers, Eliot Wolf and Shaun Herock have nudged aside their share of boulders.
Which explains why both will soon be wearing Super Bowl rings.
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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.