Pro Football Scout of the Year

Former pro scout Tom Marino took a look at the often unheralded pro scouts in the NFL and selected one as his "Professional Football Scout of the Year." Find out who he picked, and why, in this feature.

Since becoming a member of the media in 2007, I have often been asked for my opinion on who is the top scout, college director, or professional and player personnel director in the game today. Many people have also asked which grouping of team scouts are the most cohesive and talented unit in the game today. 

Unlike athletes and coaches, whose talents can be judged by reviewing and evaluating playing statistics, the number of wins and losses and — most importantly — championships, no such formula has been devised to determine either the expertise and/or instincts of the professional personnel evaluator or scout.

I have to admit that even with thirty-four years of professional experience and despite a personal or professional interaction with many of these skilled evaluators over the years, I have read very few of the reports filed by these talented, underpaid and under-appreciated individuals over the years.

So today, let's take a look at the college scouts and try and determine which of these individuals will be chosen the recipient of the mythical first annual "Pro Football Scout of the Year Award."

In order to facilitate the process, I have decided to adapt a system similar to that used by the NCAA basketball tournament and select two scouts from each of the thirty-two member clubs. I felt this system would give me the best opportunity to chose the top scout in the land, but I quickly discovered that many third and fourth scouts with clubs may well have been more qualified and experienced then some of the players ultimately selected by myself and selected high level executives within the league. 

Let's give it a try. The nominees from the NFC include: 

Chicago Marty Barrett Dallas Walter Juliff
Mark Sadowski John Wojciechowski
Green Bay Alonzo Highsmith NY Giants Steve Verderosa
Lenny McGill Jerry Shay
Minnesota Conrad Cardano Washington Joel Patten
Jamaal Stephenson Russ Bolinger
Detroit Dennis Gentry Philadelphia Matt Russell
Mike Butler Ahmad Russell
Atlanta Matt Berry Arizona Dave Razzano
Bruce Plummer Jerry Hardaway
Carolina Pete Russell St. Louis Mel Foels
Jeff Morrow Luke Driscoll
New Orleans Terry Wooden San Francisco Todd Brunner
Barrett Wiley Trent Baalke
Tampa Bay Frank Dorazio Seattle Derrick Jensen
Jim Abrams Charles Fisher

While the AFC nominees are as follows:

Cincinnati Bill Tobin Buffalo Joe Haering
Greg Seamon Doug Majeski
Baltimore Lionel Vital New England Larry Cook
Joel Hortiz Jon Robinson
Cleveland Robert Morris New York Jim Cochran
Jim Jauch Michael Davis
Pittsburgh Kelvin Fisher Miami Bill Baker
Bruce McNorton Ron Labade
Houston Ed Lambert Kansas City Cornell Gowdy
Larry Bryan Bruce Lemmerman
Indianapolis John Becker Denver Scott DiStefano
Bob Ferguson Bobby Beers
Jacksonville Terry McDonough San Diego Tom McConnaughey
Tim Mingey Darrell Moody
Tennessee Mike Ackerly Oakland Mickey Marvin
Phil Neri Bruce Kebric

Within their respective conferences, I matched each scout head-to-heard and arrived at the following for the round of 32:

Chicago Marty Barrett Houston Larry Bryan
Chicago Mark Sadowski Jacksonville Terry McDonough
Green Bay Alonzo Highsmith Jacksonville Tim Mingey
Minnesota Conrad Cardano Buffalo Jon Robinson
Cleveland Robert Morris Tennessee Phil Neri
Detroit Dennis Gentry Buffalo Doug Mejeski
Detroit Mike Butler NY Jets Jim Cochran
New Orleans Terry Wooden Kansas City Cornell Gowdy
Dallas Walter Juliff Buffalo Jeo Haering
NY Giants Jerry Shay Oakland Bruce Kebric
Arizona Jerry Hardaway New England Jon Robinson
St. Louis Luke Driscoll Baltimore Lionel Vital
Seattle Derrick Jensen Cleveland Robert Morris
Washington Joel Patten Houston Ed Lambert
St. Louis Dave Razzano Kansas City Bruce Lemmerman
San Francisco Trent Baalke Cleveland Jim Jauch

It was difficult to arrive at the round of 16 given the fact that I had to eliminate some very impressive people who contributed greatly to the success of their respective clubs. People like the Giants' Jerry Shay, a thirty-five year veteran, Terry Wooden, a young man who will one day  become one of the most recognizable names in the industry, and Tim Mingey of the Jacksonville Jaguers who is quite possibly the hardest-working individual in the industry.

Chicago Marty Barrett
Chicago Mark Sadowski
Green Bay Alonzo Highsmith
Arizona Dave Razzano
NY Giants Steve Verderosa
Washington Joel Patten
Minnesota Conrad Cardano
San Francisco Trent Baalke
Tennessee Phil Neri
NY Jets Jim Cochran
Kansas City Cornell Gowdy
New England Jon Robinson
Baltimore Lionel Vital
Jacksonville Terry McDonough
Cleveland Robert Morris
Buffalo Joe Haering

It didn't get any easier deciding which scouts would be left standing in the round of eight. But what could be said without hesitation is that the final eight constitutes a virtual dream team of personnel evaluators. I'd go to war with each and every one of these individuals, knowing in my heart that these are the type of people that contribute to winning a lot of football games.

Chicago Marty Barrett
Green Bay Alonzo Highsmith
NY Giants Steve Verderosa
Washington Joel Patten
Tennessee Phil Neri
Buffalo Joe Haering
Kansas City Cornell Gowdy
Baltimore Lionel Vital

The four remaining scouts in the mythical Pro Football Scout of the Year competition are the very best in the game today. Surprisingly, of the four, only Phil Neri has ever held the position of college director (Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns). That's a fact that I find nearly impossible to fathom given the group's experience level and ability to evaluate players accurately.

NY Giants Steve Verderosa
Green Bay Alonzo Highsmith
Tennessee Phil Neri
Baltimore Lionel Vital

Either of the two final candidates could easily be given the title of Scout of the Year, and I actually toyed with the idea of choosing an individual from each conference. But in the end I decided against the co-winners scenario.

Phil Neri, the son of legendary Lions coach Jerry Neri, was a three-year lettermen at Santa Clara University. He has over twenty-five years of experience and had prior scouting stints with the Eagles, Seahawks, Saints, and Browns before joining the Titans. I really like his demeanor, knowledge of the game and instincts.

A New York native, Steve Verderosa attended Central Iowa for one season before transferring to the New York Institute of Technology where he starred in both football and baseball. After graduating with honors and a degree in architecture, Verderosa signed free agent contracts with both the Browns and Redskins as a punter. Prior to joining the Giants, he coached at Columbia University and scouted for three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I believe his organizational skills, attention to detail and football instincts are the main reason that he is the choice for my first annual Professional Football Scout of The Year Award.

So the next time you marvel at the passing skills of NFC passing leader Tony Romo, the receiving prowess of AFC-leading receiver Wes Welker, or the kick-return ability of NFL leader Joshua Cribbs — all of whom were undrafted free agents — take a minute and think of that seemingly anonymous personnel scout who first recognized his playing potential.

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