Scouting 101 – Where It All Began

I was always very interested in the background of my professors while a student at the university level. Because of that fact, I thought I would give you the honor level graduate students in our "Football Scouting 101 class a quick look at my own professional background as a professional sports administrator before getting into the actual scouting aspect of the series.

The letter dated February 15, 1971 read as follows:

Dear Tom,

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you on behalf of the Chicago Bears for all of your efforts in compiling these very detailed player reports. They were as you know very helpful in our final preparation for the recent draft.

I would also like to also add that Mr. Halas, Sr., owner of the Bears read each of your reports on January 22, and he personally said, "that not only were your reports first rate, but also your ranking of players by position."

I would like to speak with you regarding the possibility of your scouting the New England area for the Bears and would appreciate you giving me a call collect at (312) 332-54xx at your earliest convenience, so that we could discuss this matter for the future.

Again, thank you Tom for the scouting reports and the wonderful work you compiled throughout the fall.

With best wishes, I remain,

Bobby Walston

Director of Player Personnel

The letter, which was accompanied by a very generous check for 2,500.00, came as a complete surprise and in effect signaled the beginning of my career as the youngest personnel scout in professional football history; a career that spanned four decades and stints with three professional football leagues.

Looking back it's quite obvious that much of the success that I have attained as a personnel scout, I owe to the late Bobby Walston, a truly talented player, football administrator and friend. Not only did Bobby serve as my first mentor in the game, but he also taught me a great deal about life on the road. "Tom, never turn your television off when you leave your hotel room. You always want people walking down the hall to think somebody is in the room," was just one of the many things he taught me about football and life.

Years' later, in a very small way, I was able to repay the man who gave me my first opportunity in the game when I recommended him for the position of Midwest combine scout with the USFL, a position.

After three seasons with the Bears, I joined the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League, where I developed a life long friendship with head coach Ron Waller. The legendary Waller, who I today consider the single best quick evaluator of talent, was responsible for starting a little known Merchant Marine Academy coach by the name of Bill Pollian in the business of professional football.

With the demise of the WFL, I briefly joined the Dallas Cowboys before being hired by the New York Giants. Six year later I did it again, leaving the established NFL to join the Boston Breakers of the USFL.

After a year with the Breakers, I briefly joined the Denver Gold, before joining the two time USFL Champion Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. With the demise of the USFL, I re-joined former Stars head coach Jim Mora in New Orleans. After thirteen seasons and two head coaches (Mora and Mike Ditka) I joined the Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams where I spent the final five seasons in the NFL in their employ.

Well, now that you know my background, I guess it's time for us to begin our scouting series beginning with a discussion of the scouting combines.


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