With the Combine and Combine tape evaluations complete, we moved into our Pro Day phase of the Scouting process during the month of March.
Most major colleges hold a Pro Day for their players during March. At the Pro Day, players are made available to scouts and coaches for Combine-like workouts. Included in these drills every year are players who may have gone to the Combine as well as players who didn't. The players who had been invited to the Combine invitees get a chance at a Pro Day to improve on their performance, while the non-invitees get a chance to present their talents to NFL personnel in a Combine-like setting.
A typical Pro Day schedule is something similar to this:
9 a.m.: Meet with coaches to discuss player
10 a.m.: Height, weight, flexibility measurements
10:15 a.m.: Bench press, vertical jump, broad jump
11 a.m.: Timed in the 10, 20, and 40-yard dash
Noon: 20-yard shuttle; 60-yard shuttle; 3-cone drill
12:30 p.m.: Position drills, one position at a time, 15 minutes each
In addition to the physical testing, scouts and coaches conduct interviews or have chalkboard sessions with the players. These sessions usually occur the night before the Pro Day or after the drills are concluded.
Between our scouts and coaches, we will cover approximately 60 of these Pro Days. When trying to schedule where we will go, we will prioritize any Pro Day that might include a top-rated player who didn't work out at the Combine. Secondly, we will prioritize going to a school that has a player we like who may have not been invited to the Combine.
At times we may have a scout and coach go together, while at other times we may go separately. Coach Mike Tomlin and I will go to schools that have both quality and quantity in their draft class. This approach allows Coach Tomlin to see as many top prospects as possible in the minimum amount of time. Our trips this past month included stops at Wisconsin, Miami, Louisiana State, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Texas, Ohio State, and North Carolina. At these particular schools there may be as many as 20 first or second-round picks. At the conclusion of a visit to a Pro Day we find ourselves much more comfortable about our evaluations, with fewer questions remaining.
A regular feature of "On the Road" is the compilation of all the people with Pittsburgh ties we encounter during the various stages of the NFL scouting process. Every school that Coach Tomlin and I visited this Spring included somebody with Pittsburgh ties, and here is a list:
At Wisconsin, it was defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who was a former assistant at Pitt, and strength coach Ben Herbert, who is an alumnus of West Allegheny High School.
At Miami, security assistant Jerry Derbish is a North Side native and a graduate of North Catholic High School.
At LSU, it was trainer Jack Marucci, one of Uniontown's finest and someone who also manufactures bats used by many Major League Baseball players, including several Pirates.
Virginia Tech Associate Athletic Director of Football Operations John Ballein is from Bentleyville, Pa.
There weren't any Pittsburgh connections on the staff at the University of Texas, but four of our current players – Casey Hampton, Limas Sweed, Jonathan Scott and Tony Hills – played football for the Longhorns. It was great to catch up with Coach Mack Brown and share some stories about these guys.
At Ohio State, defensive end Cameron Heyward is the son of the late Craig "Iron Head" Heyward, who was a star at Pitt. We also got to meet Cameron's mother and grandparents, who hail from the Highland Park area of Pittsburgh. Also at Ohio State is Associate Director of Player Development Joe Daniel, a great "yinzer" from Bethel Park and a former Pitt assistant coach.
North Carolina offensive coordinator John Shoop is an Oakmont, Pa., native.
Football is such an integral part of the Western Pennsylvania region, and seeing so many folks with ties to the area is a great reminder of football's influence on so many of our lives.
Tales from the Road
- Weather is always an issue an issue as we travel the country during this time of year, and March 2011 was no different. In Wisconsin, we experienced a snowstorm that dropped four inches on us unexpectedly, while the next day in Miami we had a workout postponed midway through due to a powerful thunderstorm.
- Coach Tomlin is very popular when he visits a Pro Day. He does a great job of accommodating the many requests he has from players, coaches, staff members and family members for a handshake, autograph, picture or word of advice.
- Visiting Ohio State with alumnus Dick LeBeau is always a special treat. As we departed the football facility, we stopped at an exhibit created from an old chalkboard that Coach Woody Hayes used to make notes while preparing to author the last of the books he wrote about football. As we stood there, Dick spent time bringing to life some great stories about Woody Hayes, while also being able to explain many of the points listed on the chalkboard. The chalkboard – old-school black slate bordered by a plain wood frame – is a story in itself, because it was found accidentally in an old storage area long after Coach Hayes died.
- Favorite eating spot from our Pro Day visits was the Easy Living Delicatessen in Columbus, Ohio. Easy Living is owned by Vlade Janakievski, a kicker for the Buckeyes from 1977-80 and the school's fifth all-time leading scorer. Great food and even better service!
Total estimated miles traveled
Next month's installment will examine the next phase of our scouting process: the Draft Meetings.
Another $1,500 has been donated to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society byBowser Cadillac* ringing the total to date to $4,600. Bowser Cadillac is proud to offer a penny per mile as Kevin's group travels around the country.*