10 Scouting Rules: # 9 Football Character

Director of the Scouting Academy and ITP contributor Dan Hatman has written ten short pieces using Matt Miller’s tweet list as inspiration, hoping to illuminate readers on aspects of the scouting and player evaluation business that are misunderstood, glossed over, or ignored. This is Part 9, Football Character.

Paul Warfield, an NFL Hall of Famer, noted that it was impossible to hide an on-field mistake ‒ it is “right there, on film” for everyone to see. These days, there are other sources but the film remains primary. However, the scout who ignores a player’s twitter feed or the local police blotter is failing to take all the necessary information into account. As discussed in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, and Part 8 of this series, these other factors are essential to include in your reports.

Matt Miller’s ’10 Scouting Rules’ tweet captures the process-based approach scouts can mimic to find success. Miller is a transparent evaluator who has laid out the details of his process before, and shines light on many of the philosophies commonly used by the pros. This series aims to provide a starting point for delving into evaluation, showcasing the processes aspiring scouts can use to make reports and opinions as thorough and professional as possible.

Football character and personal character are different, but both can’t be bad.

We all have a solid understanding of what personal character is, but what is football character? Football character is an umbrella term that encompasses all of the ‘between the ears’ traits required to perform on Sundays. Competitiveness, toughness, fortitude, grit, determination, and the other intangibles that help a person put in all the hours in the training room, film room, class room, weight room, and practice field. NFL personnel executive Louis Riddick, a former NFL player, personnel executive, and current ESPN analyst explained that “Teams that have the best football character in the last 20 spots on their roster (excluding specialists), have a distinct advantage.”

Given #8, it should be no surprise a player can have bad personal character and excellent football character. This debate played out publicly last April as Tampa Bay was preparing to make the #1 overall selection. Florida State QB Jameis Winston showcased all the football traits a scout is looking for, but there were questions about his character, especially in light of incidents like shoplifting, shouting expletives in the dining hall, and sexual assault.

The question for decision makers shifted from Winston’s football character to his personal character: does his [negative] personal character have a negative impact on his football character?winston-bucs-featured

Those around the Florida State program raved about Winston’s football character, and Buccaneers GM Jason Licht explained to Peter King, “This was a thorough investigation. We were not going to mistake charisma for character”.

Winston passed every football acumen test thrown at him as Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter explained; “I’m going to compare every guy I test like that the rest of my career to Jameis.” The QB has had an impressive rookie campaign and was recently honored with the NFL’s Rookie of the Month for November.

The point here is that each decision maker has to decide what kind of personal character they are going to demand in their players. Those who have overcome character issues and still had good on-field performance are those that have excellent football character. When evaluating a potential case where personal character might be a factor, make sure you know his football character inside and out, as it will make a difference.

Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hatman

Dan Hatman is the Director of The Scouting Academy and writes for Inside The Pylon when not teaching future football scouts and coaches how to do their job.

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