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Monday, July 22, 2013

Exclusive Interview: Daniel Kelly - Former NY Jets Scout

Daniel's story is amazing! From being a huge football fan, to following his dream and not giving up, to getting hired by the New York Jets to be one of their scouts! Daniel has a book out "Whatever it takes" and you can check it out HERE.

Baby steps
When I was just 8 years old, I became a big fan of Washington Redskins, and throughout the years my passion continued to grow. When I was 17, I got a chance to play high school football. I was really no good at it, but I knew I wanted to be in the NFL. 

For my birthday my parents gave me a book "Secrets of an NFL Scout" by the former scouting director of the San Francisco 49ers who built the 49ers back in the 80s. I said this is it! This is what I want to be! 

I started writing letters asking Charley Casserly, who was the Redskins GM at the time. I was getting responses from the Redskins telling me I was still too young. I continued writing scouting reports, and I barely passed high-school because I was so focused on my goal of becoming a scout.

Check out the first letter (of rejection though) Daniel has received when he was first trying to get into scouting back in 1991. 


1995. NFL Draft
One sports radio station announced that the first 32 callers will get a chance to represent an NFL team. Of course I started dialing and I was the second caller. I got to represent the Jaguars. I went in there, took my scouting reports,  just in case if I had a chance to meet somebody there. I walked up to the podium, "With the 2nd pick of the 1995. NFL Draft, the Jaguars select Tony Boselli, offensive tackle from USC."

I looked to the side, and in the corner of my eye I saw Tony Dungy who was a DC for the Vikings at that time. I walked up to him, asked him if he was willing to look at my scouting reports. He actually went through it and invited me to his office. He offered me an unpaid internship. I was working for him for about 6 months. After he left for Tampa Bay I had to go back to the "real world".

New York Jets and Bill Parcells
When I turned 24, I decided to give football one more chance. I still didn't give up on my dream. I started writing scouting reports again. A friend gave me a great idea - to self-publish a book. I managed to get the scouting reports done as a aprox. 350 pages book, and sent them out to all NFL teams, 3 copies per team. 

All of a sudden I get a message "Please call the New Orleans Saints". I talked to Bruce Lemmerman who was the Saints scouting director, who said that coach Mike Ditka loved my 'book'. They had an opening for the Midwest college scouting position and said that I should remember that they were the first ones to call me, because more teams will be reaching out. I was so sure I will be headed to New Orleans. However, just a week after, Lemmerman calls saying that one of the senior scouts was disagreeing with some of my scouting reports. 

Not long after that, I received another message, this time from the New York Jets, Scott Pioli. I met up with Mr. Pioli, who didn't really like to be called that, he said his dad is referred to like that. Jets had an opening. Not long after that, Scott Pioli called me saying Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick really liked my reports and that I should head to New York as soon as possible. I was there the next day.

When I walked into the Jets HQ, first thing I saw was the big glass case with the Jets Superbowl Trophy from the Superbowl III. It was a two day interview process and at the end of it - I was sitting with Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick who asked me if I had any questions. I instantly replied - "No! I just want to start!" However, there was no job offer on the table yet, they just sent me home. I was heartbroken. 

But, after two weeks, Scott Pioli called again, and said Bill Parcells wants me to start working. 

Scouting
I was scouting for the Jets special teams, as well as NFL Europe. We worked in this big room, with all these tapes, and player names on the board, no windows, there was no clock in there. It was easy to lose track of time. Motto in our building was that we were an information gathering "business". Gather it, but never give it. Foundation of the whole Jets team was the information gathering.

We had a stack of papers every day - summary of every major newspaper in the country, "the sports scan" to be exact. Scott Pioli would go over that and highlight the information. For example - a player got arrested, Pioli would highlight it, and my job was to put all of that in the computer system. We had a running tab on everyone in the NFL. Agents tend to negotiate subjectively, while NFL clubs need to do it objectively.

I didn't go on the road a lot, I did do a lot of administrative work, as well as being in the press box scouting. There was always something to do. It was incredible to work with Mr Haley, Belichick, etc. I was mentored and tutored by some of the greatest minds of the game today.

Bill Belichick
What you see on TV, that's what you get behind the scenes. He's very quiet, compassionate, kind...

When I got to New York, I didn't even have a car to drive to look for a place to live. It was Bill Belichick who loan me his family car so I was able to drive around Long Island and find a place to settle down at.

Young guys like me didn't get to have a whole lot of interaction with him, but, he would always say hello in the building, and was always more than kind whenever there was interaction.

I have a copy of his playbook at my house. It's a size of a phone book! I had a chance to sit at some of Bills meetings, and, just on defense - he has cover 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Terminology is complex. Players have to be really bright to get on the field.  Coach Belichick is the master mind of complexity in this league.

Nowadays, when coaching, you have a program that you type in for e.g. "Show me every third down situation Miami Dolphins had in the past 3 years" It's not hard to predict, that's what coaches are doing in the press box, it's like a big chess match.
Dorian Boose
Getty Images
There was this one player I wasn't too crazy about. That year Jets didn't have the 1st round pick, but they had a high second rounder. They drafted Dorian Boose - a big defensive end. In my book, I had him under "undraftable reject", a guy that was just too risky to draft. 

When I was meeting with Mr Haley, I could see my book on the table, and I knew Boose might be the topic. Mr Haley extended his hand to me to shake hands, I could see this big Superbowl ring on his hand that he won while with the Steelers. First thing he asked was: "So, how do you think we did?". I said I thought weak at the point of attack, I thought he didn't use his hands well to disengage and shed blocks, and that I thought that he didn't have a lot of heart. He did have the size, but my opinion was that the he didn't  have the heart. Mr Haley always made me feel comfortable to be honest.

A lot of the players the Jets took that year - I wasn't really crazy about. I didn't care who their agent is, or which school they come from. I didn't care on the politics at the time and so on. I rate them based on what I see on their film. Looking back, I did clash with management on a lot of players. 

NFL 2013/2014
Bill Belichick and Tim Tebow. Excellent signing! I'm a huge Tim Tebow fan. When he came out, I had a chance to be a guest speaker at the NFL Combine and when asked about Tebow I said, "Tim Tebow is going to be a superstar in the National Football League."  He could go in the huddle and tell the guys - Hey lets go to the sideline to the swimming pool and lets try to walk on water, and guys would listen. People listen to Tebow. His leadership skills are off the charts. Bill will do an amazing job with Tebow. Tebow makes minimum mistakes and keeps the ball going down the field. That's what Bill loves!

Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. That boat has sailed. I've never been a big Rex Ryan fan. I think Sanchez has to go. If I was the Jets GM getting Sanchez out would be one of the first things I'd do. Sanchez has lost his confidence. Once a QB loses his confidence, it doesn't matter what his abilities are, he's done. Now, Jets have Gino Smith. My crazy guess would be Sanchez ending up with the Dallas Cowboys.

Aaron Hernandez. In USA it's like the Roman Colosseum culture. Everyone is cheering for the guy, and once he messes up, everyone wants his head. I feel Aaron is a product of the system. I did a scouting report on him when he was fresh out of college, and Hernandez was the most gifted tight end to be on that years draft. He reminded me a lot of Visanthe Shiancoe. Hernandez had some drug problems down in Florida, that's why he slipped down to the fourth round. No one cared if he had issues. There's a lot of guys coming from tough backgrounds, there's bound to be problems. I'd probably be in jail myself had someone given me millions of dollars at his age. It's really a sad situation how system is set up. 

Amateur football is a beautiful thing! That's where this sport should be at! Team that grows together without big player changes every year! Team that has the heart for the game, and is in it for the right reasons. That's how NFL started.

Mia Bajin
Exclusive Interview: Daniel Kelly - Former NY Jets Scout
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