Blake Beddingfield, who has spent 19 years as either a college scout or the director of scouting for the Tennessee Titans, has an eye for talent.
It was his job to help determine who has the potential to make it at the next level.
A native of Huntsville, Alabama, and a University of Alabama alum, he has dedicated his life to the study of football and its players. He’s also the mastermind behind some of the Titans’ greatest discoveries.
Beddingfield sat down with the Williamson Herald for a question-and-answer session about the life of an NFL scout.
Williamson Herald: How did you get into scouting and the NFL?
Beddingfield: “I went to college to study criminal justice and my original plan was to join the DEA after college. Then I had a detour from the police side of things and I wanted to get into football. I’ve always been a fan. I played in high school, but I’ve always enjoyed breaking down depth charts and rosters, just the scouting aspect of it.
“I started working in the Arena Football League and worked at a lot of football camps. In 1999, the Houston Oilers’ Director of College Scouting, Glenn Coumbi, took an interest in me. They felt that I would be the perfect fit to come along with them for their move to Nashville.”
Herald: What is the life of a scout like?
Beddingfield: “The life of a scout is a lot of independent working and a lot of traveling. Scouts spend 120-150 days a year on the road. This means a lot of hotels, a lot of colleges. An NFL scout will spend an entire day at a different college each day of the week.
“While at these colleges, you’ll spend a lot of time watching game tape, watching practice, talking to coaches, talking to players and talking to all the staff. You’ll spend the whole day finding out about the prospects they have to offer, and once you get done with that school, you’ll wake up the next morning and drive to the next school.”
Herald: What did you like about the job?
Beddingfield: “I got up every morning and got to watch football for a living. I never felt like I worked a day in my life. That was one of the drawing cards for me. I loved it. I loved going to the next school, evaluating players and trying to draft the best players for each team. However, I did miss my family while I was on the road.You miss a lot of your kid’s activities when you’re out scouting.”
Herald: What do you look for in an NFL prospect?
Beddingfield: “A track record is very important, whether it’s a statistical track record of success or a track record of being a hard worker. Someone that’s dedicated to his craft. Not everyone has the same work ethic and not everyone has the same talent level when you’re talking about college football.
“Some players have incredible talent, so they don’t have to work as hard. However, some players have average talent but an amazing work ethic that really puts them ahead. You have to not only be athletic but mentally tough as well. You have to be able to have the mental fortitude to learn an NFL playbook.
“When you get to the NFL, you’re talking about premier athletes. Everyone’s been an all-star and an all-conference player. The next question is: What’s going to separate you? That work ethic is going to separate you, the ability to learn a system.”
Herald: What are serious red flags for players?
Beddingfield: “One of the things I tried to separate myself from was injuries. I’m not a medical person, but if I’m seeing a person whose pulling himself out of games because he’s fatigued and out of shape or has a nagging injury, that’s a red flag.
“If I’m seeing a player who has to constantly be directed by other players on the field at the time and are unsure of their assignment, that’s a big red flag. Also, if you aren’t a hard worker off the field, that’s a red flag, because that’s going to be something that’s amplified when you get to the NFL.
“If a player isn’t a hard worker in college, it’s only going to get worse once they get money in their pocket.”
Herald: Talk about some of the successful players you’ve drafted.
Beddingfield on Chris Johnson: “CJ2K “We started to look at Chris Johnson as a freshman. I was there to evaluate these two senior running backs who had really good junior years.
“When I sat down in the film room, I noticed that they never really played. There was this little guy, No. 5, out there a majority of the time. I went and found the running backs coach and asked ‘Are these guys hurt? What’s the deal? Why is this guy playing.”
“He said, ‘Go back and watch film, you’ll see why.’ Well I saw why. I saw the speed and the athleticism and the dynamic ability to hit a home run every time he touched the ball.
“If you have the ability to draft a difference maker, which Chris was, you put your foot down and you draft that guy and that’s what we did.”
Beddingfield on Marcus
Mariota: “I thought that Marcus was an easy decision for us. He has a good arm, he’s a winner, competitive and he’s extremely intelligent.
“We put him through various workouts and mental tests, which he passed with flying colors. He always performed well in big games and big moments. He had that track record of success. He was an easy pick in that regard.
“When you look at that other quarterback for that draft, which was Jameis Winston, he was a little bit different. You’re talking about someone with the off-the-field issues. Jameis was also a risk-taker. Where Marcus wanted to make sure he made the right passes, Jameis was more of a go-for-it type of guy. Mariota was a great guy to get to know and he will continue to be a great franchise quarterback for a number of years.”
Beddingfield on Derrick Henry: “There’s been a devaluation of the running back position and I just don’t believe in that. Good teams have good running backs. Derrick Henry is a good running back. He’s a workhorse that can handle the load.
“A lot of people looked at him and saw his size and thought of him as a power back, but that’s not all he is. He’s got great speed and he’s able to go the distance. He’s a back that needs a high number of carries. He’s also very good in pass protection and the passing game. Henry has that straight-line speed, but he also has that size and power.”
Herald: What do you think about the NFL’s rule changes?
Beddingfield: I think there are things that they need to take out, the head hunting that has happened in the NFL. I do think that some things are tougher to take away, like the lowering of the head of the running back. And I think that when you lead with your shoulder and it hits on the shoulder of another player — I don’t care if they leave their feet — that’s just a big hit.
“I think that there’s way too much emphasis on protecting the quarterback. I don’t believe that a defensive lineman should be penalized for going low on a quarterback, because sometimes he’s pushed to the ground.
“I’m glad they took away the knockout shots, but I think there are some things that are part of football and need to stay in.”
With his NFL career in the rear view, Beddingfield has turned his attention to new careers. He’s experimented with the XFL and the Alliance of American Football. His latest venture has found him in the world of media, whether it be writing articles for the NFL or doing radio shows with 104.5-FM and the midday crew, he keeps himself busy.
Beddingfield’s new careers have allowed him to have something he hasn’t been able to have for 19 years, plenty of family time.
“I probably spend 75 percent of my free time with my kids,” Beddingfield said. “Whether it be preparing them for their games or coaching their teams, it’s been great.”