In anticipation of the Senior Bowl, Grant Paulsen sat down for an exclusive interview with the Scott Campbell, the Washington Redskins Director of Player Personnel, who is the man responsible for uncovering a sixth-round gem named Alfred Morris.
Morris quickly leaped from being a largely unknown Florida Atlantic product, who was buried fourth on the depth chart, to become the NFL’s rookie rushing leader, setting a franchise record for single-season rushing yards along the way.
Coaching the South squad at last year’s Senior Bowl gave Mike Shanahan and staff an added layer of exposure to the players.
But the Redskins initial introduction to Morris came by way of an injury replacement.
Campbell recalls a discussion he had with the game’s director about bringing in Morris: “One of the players had an injury. I said, ‘What about Alfred Morris?’ He had just played the week before at the East-West game, was very impressive there, and he’s close by in Pensacola. ‘Bring him over.’”
From there he said the coaches had the opportunity to get to know him, be around him and discovered his NFL-ready personality.
Campbell, who first came to the Redskins 12 seasons ago under Marty Schottenheimer, gives credit for the discovery of Morris, and others, to Shanahan. He says the coach was able to illustrate the type of personnel he was looking for when he first arrived in Washington.
“The great thing about coach Shanahan is he immediately knew with his experience that he had to educate the scouts on what he was looking for,” Campbell said. “He told us it was going to take some time. But they spent an extraordinary amount of time during that first winter and spring, just meeting with the scouts, making cut-ups, saying ‘This is what we want out of this position.’”
Although they Shanahan and company aren’t coaching the college all-star game this year, it won’t affect Campbell’s or his staff’s ability to evaluate talent.
“That was the exception last year,” Campbell said. “We have our whole scouting staff here and we go every night over to the player hotel and set up meetings with the players.”
This year, Campbell plans to spend about five minutes with each senior, and a little more time with players he feels could be a good fit in Washington. All in all, he says it usually takes 30 to 45 minutes of talking to a guy to find any flaws in his background or any hidden injury issues that may need further investigating.
But that initial conversation is essential to deciding if the team should continue to pursue a player, because, according to Campbell, you’d be surprised at how much you can learn about a guy in just five minutes.
“It’s just like a real-life situation,” Campbell said.
“You get to know personalities. You get to know a guy’s confidence, if he looks you in the eye or not. If he’s nervous. Somewhat how intelligent they are. You can ask them the best player they played against. If the guy’s on top of his game, he’ll know who his opponents were.”