It is predawn on Thursday, Oct. 16, as Chargers scout Jeff
Beathard makes his way to the Syracuse football office. As one
of four San Diego scouts--teams employ anywhere from one to
10--Beathard is accustomed to operating in the dark. He often
rises before the sun and spends most days in an unlit room
breaking down film. Then it's off to another college town. "The
travel wears you down, and the job has a high divorce rate,"
says Beathard, 33, who is divorced. "Still, most of us really
love what we do. Go figure."
Already this week Beathard, the son of Chargers general manager
Bobby Beathard, has traveled 1,700 miles. On Monday he left his
home in Broad Run, Va., for two days of work at Florida State.
On Wednesday morning he moved on to Florida A&M, and 15 hours
later he arrived in Syracuse, N.Y.
Now Beathard is lugging his 30-pound backpack, loaded with media
guides, notebooks and scouting reports, into Manley Field House.
He is led to a 15-by-30-foot room cluttered with televisions,
tapes and desks. Beathard takes out a stack of one-page
evaluation forms, stuffs some chewing tobacco into his mouth and
shoves a tape of the Orangemen offense into a VCR. It is 7:52 a.m.
The second of three Chargers scouts who will visit Syracuse,
Beathard will rate about a dozen players before his day is done.
On the top of each form, he fills in a player's raw
data--height, weight, age, etc.--and below that he is asked to
evaluate the prospect in seven areas: mental, position
instincts, personal character, football character,
competitiveness and toughness, strength and explosion, and
athletic ability. At the bottom of the page Beathard summarizes
his findings and ranks the player on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9
being a "star" and 1 being a "reject." He will forward a carbon
of each form to the front office, and the scouting staff will
convene later to assess each player's draft value.
Clicker in hand, Beathard runs the game tape backward and
forward with amazing alacrity. Film is brutally honest, so on
one play, a prospect's stock can rise or drop sharply. A few
minutes into the first tape, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron
walks into the room. Over the next 15 minutes Beathard picks
Orgeron's brain. Beathard is most interested in what the coach
has to say about a player's character and injury history, the
two toughest things for a scout to evaluate.
Beathard watches tape for four hours. Lunch comes from an early
supply of Halloween candy as he visits with Don Lowe, the team's
coordinator for sports medicine. In the afternoon he watches
practice and interviews players.
Later Beathard races out the door, hoping to make a flight home
so he can see how San Diego rookies such as tight end Freddie
Jones and linebacker Toran James fare in a game that night
against the Chiefs. On his way out he passes a Syracuse player.
"You a senior?" he asks.
"Nope," replies the player.
"Never mind then," says Beathard, rushing to his car.
COLOR PHOTO: JOE TRAVERVideotape can tell Beathard nearly everything he needs to know about a player. [Jeff Beathard watching football players on videotape]