Recruiting Column: Q & A with the Pioneer of Scouting, Gil Brandt

Recruiting Column: Q & A with the Pioneer of Scouting, Gil Brandt

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Q & A with the Pioneer of Scouting, Gil Brandt


USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

The Dallas Cowboys are worth $4,000,000,000.  I’ll repeat that; 4 BILLION (with 3 commas)!  Current owner Jerry Jones, undoubtedly, deserves credit for recognizing value when he bought the team in 1989, and for continuing to build the brand to what it has become today.  But make no mistake about it; Tex Schramm, Tom Landry and Gil Brandt are the men that made the Dallas Cowboys.  Dallas is America’s Team because of their hard work and innovation.  They are the reason why you live in Portland, Oregon and have no earthly idea why you love the “Star” so much.  Think about this, if it wasn’t for that trio of trailblazers, America’s team might have been the Oakland Raiders…Yikes!

Given that intro, you can imagine how honored I was to sit down with Gil Brandt to talk about college recruiting and the evolution of player evaluation.  The former VP of Player Personnel for the Cowboys is credited with developing an evaluation system that created an empire and changed the scouting industry forever.  To this day, Gil Brandt is one of the most respected men in all of football.  So… sit up in your chair, keep your elbows off the table and make solid eye contact as Mr. Brandt speaks… Bill Belichick does.

Q:  How has talent evaluation changed over the years?

A:  Well, the biggest change is that we measure more data and metrics on athletes today, than ever before.  The age in which we live is driven by technology.  Specific metrics and indicators, based on a player’s position, help us to determine how good of a prospect any given player might be.  It is an undeniable fact that statistics don’t lie, they don’t have an opinion and they are not personal.  That is only half of the equation, though.  Metrics and statistics may open the door for a player to be noticed, but eyeballs will always make the final decision.  As much as we rely on data to paint the best picture, there will always be a human side to scouting or recruiting an athlete.

Q: What advice would you give to high school athletes looking to play at the next level?

A:  Listen, I’ve dealt with countless college coaches and athletes my entire life.  It is not hard to see that the successful ones are doing things differently.  The same applies to college recruiting. Try mixing a little common sense with effort and concentration.

  1. The best way to sell yourself is to know what you are selling. High school athletes really need to understand how they stack up with other athletes in their sport and focus on opportunities that make sense.  If they don’t, the recruiting process will be a long, difficult road.
  1. Be known before you are needed. What I mean by that is don’t wait until the end of your junior year in high school to focus on recruiting.  You need to get on the radar of college coaches as soon as possible.  If you wake up in the middle of your junior year and you haven’t received any interest from Division I schools, then you probably aren’t going to play at the D1 level.
  1. Put faith in your high school coach’s opinion. Trust the people who know you the best.  Your coach is the person who sees you at practice every day, who watches every one of your games, who knows how you react under pressure.  Listen to their advice.
  1. You don’t need anyone else to lead you through your recruiting experience. I have seen many instances where trusting parents hire a former athlete or professional recruiting company to help their athlete through the recruiting process.   I am still waiting for the first success story.
(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

Q:  I believe it is important for high school athletes to understand how talent is evaluated.  Can you give them any advice on that?

A:  High school athletes need to understand the makeup of their team and apply the 80-10-10 rule.  Here is how that works: The top 10% and bottom 10% of athletes can be identified by any mom in the stands.  In other words, it’s not hard to know the best players and the worst players on every team. Where it gets interesting is with the other 80% of athletes. All of these athletes look alike.

Given that fact, high school recruits in that 80% need to figure out how to separate themselves from the crowd.  Whether it’s grades, intangibles or an endorsement from their coach, the 80%’ers need to figure out a way to stand out, in order to create scholarship opportunities.

Q: Define Success.

A: Success is all about change.  It is the ability to make adjustments to the process, when what you are doing isn’t working.  Success is a constant search for finding a more efficient way to getting what you want.  We had success because we made talent evaluation a science.  We made everything a science.  Success is a science.  There is always a better way to do it.

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