As a former NFL executive for 15 years, I spent several hours evaluating talent. That was my job and I loved it. I watched hours upon hours of film. I would sift through 1100-1900 players every year. I graded players from high to low based off athletic ability, height, weight and speed. I had a lot of resources to use – practice sessions, DNA (game film), bowl games, All-Star games and the yearly Combine. I see the big runs, the long throws, the huge collision tackles and key big plays in the return game. However, the one evaluation that all scouts struggle with is gauging the heart of an athlete. You see overachievers that make strides at the next level, and those that preformed at a high level in college, but underachieve when in the NFL.
I always looked for good character. The player doesn’t have to be a perfect person. Some flaws are OK, because there is no perfect person (criminals no need to apply). Other attributes I look for include competitiveness, toughness, intelligence and leadership capabilities.
Leadership qualities have been described as a “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”
“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” According to Ken “SKC” Ogbonnia, “Effective leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals.” Leadership is “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.”
Sam Bradford is a student of leadership. Those skills were developed at the University of Oklahoma. I witnessed it up close and in living color. Not only barking out an audible and having command of the offense, but getting players aligned, motivating them and in some cases ripping their butt with just a disappointing and disgusting look that was much more damaging than anything he could have said.
He possesses the following traits that I feel are extremely important for any quarterback, especially at the NFL level of competition. Let’s start with the natural charisma of a leader. When he walks into a room, he gets everyone’s attention with stature and voice clarity. He also has the ability to interact with teammates, and has natural confidence as you would expect with a person of his ability. Bradford also can fight and battle through tough and competitive situations.
The search for the characteristics or traits of football leaders has been ongoing and will continue as long as there are sports.
While this young signal caller still has room for growth as a quarterback and a leader, I feel he is headed down the right track, and his leadership is desperately needed on a team that calls him the face of the franchise. The one area I would like to see him improve is the area that I actually talked to a professor of psychology about: body language.
I was taught years ago that all body language of any type is non-verbal communication, a mostly conscious act that humans display and interpret at a subconscious level. She showed me the way sports psychologists study body posture, gestures and expressions to determine the moods and thoughts of people from all walks of life. I wanted to know more about football players when studying them from afar (press box through binoculars). I also learned about the hidden aspects of communication, which describes how body language is used to display both thoughts and emotions with and without words.
When things are not going well for the Rams, and right now they are not, Bradford needs to display a certain body language that his team feels comfortable with. He needs to display gestures that motivate, not subdue teammates, ones that uplift and don’t destroy a team’s confidence. He is the leader of this team. He may be young and still developing, but he is the leader of this team.
What I saw against the Giants on Monday Night Football was growth through anger. He was competing and pissed off marching up and down the line of scrimmage, physically pushing his linemen up to the ball to get set in the no-huddle offense.
In Sunday’s game against Baltimore he took a step backward in his ongoing development and looked mentally down, beat-up (which he was) and defeated. When walking off the field after the game he was in a world many miles away from the LOU, probably replaying that nightmare over and over in his head, but his body language spoke a thousand words.
I believe in Bradford and his physical attributes as a quarterback. I also believe in his ability to lead 53 men. It will be fun to watch his growth and development as a leader.