Rams’ scouting program a diversity pathway to the NFL

In almost a year’s time, the Los Angeles Rams have given 10 deserving minority and female candidates an experience like no other with the team’s inaugural scouting apprenticeship program. These apprentices have worked with some of the Rams’ top advisors and football operations personnel in an effort to expand their scouting skills and experiences overall.

Jacques McClendon, the Rams’ Director of Player of Engagement, was one of the advisors involved in the apprenticeship program. McClendon has been responsible for assisting players with the transition to professional football and developing off-the-field programs and activities. Additionally, he has also assisted with the scouting process and other collaborative administrative duties for the team.

Breaking Through the Barriers

When word of the Rams Scouting Apprenticeship came into play, McClendon knew the importance of, not only increasing diversity and inclusion in the league but how the program would give a behind-the-scenes look for the participants of what scouting in the NFL would be like.

“With this program, we saw an opportunity to truly advance racial and gender equity within the scouting department as these are roles that are hard to get because of how tight-knit the community is,” McClendon said. “We wanted to provide women and minority men an opportunity to gain access to that true in-depth feel of what it takes to be a scout in the National Football League.”

In the process, McClendon and the team selected 10 worthy individuals whose ultimate goals are to all work in the NFL. Of those 10, News4usoline was able to speak to four of the participants: Cory Moore (Lakewood High School), Micheal Young (Senior Bowl scout), Beau Bell (former general manager of the Philadelphia Soul), and Mechelle Geeter (former University of Maryland’s director of on-campus recruiting).

Lakerwood High School head football coach Cory Moore is enjoying being part of the Los Angeles Rams Scouting Apprenticeship program. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams/ Cory Moore

Moore has been the head football coach at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida for the last 14 years. A Lakewood High alumnus himself, Moore has coached some of the big names in football which include Dante Fowler, Isaiah Wynn and the Griffin brothers, Shaquill and Shaquem and because of their star status, Moore was a step ahead of the competition when it came to networking.

“I actually knew Steve Miller (special assistant to the general manager/security), really well because [the Rams] looked at Dante [Fowler], Isaiah [Wynn], they looked at about eight guys that I actually coached,” Moore said. “So, I knew him, and he asked me if I was interested, and I said absolutely. So of course, I had to go through the standard process and sure enough, I was able to be a part of this and it’s been incredible.”

While Moore carries a decorated career as a head coach of high school football, his ultimate goal is to become an NFL scout. Moore has taken on the challenges head-on in an effort to reach his dream.

“I don’t think people really have a clue of what this program that Les Snead has brought about is really opening,” Moore said. “This apprenticeship gives [us] an opportunity to receive seeds of information that the average person would not be able to get. The Rams have opened a door saying this what you need to learn in order to succeed, this is how you carry yourself, this is how you work on your craft, etc.

“The biggest thing is that they aren’t pushing us in a certain direction,” Moore continued. “What they’re saying is these are all the options that you can take on if you choose to, but what can we do to help you out? I think that’s amazing. To be able to call the GM or a scout and be able to watch film with a scout, people really don’t realize that this apprenticeship is gold.”

Prepped and Ready to Go

Young is an NFL veteran who played for Arizona Cardinals from 2001-2004 and has built an assurance in not only himself but in his resume to work in the league.

“I told myself I’m going to be somewhere working for some NFL team at some point next season,” Young said. “If the opportunity was not there to be hired on and stay with the Rams, I completely understand the business side of it all. Moving forward, I feel confident enough that I can be recommended to some other teams [in the league] or to a [college] Division I program. And that’s not just for me, but for the rest of the cohorts in the program as well.”

Micheal Young (left) looks to gets his footing in the NFL through the Los Angeles Rams Scouting Apprenticeship. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams/Micheal Young

Young was recommended to the program by Venessa Hutchinson (Senior Manager, Football Development for the NFL who also works with the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship) to the apprenticeship where he was able to showcase his talents alongside his colleagues. Young elaborated on how that was one of the biggest takeaways from the program.

“This is a program that should continue moving forward and for more teams,” Young said. “That platform gave us the opportunity to network more and show how we work. As a former player, it’s tough because we are not as welcomed into the scouting community as people may think. I have to put in the work twice as hard to prove that my desire is to be a scout. All we need is a chance to get into the door, show what we can do and prove our capability.”

Much like Young, Bell touched every single league there is professional football-wise. The former linebacker played college football at UNLV. Bell was drafted and played for the Cleveland Browns in 2008, and then took his talents to the United Football League and Canadian Football League before finally ending his playing career in the Arena Football League.

Putting in the Work

Bell is currently a defensive assistant coach at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is also an online student at Arkansas State University where he is trying to earn a master’s degree in sports administration.

“The ultimate goal is to become an NFL scout and really put the pieces of the puzzle together to help a team win championships,” Bell said. “I think this program was that first step in bringing a real change to not just the scouting department but to the entire league. You look at what the Rams put together and it promotes the chance of more opportunities moving forward for not only myself but the rest of the candidates. That is the success of this program because we can actually have a chance of earning roles in the NFL.”

Bell has heard and said in his life, “If you can’t see it, how can you believe it?” referring to the fact that the NFL has been a predominantly Caucasian-male driven league.

“If you’re not in the business or within that community it’s pretty tough as a minority to gain any opportunities,” Bell said. “If you don’t see those people that look like you in those positions, how do you know that you’re able to get into those positions? That goes in any business, whether it’s being a doctor, lawyer, owning a construction company, etc. Football is the biggest metaphor of life because it’s a mixture of individual people and personalities coming from all different places to have one goal in mind. Whether they’re African American, Latino or a woman, it doesn’t matter.”

As one of the two female candidates involved in the Rams inaugural scouting apprenticeship program, Geeter always wanted to play the game of football more than she wanted to watch it. While her mother did not allow her to play the sport she loves, Geeter found ways around not being on the field and has built an exemplary resume when it comes to football and the process of scouting.

“I really got interested in scouting during my time at Alabama,” Geeter said. “I spent a lot of time working with what we referred to as ‘The Boys’ and focused on what made certain players’ film highlights worthy of us to recruit them. I took advantage of not only that experience but also speaking with NFL scouts who came to campus during Alabama’s Pro Days. I picked their brain, networked, and asked them about the overall experience.”

Mechelle Geeter is one of two women participating in the Los Angeles Rams Scouting Apprenticeship program. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams/Mechelle Geeter

Geeter understands the reality of being a female trying to work in the NFL but thanks Hutchinson and Sam Rapoport (Senior Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the NFL), for holding annual women’s forums where they help women try to get involved in different positions and internships within the league.

Additionally, Geeter believes if more teams executed ideas that were put onto the table, the league would enhance its effort for inclusion and diversity overall.

“I thank the Rams so much for producing a unique program,” Geeter said. “The reality we should be following is to hire the most qualified person whether they are black, yellow, purple, male, female, it shouldn’t matter. It’s important to give everyone an opportunity to show that there are more than qualified individuals outside the tight-knit community within the NFL. If other teams see how well the Rams succeeded with this program, then they should definitely incorporate something similar within their own organizations.”

McClendon has seen firsthand how the program developed its candidates into hard-working and dedicated individuals who were simply looking for the opportunity to flex their willingness to learn. When the Rams kicked the apprenticeship off back in August, team general manager Les Snead talked about his vision for the program he wanted to develop.

“Our vision with this apprenticeship is to provide access and opportunity to many talented, aspiring, minority scouts and player evaluators,” Snead said.

McClendon praised Snead for creating a program that did exactly what he promised, and though it will end by the time the 2021 NFL Draft begins in late April, McClendon says he believes the inaugural program was a rousing success.

“Les Snead created an opportunity to not only gain a network but also gain an education of what it is really like to be a professional scout in the NFL,” McClendon said.

“We didn’t start something to be a one-off,” McClendon added. “We started this program to be a transformational change for as long as possible and we definitely see it continuing and we’re super excited about this first year’s crop, what they learned and being able to give them that platform. They are going to be able to have a portfolio of work and that’s one of the key elements to help them in job opportunities moving forward.”

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