Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Red and Purple Interview: New Orleans Saints Pro Scout Ryan Powell (Former Linfield Linebacker)

We were able to catch up with former Linfield Linebacker Ryan Powell (2002) who currently just wrapped up his 3rd year working for the New Orleans Saints as a pro scout (5th year overall with the Saints). Unless you’re living under a rock you all know the Saints are fresh off their first NFL Super Bowl win and Ryan has the unique honor of owning a NCAA DIII Championship ring (served as an assistant coach on Linfield’s 2004 team) and now as a member of the Saints.

But anyone that knows Ryan wouldn’t be surprised by his accomplishments as his roots run deep in athletics. Ryan’s father, Clyde Powell, has a tremendous High School football coaching resume in Central Oregon and was a vital member of Linfield’s staff from 2000-2007 (Clyde’s now back as head coach of Madras High School). Ryan’s older brother, Casey, was a standout on the Linfield baseball team in the late 90’s and went on to be the head baseball coach at Whitman College and now serves as an assistant baseball coach at Seattle University.

It’s pretty easy to see that Ryan and his family have a strong pedigree in athletics that has helped him in his current roll with the Saints. We caught up with Ryan and asked him about his time in New Orleans, how this year’s Saints team compared to that 2004 Linfield squad (in terms of characteristics), and how he was able to get his foot in the door in the NFL.

(Wildcat11) Thanks for checking in with us Ryan. First off, Congratulations on the Saints incredible Super Bowl victory. It was a great game. This was your 5th year with the Saints and 3rd as a Pro Scout. (Ryan spent my first two seasons as a college scout) First off can you tell us what your job duties are as a scout for an NFL team and how did you first land a job in the NFL?

(Ryan Powell) I got my first job in the NFL in the summer of 1998 after my first year at Linfield. I was lucky enough that the VP of Player Personnel at the time in Seattle was Randy Mueller, a Linfield alum. I wrote him a letter telling him of my aspirations to work in an NFL scouting department. He called me back and I was lucky enough to work at the Seahawks training camp for the following three summers.

I didn’t go back the 4th season because I wanted to stay and workout with the team in McMinnville and getting my foot back in the door took some time. I was finally lucky enough to get on with the Saints for one summer after I spoke with Danny Langsdorf who was working at a Linfield football camp and at the time an offensive assistant for the Saints. He mentioned that a lot of the people that I worked for in Seattle were down in New Orleans. I worked one summer there prior to being an assistant coach on Linfield’s National Championship team and was hired on full time as the Saints combine scout the next offseason and have been down here ever since.

My duties as a pro scout vary depending on what time of year it is. Starting in training camp we’re always busy evaluating our own players as well as the players on other rosters once the pre-season begins. Once the season starts I’m responsible for 5 or 6 advance reports during the regular season and hopefully a couple of more if we’re in the playoffs. I’ll write up reports on the opposing team’s players, I will travel to go watch our upcoming opponent the week before we play them, watching things at the game that the coaches can’t necessarily see on the tape. Once the season is “over” we start right away on free agency. This season we’re behind due to our long run in the playoffs but free agency, like the rest of the season is a grind. Once free agency is over we in the pro scouting department will go over and help prepare for the draft and after the draft is over we start our off season program. Really there is only about a month or so during the year where there is considerable down time and that’s in late June & July.

(WC11) You have a unique honor of being in Salem, Va. in 2004 as an assistant coach when the ‘Cats won the Division III title and now you were in Miami to be a part of the Saints World Championships. I know there is a *slight* difference the between crowd in Salem that day in 2004 and at the center of the sporting world during the Super Bowl but did you observe any similarities between Linfield’s run in 2004 and what the Saints just accomplished? There has to be intangibles that championship teams share as their season progresses?

(RP)During this season I really felt that this was a special team and I remember telling my Dad after one of our early games that the team reminded me a lot of our Linfield team that won the National Championship and I really felt that we had a good chance of winning it all. Both teams had outstanding leadership on the field and on the sideline and neither team was a group that got frustrated if things weren’t going well. As for the Super Bowl game compared to the National Championship game; both are outstanding memories and I’m truly blessed to have been lucky enough to be a part of.

(WC11) Most people would think that working for an NFL team would be glamorous but I get the feeling that the scouts, coaches, and support people are putting in grueling hard hours of work that people will never really know about. Is working for an NFL team the hardest job that you’ve had and what is required to succeed as an NFL scout? Is there a typical week for an NFL scout?

(RP) Working in the NFL is a grind. Once the preseason starts, I’m working 7 days a week until the season is over and then we throttle down a bit. Working as an NFL scout is certainly the most demanding job I’ve ever had but I don’t know that it’s the hardest. Working as a line cook and as a waiter at McMenamins when I was at Linfield sucked. It was only 8 hours or so a day but it was hard work and without reward. I’m doing something that I love and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing so the time that it demands, makes it worthwhile.

As for a typical week for an NFL scout; the majority of the time I’m busy at the office evaluating players for an upcoming advance, possibly looking at players who have been released or looking at players on other team’s practice squads that we may have an interest in. Working on advance reports however does take up the majority of my time and that’s typically what I’m working on. On Saturday’s I’m typically traveling either with the team if I advanced the team we’re playing or traveling to go watch an upcoming opponent. So on Sunday I’m typically at one of our games or on the road and seldom at home.

(WC11) Of course, I want to ask you about your time at Linfield as a student and Linebacker (1997-2002). You were a part of some great Linfield squads that helped re-establish the program back on the national scene. What did you learn from your time as a Wildcat that now helps you in your professional life? What was your fondest memory as a player? Do you still follow the program?

(RP) My time at Linfield was one of the, if not the greatest experiences in my life. Playing football with great friends and coaches was truly an outstanding experience. I learned a tremendous amount about preparation while at Linfield and the importance of outworking your opponent. While I was at Linfield I always felt that we would never face a team that was more prepared than we were and I try and bring that same philosophy to scouting.

As for my fondest memory, it’s hard to signal out just one but the relationships I made over my five and half years on the team (and no I don’t have a doctorate) was certainly the most rewarding. I would also signal out our come from behind victory down at Menlo my junior year and certainly the win in the National Championship game as an assistant coach.

I try and follow the program as much as I can but it’s tough living down in New Orleans and I’m often traveling on Saturday’s but I try and listen to as many games as I can over the internet.

(WC11) I wanted to ask you about living in the New Orleans area. I’ve been down in the area once and I loved it. Great people, great food, and just a great energy. Obviously, the city is still trying to rebuild and pull themselves out of the Katrina aftermath and you’ve been observing this process since Katrina hit. What do you enjoy the most about New Orleans? What’s the biggest difference about the area vs the Pacific NW? And is the love the city has for the Saints just off the charts? If someone was going to visit the area where do they HAVE to go and visit?

(RP) The best part of New Orleans is probably the food, music and the unique culture that this city has to offer. The food is great, you can always find good music and the people down here have a culture and way of life that I don’t think you’ll find anywhere in the US. As for the biggest differences between New Orleans and the Pacific NW, where do I start? I would say the two are complete opposites. Louisiana is flat, no mountains, no hills and a climate that is unbearable in the summer due to the heat and the humidity. I couldn’t believe how hot it got down here in the summer and it’s so muggy 24/7 that you can never enjoy an evening on the deck that you can back in the NW. New Orleans is a great place to visit and if you want to make a trip down south, come in February and experience Mardi Gras.

(WC11) My last question is about what advice would you give to a current college football player that wants to get a job in the NFL as a scout (player personnel)?

(RP) The hardest part of getting a job in a player personnel department is just getting your foot in the door. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity with the Seahawks because a fellow Linfield Alum was in a position to get me on board and as with any job or business it’s not always what you know, but who you know. After I graduated I sent out letters to every team in the league and heard back from about half saying “thanks, but no thanks…” You have to be persistent and you have to be willing to work for little to nothing just in order to get your foot in the door and give the people running the teams a chance to meet you and know what kind of person/worker that you are.

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