All-star game experience proves All22’s international scouts belong in the room where it happens

While fans will have their eyes glued to the field until a Super Bowl champion has been crowned this weekend, another NFL season is already well underway off of it.

Regardless of who wins between the Rams and Bengals, the next NFL champion will be built this off-season and talent evaluators are hard at work behind the scenes to give their club the edge. While evaluation is a year-round process, the intense frenzy in the lead up to the NFL Draft begins in earnest on the college all-star game circuit. There, top NFL evaluators begin to separate their top prospects long before combine testing or pro day performances, while eagle-eyed scouts from lower leagues try to spot the talents who might slip through the cracks.

These are the spaces where the next diamond in the rough might be discovered, helping to push a team up to contender status. Most will never get a peek behind the curtain into the evaluation battlegrounds that shape pro football rosters, but among the pro scouts in meeting rooms and field side this January was a small contingent of international evaluators with big dreams.

Officially launched in January, All22 – The Global Scouting Network has entered the scouting sphere with the goal of becoming a global BLESTOs for verified scouting data, helping connect teams and players all across the world. Led by Calgary Stampeders’ scout Brett Morgan, the company is now employing more than 65 trained evaluators across the globe.

The organization partnered with both the College Gridiron Showcase and the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl last month to provide opportunities for a select group of international athletes to get in front of professional teams, but the two all-star events were also prime opportunities to collect data and evaluate potential global prospects. As such, a team scouts from North America and Europe made their way to Texas and Florida, with eyes set on a future in pro football.

“Being finally able to devote 100 percent of my time to football and sharing the sidelines, bleachers and press-boxes with professional scouts was something I never even dared to dream about,” says Patrik Asén, a long-time player for Finland’s Helsinki Roosters who now serves as All22’s European Regional Scouting Advisor.

“The days were certainly hectic and long and the first sessions were overwhelming, but it never felt like ‘real’ work. We had a very passionate group of scouts with a team-first mentality, which definitely made the experience even more enjoyable.”

All22 scouts (left to right) Claude Allaire, Patrick Springer and Patrik Asen administer testing at the Tropical Bowl Photo: Richard Bailey/LockedIN Magazine

Like many of All22‘s team, Asén’s scouting journey began with The Scouting Academy, an online course run by former NFL scout Dan Hatman that now has sent 40 alumni on to opportunities in the NFL, and he graduated as one of the program’s most successful international students.

Since then, Asén and his colleagues have continued with more in depth training through All22, learning how to run live events and evaluate each position through the lens of different professional leagues. The company requires all of their evaluators to become fully certified in all aspects of the job of pro scouting, including live event evaluation. For European area scouts like Germany’s Patrick Springer, the experience of doing it at a real US college all-star game was simply irreplaceable.

“As a scout, All22 has helped me develop a unique skill set, from tape watching to report writing to communication, but I would say that scouting is different than what 90 percent of the people think it is like,” he explains. “To have these same experiences as professional scouts in an environment like this is critical to development, in my opinion.”

That was a sentiment echoed by Robbert Jan Drost of the Netherlands, whose believes a week at the Tropical Bowl provided him with a real-world crash course in professional scouting that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

“Our president Brett Morgan said, ‘You cannot simulate this kind of live scouting experience.’ And oh boy, he was right!” Jan Drost insists. “You really get stress-tested in a situation like this. I think that will help me most going forward.”

All22 scout Robbert Jan Drost watches a Tropical Bowl practice Photo: Robbert Jan Drost

Throughout the week at each event, the All22 team were in the trenches alongside NFL scouts at practices and helped to administer official testing at each game’s free agent event. In addition, each had a long list of other professional responsibilities, ranging from data verification to player interviews.

“These all-star games and showcases are not a pleasure trip,” says Canadian scout Jeff Rosaine. “You have to come in prepared, with a solid game plan and ready to work, just as if you were one of the players.”

It was in player interviews where the Calgarian truly excelled, building a rapport with prospects from major university he had spent years watching on TV and giving them tools to help continue their careers.

“Talking to elite athletes can be a bit intimidating, but once you start talking to these guys, you realize how down to earth they all are and it becomes a lot of fun getting to know them,” he says. “You really feel like you are in a position to help them advance their careers and that is a great feeling.”

As a team of foreign-born scout in the hot bed of American football, none was sure what to expect from their interactions with players and NFL scouts. Each came away pleasantly surprised by the openness of those they met, with their unique accents serving as an unexpected icebreaker in professional scenarios.

“We got all possible reactions. Some people were surprised, some people not, but I would say it was only positive,” Springer says. “Most of the people in the US know that football isn’t only an American thing any longer, they understand that it is growing globally.”

All22 scouts Devin Pettenger (left), Patrick Springer (back), and Patrik Asen (right) prepare for a day at the College Gridiron Showcase Photo: Jeff Rosaine

As anyone involved in pro football will tell you, the networking opportunities of these type of events are priceless. For a group of aspiring scouts with few previous NFL connection, each business card was a potential ticket to something greater. Perhaps even a chance to build on the wave of international talent beginning to flood American football, but not yet reaching pro front offices.

In the end, however, it is the actual work of scouting that was most important for those in attendance. For Jan Drost, the process was both challenging and revelatory, forcing him to learn the essential skills of how to frame and verbalize his evaluations.

“You work hard to get a good understanding of each individual player, so talking through your observations with the entire group was an eye-opening experience,” he says. “I noticed that talking out loud about a player really gave me a clearer understanding of which grade correlated with the player in question.”

That type of growth brings a smile to the face of Patrik Asén. While few international scouts have ventured into this space before, they will not be the last group to do so. The organization is always looking for intern candidates to take part in their next wave of qualification courses.

He has now seen first hand that those types of passionate global-born individuals can handle themselves alongside professional evaluators and deserve more seats at the table. If he had any doubts before as to the path he is on, they are gone now.

“The biggest take-away for me moving forward was the confidence I gained in myself, and our team, as scouts,” Asén emphasizes. “We clearly belonged in that environment, and will carry that knowledge into our respective regions in the future.”

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.