Aspiring to a career in football scouting, Damond Talbot knew he needed to find a unique angle into the industry.
Where, Talbot thought, could he find the players no one else could identify? As the 2000 Salamanca High School graduate ventured into an internship with Optimum Scouting, his first assignment was to scout HBCUs: Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He later had an internship with the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League.
These days, however, Talbot runs his own scouting company and website: NFL Draft Diamonds. With five employees, the small company seeks to scour the football landscape to find those “diamonds” in the rough.
“I said, ‘Man, I really want to scout, and I started my own scouting company,’” Talbot said. “Basically what we do is we focus on small school football players, helping them get an opportunity to the NFL, from college to the NFL. But it’s blossomed into a major platform where we’re dealing with free agents, we’re dealing with guys from the CFL, XFL, from Germany, Italy; we’ve helped foreign players get here and get an opportunity in the NFL. So it’s really taken off to that point.”
Talbot said his NFL Draft Diamonds Twitter following grew from “about 30” in the early days to 99,700, as of this week.
Talbot said he noticed a lack of coverage and scouting of HBCUs early on in his internship.
“That’s how it all started,” he said. “How it became NFL Draft Diamonds was through Optimum Scouting. I said I’m going to create my own little section called ‘diamonds in the rough,’ and I’m going to go out and find these diamonds that nobody else has ever even talked about. I picked 12 players from black colleges that nobody really knew who they were, and all 12 of them ended up getting a shot in the league (the following) year. I realized hey, maybe I’m pretty good at this.
“That’s where I said if all 12 could get a shot, I wonder what I could do if I focused on a bigger group. The next thing you know I was doing all the black colleges, so I had four conferences. That was a lot of work.”
Talbot said he never expected to grow such a following, but if his work has helped any players achieve their goal of reaching the NFL, he takes pride in it.
“I never thought it would ever get that big. It’s something that I’m proud of because they may have never got a shot if there wasn’t a platform,” he said.
TALBOT CITED Josh Norman, now a cornerback for the Bills, as one player his service highlighted early on. Talbot, who has worked with several college all-star games, pushed for Norman to play in the East-West Shrine Game.
“He wasn’t really getting a lot of love out of Coastal Carolina,” Talbot said. “And I’d seen the film on him, I was pounding the table trying to get him in. I finally was able to get him into the East-West Shrine Game, he went down there and on his first day, every GM, every scout that was down there just kept talking about, ‘Who is this kid from Coastal Carolina? He won’t shut up, he won’t be quiet. He’s loud, he’s cocky, he’s arrogant.’”
Norman already had the brash confidence that helped him become one of the league’s top corners in Carolina and a big contract with Washington.
“He was shutting down everybody,” Talbot said. “He was in their face, ‘You don’t want to give me a chance,’ just talking the entire time. And after the game, the Senior Bowl guys contacted us and said if you can recommend a guy, who would you recommend? I said Josh Norman, and he ended up getting to the Senior Bowl and he shined there. Josh, he’s cocky, but he’s confident. There’s a difference. That’s his quote, he’ll say, ‘I’m not cocky, I’m confident.’ And he’s always been confident.”
If players reach out to the company, Talbot said Draft Diamonds will advise them on how to attract interest from colleges or pro teams. Talbot added that he doesn’t do much work with high schoolers, but without question will help any kids from his hometown and surrounding area.
“We show kids basically what to do to be noticed,” he said. “So at the college level, you have to find a way to get your film into scouts’ hands. You have to find a way even at the high school level to get your film into colleges’ hands. We do all of that, we try to help as many kids as we can, college and high school.”
Draft Diamonds delivers a monthly report to every NFL team, Talbot said.
“When you reach out to a college or sports information director, they’re very quick to give you access to their film,” Talbot said of gathering information and tape. “You can break down coaches’ films, they’ll give you all types of film.
“My team right now, I have five guys that work for me and we basically scout the entire country, from Division III all the way up to FCS and even FBS, which is the top division,” he said. “We scout all throughout. We build a database, (which) is filled with information about the player throughout his history, from high school to college. Then that’s distributed to NFL teams every month.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at email@example.com)