07/24/2014 11:20AM ● Published by Kerri Regan
National Football Scouting President Jeff Foster
Many tears are shed on high school football fields across the country each fall, when seniors hang up their helmets for the last time. A select few are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in college, and of those, the most elite earn a coveted spot on a professional roster.
North State native Jeff Foster hasn’t put on pads in a couple of decades, but he’s still been able to make a career out of his beloved sport. He’s the president of National Football Scouting and he directs the National Invitational Camp (also known as the NFL Combine), where scouts evaluate prospects for the NFL draft every February.
“I feel very fortunate to continue to work in football,” Foster says.
Foster’s family moved from Hayfork to Palo Cedro when he was a toddler, and he graduated from Anderson High School in 1990. He was team captain and an all-league player for Anderson’s
football, baseball, basketball and soccer teams, along with serving on student government.
He went on to play football at Arizona State University, where he majored in communications with a business minor. He was an honorable mention for the PAC-10 Conference All-Academic Team in 1994. The following year, he was one of 12 Division 1 football players selected to play in the sixth annual Heisei Bowl in Japan, where he helped coach the top two Japanese college football teams. When he was hired by the East-West Shrine Football Classic in 1995, he developed a pilot program that produced the first two Japanese participants in the 73-year history of the game.
“I was able to stay involved in sports, I learned the business side of things and I came to love the charity,” he says. “I had a lot of fun playing in college, but I wasn’t going to go on to an NFL career.”
Foster was promoted to the East-West game’s director before he was hired as a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001, first evaluating college talent, then scouting the pros. He was responsible for weekly evaluation of opponents, providing advance scouting reports for coaches and players. Because he was always watching his team’s upcoming opponent, “for two seasons, I never saw the Chiefs play live,” he says. He also evaluated professional players for free agency and trade acquisitions.
Nine years ago, he was hired as president of National Football Scouting, the largest college scouting service in professional football. His crew manages 11 scouts who are charged with narrowing 12,000 college seniors down to about 800 NFL prospects.
Scouts watch three to five full game films on each player to evaluate position-specific skills. “They also talk to the coaches and academic advisers to try to get a sense of the person’s character, which we combine with their football character,” Foster says. “We’re measuring their football IQ.”
In the fall, he focuses on the NFL Combine, which gained popularity among casual fans when the NFL Network began broadcasting it.
Foster maintains North State roots. Parents Duane and Peggy still live in Shasta County, and legendary retired Anderson High School football coach Bob Reid remains a close friend. He came to the combine last year with Foster’s father.
“I love where I grew up,” Foster says. “Growing up in a small town like that, you didn’t really see what was out there. Arizona State had 60,000 students. They make you work hard and have big dreams and big goals. You really have to get out and see what else is out there, to compete outside your comfort zone. Reid always pushed you to remember where you came from.”
This year, Foster will be inducted into the Shasta County Sports Hall of Fame, which includes “names I looked up to when I was growing up.”
One of those names? Bob Reid. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees also include Olympian Megan Rapinoe, former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan, Canadian Football League powerhouse Ricky Ray, Max Burch, Sam Enochian, Eddie Wilson and Mark Wilson.
“There are lessons learned in team sports that you just don’t realize,” Foster says. “Work ethic, determination, learning from your mistakes and striving to play better help you succeed regardless of your career. That’s what shaped who I am, professionally and personally.”
He’ll make the trip to receive that honor with his wife of 9 years, Amy; their 8-year-old daughter, Addison; and “three knuckleheads” Nate, 6, Lucas, 5, and Park, 3. The boys have gone to some football camps that teach the fundamentals of the game, but “I hope their interests are golf and other non-contact sports,” he says with a laugh.