Exclusive with Steelers Wide Receiver Paul Skansi, 1983

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First, let us know what brought you to your role as a scout for the Chargers – how did this come about?

I’ve been a scout for seventeen years now. I thought I’d get into the mortgage business – but the market fell through. I got the football bug so I went back to the University of Washington and finished my degree. I had ten credits left. I worked with the football program after then got a job as a coach at the University of Idaho – I was there for five years then I got a job at Nevada,  I was there for seven-to-eight months  But I had a young family and when the opportunity at San Diego to become a scout came up, I took that. It offered more security for me and my family – I took the job in 2000 and have been there ever since.

Why scouting though – seems like it requires a lot of travel?

I went that direction versus coaching – it was more stable. I didn’t want to have to move my family as a coach. They have a saying – whether you win or lose as a coach you move on. In college only five percent of the jobs are ones you really stay in – those are the ones in the major programs.

As a smaller guy – one drafted in the fifth round – how does the fact you weren’t the “prototype” athlete affect your approach as a scout?

I think a whole bunch when you look at it. I have a feeling – a sense of a guy. If we worked hard enough  – if he was a blue collar guy. Even if he’s a great athlete. You need to work at your craft – even if you’re not a great athlete there’s a cerebral way of getting around things and making a team. I look for that – a motivated worth ethic. If you have that you have a chance. Even though you may not be as gifted you can find a niche. Only a select few have both – the franchise guys.

When you were drafted by Pittsburgh – was that a surprise to you?

I had no big expectations. Back then the combine wasn’t a big thing. It’s not what it is now. The draft was twelve rounds then – I was thinking  – round three to seven. Around there.

On draft day the Rams called me in the third round I was like, ok – they didn’t take me. Were they just calling to see how I was? Is this how it works? I had no idea why they called.

I was just sitting at home and then Pittsburgh called in the fifth round. I was wondering if this was just another call to see how I was – to tell me they were interested. But they said no – they we are drafting me. I think it was Bill Nunn who called me – then Art Rooney got on the phone to congratulate me. For me Pittsburgh was never on the horizon. Dick Haley worked me out at school – but that was it.

Did any of the players help mentor you – on or off the field – during your time in Pittsburgh?

Not really. I have good memories of Latrobe over the two camps there. Gregg Garrity – he and I came in together in the same round and the same draft class and hit it off. We stuck together. His family took me in and we both worked our way through things there together, But all the players were good to me. I more was absorbing things watching the guys – like Stallworth – how he went about his business.

How did you manage to find your role on that team and make the squad – and how much did Chuck Noll help on that?

Chuck kept more to himself – he was football all the way. He wasn’t very personal – he didn’t communicate well with many of the players. But you knew where you stood. You just didn’t get to know him that well – and frankly I was just in survival mode as a rookie any way.

The best thing that could have happened to me was being released. I didn’t really know it at the time – but when I was drafted I felt like I’m on the team. That was my naivete’. Maybe it was just confidence that I was staying. And as s a rookie I made the team. Capers, me, Garrity – we were all drafted the same year and made the team.

The next year, it was a shock when I was released. It was the last cut on the last day of camp. I got a call on the phone on Monday – we were going back to practice that day. I was ready to start the season when Haley called and told me the team was going in a different direction. Noll didn’t have me come in to tell me in his office – I had to go through the locker room and find guys to say goodbye too. It was a weird thing.

Any fun/positive memories during your time there?

I remember Lambert – and I think it was either Malone or Stoudt – we were in camp and played a prank on Ralph Berlin. He used to drive around in his old cart from the field, to the training room…. Well, one day in camp Lambert and Malone hung the cart in a tree. Berlin was really mad.

I also remember Franco’s Halloween parties at his house – all the players dressed up.  It was a good bonding thing.

How much longer do you think you’ll continue scouting – and any big successes you remember in terms of guys you found and stood up for?

Well, I’m not quite at retirement age – I still enjoy it. It still works well for my family. I’m enjoying it and I’m still healthy for now. I’ll still keep on going but the road takes it’s toll – it’s a lot being on the road one-hundred eighty days a year.

As far as guys I like – there are guys I liked that we ended up getting and others we didn’t.  I remember liking LaDanian Tomlinson but we all did of course. And Vincent Jackson worked out well for us

Any recommendations for kids entering the game today?

Well, definitely that work ethic is the key to success. Basically, it’s about how you fit. You can have the athletic ability and still not make it. But a lot of  guys – if you have the heart, desire, work ethic – even if you don’t have the ability- you can make it over guys that do have the ability.

And the social media stuff. Nowadays that’s worked into scouting – on how organizations view players. Teams look at character – that plays a big role. How they present themselves. So much is now about image and one problem can get a big knee-jerk reaction. I don’t dig into the social media stuff myself but hear about it and see it. The problem is, it just takes one thing. Then as a scout you start digging. It’s just a part of the culture now. You need to be aware  of how it affects your future.

Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades To order, just click on the book:

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