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Sae Woon Jo area Scout - west

By Matthew Tabeek

"It’s funny, we talk about Brotherhood all the time and I think our personnel group is an example of the Brotherhood that is the entire team and organization. And I think it all stems from not only just us getting along, all passionate about the same thing, but we all have a mutual respect for each other."

Sae Woon Jo always knew he loved the game of football. He described himself as a “draftnik” growing up and recalls celebrating the NFL Draft like it was a national holiday.

Like many scouts, his path to fulfilling a lifelong dream of being an NFL scout was full of personal sacrifice and faith – and his began the day he took a chance on himself.

Missing football while attending UC San Diego – a school without a football program – and willing to do anything for a chance to coach, Jo remembers the day he showed up at nearby University City High School, totally unannounced.

“I literally just walked into the high school and I went to the secretary and said, ‘my name is so-and-so, I’m going to be a senior at UCSD and I miss football and I want to coach,’” Jo said.

As the secretary sat there, Jo continued to make his case.

“I said, ‘I’ll do whatever the coach wants. I’ll bust my ass for him. I’ll adjust my school schedule, because I have that flexibility, but I just want to get around football again – I miss it so much.’”

What Jo didn’t know, though, was that the head coach was standing right behind him, listening to his entire spiel. And just as Jo was offering to leave his email address and telephone number for the secretary, she pointed behind him, as if to turn around.

Jo did, and was now facing University City’s head coach, Ed Yandall.

“I turned around and he says, ‘It’s great to meet you, you’re hired. Come by Monday and be ready to go.’ And so I got to coach high school football that year – and it was the funnest [Sic] year of my life.

“And now, I’m with the Atlanta Falcons.”

Jo, now 39, is currently the Falcons’ area college scout for the West, covering a triangular-shaped geographic region that includes San Diego, Vancouver and Grand Forks, N.D., and all points in between. In terms of square miles, it might be the largest scouting region to cover.

Prior to arriving in Atlanta, Jo coached the defensive line and linebackers at Occidental College from 2003 to 2012, and one season in the AFL with the Los Angeles Avengers as a defensive assistant coach (2004).

‘An example of the Brotherhood’

When asked what makes working for the Falcons different from other NFL clubs, Jo said the Falcons are not only a close-knit group, but they have a clear vision for what the organization wants in a player.

“The biggest thing that Coach (Dan) Quinn did was he had a plan and a vision – and it’s such a clear-cut vision that we as a group have a very clear idea of what we’re looking for on the road,” Jo said.

And Jo says the difference in culture that general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Quinn have created here stems from the Brotherhood.

“It’s funny, we talk about Brotherhood all the time and I think our personnel group is an example of the Brotherhood that is the entire team and organization,” Jo said. “And I think it all stems from not only just us getting along, all passionate about the same thing, but we all have a mutual respect for each other. You and I could have a differing opinion on the same player – whether it’s football player’s talent, ability, -- or dinner, movie, whatever. We could argue, but at the end of the day, you and I can still look each other in the eye and say we respect each other. And I respect your opinion. That doesn’t happen in every place.”

The pinnacle of our profession

For Jo, his proudest moment as a member of the Falcons – or, really, his football life – came at the Super Bowl LI last February, prior to kickoff. He has a picture that captures the moment.

“We’re on our sideline, pregame – and standing next to me are my best friends (the scouts),” Jo said. “We did a picture together. And you can see … it’s joy on everybody’s face, because that group has been through it – from having success and then we had a lull, and then we lost some people because we had to make moves, and then we started all over, and then we built this thing up. And here we are at the pinnacle of our profession. We’re at the Super Bowl, and it’s like holy moly. We get to do this, I get to do this with my buddies. You can’t have a better professional moment than that.”

It’s all about the team

Even though Jo spends many days out on the road alone, he’s determined to be the best at what he does – which is scouting the West region of the U.S. for the Falcons. When asked what drives him, the answer was simple and short.

“Not letting my teammates down,” Jo said. “Not letting Thomas or DQ down. That drives me every day.”

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