Shepley Heard regional scout - west

By Matthew Tabeek

"Finally getting to that point where we finally had it clicking on all cylinders, seeing all of our hard working from the personnel side coming together – and being in sync with this coaching staff in what exactly we’re looking for."

Shepley Heard was born into a football family – his father was a coach – and growing up, life in Muskogee, Oklahoma, revolved around one thing: the game. The idea of doing anything not associated with football seemed, well, unfathomable.

“I think about it all the time,” said Heard, a regional scout with the Atlanta Falcons. “It would eat at me daily not having something to work towards – that competitive side. … If I wasn’t in the football profession it would eat at me. It would be hard.”

Easy going and easy to talk to, Heard possesses another quality to go along with his love of football and competitiveness: he’s extremely inquisitive and curious. And those qualities have served him quite well as he enters his 13th year with the Falcons.

As you’d expect from the son of a coach, Heard loves to talk about the game and says he’s been “intrigued” with the player evaluation process ever since his playing days at the University of Central Oklahoma, the same school where his father once coached.

And just like any good scout would, Heard started asking visiting scouts lots of questions about their craft and what they looked for in players. Those dogged questions eventually led to answers on how to break into the profession.

“I just started from the bottom working at recruiting and got into being a grad assistant coach,” he said. “I was very fortunate to get on at Texas A&M.”

Heard also had good timing.

Working as a defensive graduate assistant and defensive quality control coach at A&M in 2004, Heard decided to grab a cup of coffee and just happened to bump into Taylor Morton, who’s now the director of player personnel for the Los Angeles Rams. The two struck up a conversation and, before long, Heard was asking more questions about scouting.

“Somehow, someway, like four or five months later, he just called me up out of the blue and said there was a scouting assistant position open with the Falcons,” Heard said. He interviewed in 2005, got the job and has been in Atlanta ever since.

‘They can see what we’re building here’

Heard is now entering his second season as the Falcons’ West region scout following a three-year stint covering the East region. He says his role may not appear to be glamorous to the casual fan, but he relishes the impact he can make on the team’s overall success.

“We’re not on TV. We’re behind the scenes,” Heard said. “We’re in the middle of nowhere, driving hours and digging up information at these schools watching these players from who knows where – and then seeing all of that work (come together).”

And how that process comes together under general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn is unlike anything Heard has ever experienced before.

“I’ve been with Thomas for a while now and he’s been unbelievable, unbelievable to work for,” Heard said. “Since DQ has been here, I’ve never – I mean I’m talking about since I was young kid being around football all my life – I’ve never even heard of anything like this.”

While he’s only worked for one NFL team, Heard spends a lot of his time on the road with scouts from other teams. He knows what’s taking place in Atlanta is different from most other teams, though. “I think (the other NFL scouts) can see it – they can the product we’re putting on the field,” he said. “They can see what we’re building here. I think the actions kind of speak.”

‘This is a special place’

“I love what I do,” Heard said, but admits that there have been some “rough times” during his 13 years in Atlanta, but when it comes to his proudest moment, he points to the Falcons’ Super Bowl run last season.

“Finally getting to that point where we finally had it clicking on all cylinders, seeing all of our hard working from the personnel side coming together – and being in sync with this coaching staff in what exactly we’re looking for,” Heard said. “And seeing DQ and his staff putting that together on the field – that would be my highlight of my career. “

But Heard is hardly satisfied.

The eventual goal, he says, is to win a Super Bowl and just having a chance to chase a ring while working and learning under Dimitroff is something he relishes.

Heard said that his time in Atlanta has allowed him to see what he referred to as “the formula” – what it takes to win and what it looks like. And that, he says, is invaluable.

“I would like to grow, I would like to move on and take the next steps in the NFL,” Heard said.

“I would say the ultimate goal would be to be in that role Thomas has and hopefully have the luxury of having the type of relationship that he has with Dan Quinn – and it’s special. This is a special place here.”

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