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Ruston Webster National scout

By Matthew Tabeek

"Knowing that (Dimitroff and Quinn) are on the same page just enables you to be more free in doing your job. It gives you a better road map about what you’re looking for in players, certain players. I think we’re very good at that. Very specific. So not only can you go in and find players you like, but you can eliminate players quickly."

There’s not much that Ruston Webster hasn’t experienced during his 30 years in the National Football League.

Webster, who spent four seasons as the general manager of the Tennessee Titans before joining the Atlanta Falcons as a national scout in 2016, has experienced many ups, downs and plenty in between during his 30 years in the NFL. While working in personnel, Webster has been a part of and helped build Super Bowl-winning teams, but he’s also experienced what he eloquently refers to as some “lean years” in the league, too.

In short, he’s seen it all.

And Webster says there’s something special brewing here in Atlanta. He says look no further than general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn.

“Oh yeah, the culture here is outstanding,” Webster said. “The communication between the head coach and Thomas is outstanding. What it does is when you can see that they’re together and they’re on the same page, it just trickles down to everybody else.

“So, I think our relationships, our communication, the coaching side, the personnel side, is probably as good as any place I’ve ever been, if not better.”

Webster explained why that is so crucial to all the Falcons scouts who will hit the road scouting college prospects from now until Thanksgiving, preparing for next spring’s NFL Draft.

“Knowing that (Dimitroff and Quinn) are on the same page just enables you to be more free in doing your job,” Webster said. “It gives you a better road map about what you’re looking for in players, certain players. I think we’re very good at that. Very specific. So not only can you go in and find players you like, but you can eliminate players quickly.”

As a national scout for the Falcons, Webster will go see the top 150 to 200 players – wherever they may be playing in the country.

“We have a really good system of (ranking) players and so our area scouts do a great job of going in first,” Webster said. “And they’re the first people to see the players. They put them in a tier and I go see the top guys.”

It all started with a … baseball scout

Webster is originally from Houston and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. He loved sports and played baseball and football. “At different times, I wanted to be a pro at just about everything,” he said.

He also wanted to coach and eventually did, with stops as a graduate assistant at Southwestern Louisiana (1985), Alabama (1986), and Tulsa (1987).

“I was coaching at the time and (scouting) was something that interested me,” Webster said. “I actually had a close friend that was a baseball scout, and he was always talking to me about it.”

So when Ray Perkins left Alabama to join the Buccaneers, Webster shared his interest in getting into scouting with his old coach. “A year later (Perkins) offered me a scouting job to do the Northeast for the Buccaneers -- that was 1988,” said Webster, who’s been working in personnel in the NFL ever since.

Life on the road with film projectors – and no GPS

Webster spent 18 years with the Bucs holding down different positions, including the director of player personnel (2005), director of college scouting (2001-04), area scout (1992-2000), director of pro personnel (1989-91), and regional college scout (1988). He was a part of the front office staff that helped build the 2002 Buccaneers, winners of Super Bowl XXXVII.

“There were some lean years, and we were there for a long time,” Webster said. “I kind of feel like I learned how not to do it. For a while there we kind of worked through some things with multiple head coaches. When Rich (McKay) became the general manager, Tony Dungy became the head coach, things started turning around for us. And we had some great years.”

But Webster, who was also the Seattle Seahawks' vice president of player personnel from 2006 to 2010, says his most memorable moments came during his early days on the road in rooms full of other scouts watching film. He loved the adventures of the road and “being around a lot of good people that are in the same boat as you …”

Those adventures – which typically lasted 10-14 days at a time – also entailed eating lots of fast food, lots of driving, early mornings and late nights drinking lots of coffee. “Oh yeah, way before GPS,” Webster said.

These were pre-cell phone days, too, and Webster recalls having to carry around film projectors from campus to campus.

“Like at Penn State you might be there with 17 guys, turn off the lights, you’d have your little piece of the wall, and you’d sit there and watch it,” Webster said.

“(The scouts) are away from home and just trying to do their best to evaluate the players for their team, and kind of behind the scenes working to help their team win.”

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