By Matthew Tabeek
"That’s everything to these guys. I mean DQ talks about that every single day. CT. Competitive and toughness. If we have a guy who is competitive and tough, this coaching staff is so good … that’s what makes it a really cool job for us."
James Bodenheimer didn’t have that single “a-ha” moment in his life where he knew he just had to be an NFL scout one day. No, for Bodenheimer, a 26-year-old area scout for the Atlanta Falcons, it was a series of events that began with a devastating back injury he suffered during his senior year of high school in New Canaan, Connecticut.
“We had won two state championships – during my sophomore year and junior year – and senior year was going to be our year, you know,” said Bodenheimer, who played wide receiver. “But I got hurt, had to get back surgery and I was out the whole year.
“And it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.”
The injury more than ended his season; it forced Bodenheimer to think differently about the game he loved – and his future. Still wanting to be a part of the team and around the game, he asked his coaches what he could do to help. They asked him to start scouting their opponents.
“They wanted to figure out something I could do and so I would just watch the pregame, try to figure out who their starters were, and then try to figure out their weaknesses and areas we could exploit,” Bodenheimer said. “It kind of stemmed from there. It was like tiny little things that happened.”
Bodenheimer ended up going to Penn State, knew he wanted to be around sports and eventually graduated with a degree in communications. While a student there, he worked different jobs for the athletic department – as “a gopher, an intern” – with all sports except one: football.
“I tried to get to the football team but it didn’t work out,” he said. “I just knew that I wanted to be around sports and then after that, the [scandal] went down at Penn State – that was my junior year. So, it kind of ended. And senior year I didn’t have anything going on.”
Little did he know at the time that he’d be returning to State College a few years later and standing on the sidelines at Beaver Stadium – as an NFL scout for the Falcons.