James Bodenheimer northeast area scout

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.

Perseverance, reading and staying positive pays off

There are NFL scouts who have decades of experience – they are former players, coaches and even general managers. Then there’s Bodenheimer, who neither played college football nor did he have any coaching experience prior to becoming a scout.

So how did he make it to the NFL? For Bodenheimer, it came down to a lot of reading and networking – emails, phone calls and shaking lots of hands.

“I tried to connect with anybody I could who is in the game – like, how do I learn?” he said. “And they were like, ‘Just read books.’ Just because there are so many books – every time a coach wins a Super Bowl, he writes a book. That’s the only way you can learn outside of it.”

So Bodenheimer brushed up on his reading, but worked his connections hard and eventually landed an internship with the San Diego Chargers during the 2013 training camp. That led to more opportunities, including a trip to the NFL Combine, where he met more NFL general managers, coaches and scouts. And then he applied for more jobs and internships.

“When you go in as an intern – especially fresh out of college – they’re not expecting you to be like an evaluator,” Bodenheimer said. “They just want to see if you have the work ethic and if you never complain. Know as much as you can, but know what you don’t know.”

Bodenheimer landed an internship with the Falcons in 2014 and has been here since. He was named scouting assistant in 2015 and was promoted to the Northeast area scout in 2016.

Making an impact in a short amount of time

Bodenheimer knows his role with the Falcons and relishes it. He must be able to identify and know something about every single NFL prospect in the northeast region, which encompasses every school from West Virginia to Maine, including Pennsylvania (yes, Penn State).

“That’s something that Dan Quinn has preached – know your role and just crush your role,” Bodenheimer said. There’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction, he says, anytime he can identify a player early on who ends up making the Falcons roster.

“To think that 5 percent of what I did had any impact of what’s going on out there (with the Falcons) – say a guy makes a play from my area – that’s kind of cool,” he said.

Bodenheimer admits he’d like to “climb the ladder” and move up, maybe even become a general manager one day. For now, though, he wants to make an impact any way he can.

“I want to be known as someone who’s an expert in their area – answering little questions, to me, is a lot,” Bodenheimer said. “That’s my drive. Knowing my information, knowing my guys. I want to be an expert in my area – know everything I can about the Northeast.”

Bodenheimer says finding the right players who will succeed in Atlanta is that much easier because of the culture and blueprint that Dimitroff and Quinn have created.

“The competitive part and the toughness part is where we start with every guy,” he said. “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.”

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