Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines two pivotal plays in the 2018 UNC-Pitt game for RB Antonio Williams that reveal his strategic and technical skill as well as his emotional resilience.
You can scout emotion. As I’ve written before, Deny Emotion And You Only See a Fraction of the Game.
You’re not always going to spot emotionally meaningful moments in every game. If you do, you’re probably seeing displays of immaturity.
Less frequent but available, are moments of emotional resilience. In order to spot them, you must maintain a connection to the context of plays unfolding during the game.
North Carolina running back Antonio Williams is a mature young man on the football field. I learned this after watching him make a mistake in a pivotal situation and not long after, follow up with a gutsy play to help seal the game.
A lot of players, collegians and professionals alike, can’t let go of a bad play in these scenarios. When they return to the field soon after that mistake they can play tight because they’re thinking too much about the previous bad outcome and fear making another mistake.
Good players play loose enough to solve problems—especially problems that are outside the norm of the play design. Williams displays on this late-game bounce of a gap play that he was strategic, technically-sound, and emotionally resilient.
We all value individuals who can put a mistake aside and perform their best. If Williams has more performances along these lines, he’ll emotionally fit the bill of an NFL player.
When all other skills among players are close to equal, the emotional element can be a huge difference.
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