Archive for Wednesday, December 27, 2006

From Chieftain to Chief

December 27, 2006

On the back of a photograph taken in 1990 of former Baker University football player Brad Scott and Scott Aligo, Brad wrote a message.

"To Scott, my No. 1 and only fan."

Scott Aligo tagged along to BU games with his father, Gerard Aligo, who was an assistant coach at Baker when Brad Scott played. After a stint as the McLouth High coach in the 1990s, Gerard returned to the Baldwin college and coaches there today.

"Scott would come to our games and I don't know how it exactly happened," Brad said. "We started talking and he wanted to talk to me after every game."

The 8-year-old Scott was a proud Baker Wildcat supporter.

Brad said that although the Wildcats were successful back then, attendance at games wasn't spectacular.

But Scott attended every game.

"He thought we were like the world champion Chiefs and he made you feel like an all-star," said Brad, who now is the head coach at De Soto High. "It was really cool. It made me feel like I was a better player than I was."

And now, Scott Aligo roams the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City rather than Liston Stadium in Baldwin.

Scott, a 2000 Tonganoxie High graduate, is a scouting assistant with the Chiefs. In fact, Brad helped Scott pursue a position with the Chiefs.

Brad helped Scott make contact with Mark Dominik, who formerly worked for the Chiefs and now is director of pro personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dominik's brother-in-law is Allen Terrell, who was Brad's defensive coordinator at De Soto for five years.

"He's just done an outstanding job with them from what I've heard," Brad said about Scott.

Working in the NFL

The wall above Scott's desk at Arrowhead Stadium resembles the front of a refrigerator -- a space filled with magnets. Most refrigerator magnets, however, aren't as organized as Scott's wall. Every player of every round for every team taken in the most recent National Football League draft is listed on a specific magnet, complete with statistics. On another wall, names of anticipated college players and their statistics await the next draft, set for April.

As a scouting assistant, Scott gathers information on players. He also helps in setting up workouts with prospective players and has been known to make trips to Kansas City International airport to taxi personnel to and from the stadium.

Scott said he usually arrives at the office between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. and works until 5 p.m. -- when he works out in the Chiefs strength and training facility. After his workout, Scott returns to his desk and works until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.

"It's definitely made me a morning person," Scott said.

"My friends kind of hate it because I'm chipper in the morning."

He said Monday typically is the busiest day of the week. And the off-season isn't necessarily more hectic for Scott's department, but he said it's a crucial time.

"That's kind of like our season," Scott said.

The off-season involves compiling additional information in preparation for events such as the Senior Bowl, Pro Bowl and the draft. The senior bowl is an all-star game for college players to showcase their talents for pro scouts, while the Pro Bowl is an NFL all-star game.

If Chiefs officials need information on players, Scott and his colleagues are the people to speak with.

"It's almost like we're librarians," Scott said. "It's not our job to make decisions. We're fact-gatherers for our bosses. We're here to facilitate for them so they can make the best possible selections for our organization."

This season, on game days, Scott normally watches the game from the injured-players box near the press box at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last season, Scott, who started with the Chiefs organization as an intern in January 2005, monitored opponents' offensive personnel for Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.

"So, really, I didn't watch the games," Scott said. "My whole focus was with binoculars on the sideline watching opposing players."

Scott quickly relayed the information to Cunningham so he could call a play.

"There's no room for error," Scott said. "You can't mess up."

Although he didn't travel to road games this season, Scott traveled with the team for road games last year. He watched the Chiefs play at San Diego, Miami, Denver, Oakland, Calif., Buffalo, N.Y., Houston and Dallas.

One thing seemed to be constant, according to Scott -- Chiefs fans are everywhere.

At home games, at the end of the national anthem, fans customarily yell "Chiefs" at the end of the song. When singing "and the home of the brave," fans yell "Chiefs," rather than sing "brave."

The tradition was prevalent at road games as well, Aligo said.

"I definitely noticed that we have a great following," Scott said. "When they did the 'home of the Chiefs,' you could hear it."

According to Scott, Houston's Reliant Stadium is the best road stadium, while last year's Monday night game at Denver had the best atmosphere. Unfortunately, Scott said, Kansas City didn't win that game.

Getting into the league

Bill Kuharich, vice president of player personnel for the Chiefs, said securing a position in the National Football League isn't easy, noting that there are just 32 organizations in the NFL.

"It's not like IBM or Xerox where you have locations all over the country," Kuharich explained.

People working in the NFL, though, certainly can move upward in a franchise or head to a higher position with another ball club.

"Right place, right time, right opportunity," Kuharich said.

Kuharich, who coached at Columbia University in the Ivy League, later worked for the United States Football League. When that group folded, Kuharich joined the New Orleans Saints. He's been in the NFL for 21 years -- the first 14 with the Saints and the last seven with the Chiefs.

Kuharich said Scott has been diligent with his duties in Kansas City.

"Certainly Scott has shown a lot of enthusiasm and passion with any task that he's been given in the player personnel department. He's certainly inquisitive and wants to learn about the operations of, not only the player acquisition, but also all aspects of the organization.

"He's like a sponge in that he's been absorbing everything that's been going on around him on a daily basis. And we're exposing him to more responsibility each and every day."

Scott said he appreciates the work environment in the player personnel office.

"They're not on you every day," Scott said. "You know what needs to be done. And they give you the freedom of getting the job done."

In the collegiate ranks

While attending Kansas University, Scott noticed a fellow student wearing a "Crimson Crew" shirt. He asked her about the Crimson Crew and found that it was a group of students who help with hosting potential football recruits at KU. After doing the school ambassador gig, Scott spoke with a friend who was a manager for the football team.

Soon, Scott, too, was an equipment manager. During his first season, he was confined to the equipment room. During his second season, though, he helped with day-to-day operations at practice and was assigned to the defensive backs. Scott started asking coach Earnest Collins about defensive coverage and anything else about the defense. After that, Scott started attending defensive meetings after practice. And later, he helped Collins in the booth on game days with monitoring opponents' offenses, similar to his duties last year with the Chiefs.

Scott, who graduated from KU with a sports management degree, said he worked closely with KU defensive coordinator Bill Young and keeps in touch with Collins, who last week resigned at KU to accept a coaching position at Central Florida.

"My experiences with that helped me get my internship with the Chiefs," Scott said, adding that his work at KU helped him make the jump to KC a smooth transition.

As part of scouting duties for the Chiefs, Scott attends college games on Saturdays during the fall, so he's returned often to KU's Memorial Stadium. He also attended a Southeastern Conference game in Fayetteville, Ark., between Arkansas and Alabama.

"It was cool to see an SEC game," said Scott, who watched the game alongside scouts from Dallas, New Orleans and Tennessee.

Proud parents

Early in the first game of his high school career, Scott tore his ACL during a play. Scott prevented an opponent from scoring, but he also ended his season with the knee injury.

After another year of football, he decided it was time to try a different sport -- cross country.

Scott said he was nervous telling his father -- a former college football player and longtime football coach.

It didn't matter to Gerard Aligo. According to Scott, Gerard became a big Chieftain cross country fan.

"He never was disappointed," said Scott, whose brother, Tony, also ran cross country. "He did his best effort to come to each one of the meets he could."

Scott's father and mother, Linn, always have encouraged him. He said he was extremely thankful that his parents allowed him to move back into their home in Tonganoxie during his first year with the Chiefs. He now lives in Kansas City.

"I feel fortunate my parents are supportive of everything I've ever done," Scott said. "They see I have a vision and they do what it takes. I feel like the luckiest kid ever.

"I couldn't ask for two better parents. They've done above and beyond more than I could ask from two parents."

Since Scott started working with the Chiefs and his parents started attending games on a regular basis, Scott said his mother has become a bit of a "football guru."

As for Gerard, he's been around football for years. He said he likes the route his son is taking to the NFL.

"To me it's a great accomplishment of what he's done," Gerard said. "He did it the smart way getting to the NFL. He did it with his brain and not his body. He'll last longer than a lot of the players. And we all think it's great what he's doing."

Of course, it's not every day a father can say his son works for the Chiefs or in the NFL.

"I didn't make a big deal about it," Gerard said. "If someone asks me what he's doing I say he's working for the Kansas City Chiefs. It's something I had to get used to because it's different."

According to Scott, he's in the NFL because of his father.

"The whole world of football, I knew it because of my dad," Scott said.

Most people have big-time aspirations when they're younger. For Scott, the dream has arrived.

"I've grown up with the Chiefs," Scott said. "It's kind of a dream of mine to work for a hometown team.

"I'm just lucky that I was able to stay around here and get a job with these guys."

And, it seems, when your office is Arrowhead Stadium, the excitement never subsides.

"It's the same thing, I think, with Allen Fieldhouse," Scott said about the KU basketball arena. "There's nothing like game days. There are no words to describe it.

"You can hear the crowd. ... You still get to the national anthem and you feel like you could run through a wall."

And Scott, who aspires to be an NFL scout, clearly is thrilled to be working for the Chiefs.

"There's just a special feeling that makes this job worthwhile," Scott said. "Your job is to help get players here. ... Maybe that's the biggest thing, with the players you helped to get here, it's like no other."

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