When he wrapped up his college career as a four-year starter at guard for N.C. State in 2000, Alex Santos missed football, and thought he wanted to coach. But the effects of Hurricane Katrina some five years later wound up altering his career decisions and ultimately put him on the path that led him to scouting, and to his new role as director of pro personnel for the Washington Redskins.
Santos did begin his coaching career, working as offensive line/strength and conditioning coach while also serving as a special education teacher at Eastside High School in Paterson, N.J.
He went on to serve as a graduate assistant and quality control/offensive line intern for Vanderbilt 2005. Santos initially saw that position as another step toward becoming a coach on the college or NFL ranks. But that season, with New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, a higher number of NFL scouts and general managers came to Vanderbilt to scout other SEC football teams.
As quality control assistant, some of Santos’s duties included setting up film for pro scouts and officials. They would also pick Santos’s brain on Vanderbilt players and opponents. Impressed with Santos’s work ethic, knowledge and ability to share information, one NFL official asked him if he’d ever considered scouting.
From that point on, Santos saw himself as a potential scout, rather than a coach. The following year, in what he calls “a bit of luck,” he got an entry level job in Washington’s personnel department. Gradually, he worked his way up, and after two years, Santos became a pro scout for the Redskins – a role in which he attended the games of upcoming opponents, gathered information on those teams, on potential free agents, and also scouted talent in the Canadian Football League.
When Morocco Brown left the Redskins to become the vice president of player personnel with Cleveland last month, Santos pursued the open position. The Redskins officially announced the hiring on May 30. For Santos, the promotion helped him reach a goal that he had set for himself shortly after joining the Redskins in 2006.
“When you first come in the NFL, you’re excited,” Santos said last week. “Mr. Snyder gave me an opportunity eight years ago, and I’m so appreciative that he gave me the opportunity to continue to grow in the organization in a different role and different capacity. I always hoped to be a director at some point in my career, but to do it with the Redskins was ideal. It’s a great opportunity. For that, I’m very appreciative to Mr. Snyder, to Bruce Allen and Scott Campbell to have enough faith in me to let me fill this role.”
Santos’s new role will consist of overseeing Washington’s pro scouts as they compile reports on potential free agents. Santos will continue to evaluate talent on his own as well, but now will report directly to general manger Bruce Allen and director of player personnel Scott Campbell.
Santos doesn’t share any grand plans of overhauling the way the Redskins evaluate talent. Preferring a team approach rather than believing he single handedly can improve things, he says he plans to rely heavily on his scouts – a group he describes as hungry young men willing to grind and find ways to get it right. But he knows the Redskins, who have finished last in their division six times in the past eight years.
“At the end of it all, it’s about doing things, collectively as a department to help the Redskins win. How you attack that, everyone does that a little bit differently, but at the end of the day, we need to win. That’s cliché-ish, but it’s a fact.”
Santos says a willingness to learn and maintaining an open mind both rank high among the traits he must have to be an effective director, and he has always tried to approach his job with both. Now, Santos finds himself in a position of greater responsibility, but he believes that remaining true to his values will help him continue to succeed and grow.
“It’s exciting, first of all. I’m looking forward to the challenge and embracing the challenge,” he said. “But again, when you talk about presenting information to superiors, that’s something we all do together. We all do our due diligence, but doing it collectively, doing it as a group, will put us in position to give Bruce and Scott the best information possible. … We’ve got to identify players that will help us win.”
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