Sometimes other writers do your work for you. I was readying an email to former Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel to arrange a podcast re: Ballard when I came across a piece by Bucs blogger Sander Philipse. (To read the entire piece, and you should, CLICK HERE.) Here are some thoughts from Gabriel:
“Chris was a very strong defensive evaluator and he was excellent with defensive backs. And the whole time I was there, Chris cross-checked defensive backs. So he knew number one what we were looking for, number two he knew the personality of the coach, and knew if the coach could work with the kid and knew if the kid could prosper under the coach. There’s not a lot of scouts, who can do that who have that skill. That’s where he was very very strong.”
“[Charles] Tillman, that was Chris’ guy. [Cornerback] Nate Vasher we took in the fourth round from Texas. Now that’s a great example, because Chris had a very strong conviction on Nate Vasher. Nate at his pro day didn’t run very good. Now his agility drills and stuff were outstanding.”
Ballard wanted to really sell Vasher, though. He was convinced Vasher was going to be good. So he went back to Texas to time him again, and gets a tenth of a second off his time. Gabriel said “What did you do, strap jet engines to his ankles?” But Ballard really believed in Vasher, and just told Gabriel “Oh no man, he can do it. He can run real good!”
“But fact of the matter is Nate Vasher, he couldn’t run fast!” Gabriel says. “And I always harassed Ballard about that after, but he was so quick and so instinctive he became an All-Pro. Fourth-round pick and he went to the Pro Bowl!”
It wasn’t just defense, though that certainly is Ballard’s specialty. “[Running back] Matt Forte was another guy. Chris and I both had a strong conviction. Jerry (Angelo) wasn’t as sold on Forte as Chris and I were.” Forte has since made it to two Pro Bowls and has been a very large part of the Bears’ offense since being drafted.
Ballard is a former defensive coach and defensive back specialist interviewing for a job desperate for that expertise. It is one of many reasons I believe he will be the next GM of the Chicago Bears.