SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The legendary Gil Brandt, one of the founding fathers of the modern methodology for the scouting of NFL Draft prospects, visited Panthers training camp this week.
Now a senior analyst for NFL.com, Brandt sat down with Panthers.com to discuss his thoughts on the NFL Scouting Combine, quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers' approach to training camp.
Before there was a combine there was Brandt, who was vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from their debut in 1960 until 1988. In the early days, Brandt began recording 40-yard dash times of draft prospects for the Cowboys instead of relying on the players' colleges to provide the numbers.
He recalls Ohio State's staff recording a 4.49 time for a prospect that he timed at 4.72, allowing Dallas to avoid a draft-day miscalculation.
"We started working with a computer in '61 and started a mini-combine of our own. We thought it was important, but we were laughed at when we did pro days by ourselves. People would laugh and thought it was stupid, but look at the combine now."
Mr. Brandt, you're now an ambassador of sorts at the NFL Combine, escorting the top prospects to the podium each year for their first meeting with the media. Back in 2011, you accompanied Newton to his interview. What did you think about him then and now?
"Cam is like a member of my family. His father, Cecil, was a guy that we signed from Savannah State as a free agent in the early 1980s, right around the same time we brought in David Ponder as a free agent. And then in 2011 we had (Christian) Ponder and (Cam) drafted as quarterbacks in the first round.
"If your team is going to be good, you have to have a quarterback that's good and you have to have a quarterback that relates to the players. Call it leadership or whatever you want, but he really relates to his teammates. You have people that will criticize him, pointing out his 1-for-5 at the start of the Buffalo game or stuff like that, but I think he's a top-10 quarterback. I think the world of Cam Newton, both on the field and off the field."
You've also built a relationship over the years with the Panthers and team president Danny Morrison. What are your thoughts on him and the organization on and off the field and the improvements made by the team and Lowe's for this year's training camp?
"I'm a big fan of Danny; he does a heck of a lot and doesn't take any credit. It's a very quiet, well-run organization that puts the fan first. Some teams don't let kids get autographs; well, I saw Josh Norman out here for 25 minutes after practice signing.
"They don't stand still. If you don't do things differently and move forward, you end up like Montgomery Ward or A&P – out of business. Those things don't win football games, but it makes fans believe in you – that you're trying to do something for them other than take their money for tickets."