Rob Rang pulled no punches with his very first scouting report on a football prospect, calling him "short, fat, slow and lazy."
Sure, it was harsh, but Rang had inside knowledge of the player: a Tacoma freshman named Rob Rang.
Some 20 years later, Rang is putting his eye for talent evaluation to profitable use: The Mount Tahoma High School teacher has become one of the nation’s prominent media evaluators of college prospects heading into the NFL draft.
And while his 40-yard dash time might be less than eye-catching, nobody would call this 35-year-old guy lazy. He teaches world history and yearbook at his alma mater, all the while becoming a ubiquitous voice in various media outlets as he feeds fans’ fierce appetite for draft analysis.
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“I never had any idea it could grow into something where people would pay money to read my opinion of players,” Rang said. “Now there’s a lot of people interested.”
His role creates the curious circumstance where his students may hear or see Rang on television, speaking with authority and insight on the talents of players about to become NFL millionaires, and then stroll into a classroom and listen to him lecture on global historical developments.
With an educator mother and a mechanic father who loved to watch football with his son, Rang is a balanced synthesis of his parental influences.
Without ever expecting there to be bankable utility for it, Rang started by keeping a notebook of what he saw of players during college games he’d watch on television, and then checking back to see how his observations panned out on draft day.
By the time he reached college at Central Washington, technology created a vehicle for his hobby.
“Once the internet started to make its way, it was a perfect outlet to write my opinions and share them with other people,” Rang said.
He started by contributing on message boards and chats. And then he made the wise choice to exercise some latitude with a class assignment at CWU.
“My junior year at Central, I had a class called Technology in the Classroom, and we were supposed to create a website, supposedly math or English or whatever,” Rang said with a laugh. “But I did mine on football.”
Electronically connected football observers started paying notice.
The next development will give hope to every basement blogger in the country. Rang was up to his elbows in hot water one evening while conducting his noble duties as a dishwasher at the Rodeo City Barbecue in Ellensburg when he received a call.
“I got a call from Sports-Talk.com, and they asked me to go to the Senior Bowl to scout for them,” Rang said, still sounding a bit amazed.
So, he put away his rubber gloves and headed to Mobile, Ala., where he boldly approached the coach of one of the teams – Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren.
“The first guy I walked up to was Mike Holmgren, and he right away introduced me to the other guys in the (Sea-hawks) scouting department,” Rang said.
Holmgren and other scouts appreciated his energy and dedication for the work, and also that he was an educator. Holmgren had started out as high school teacher.
“I think they identify with anybody who is really passionate about what they’re doing,” Rang said.
Rang thought he had a good eye for talent, but had to learn the arcane terminology and some of the scouts’ verbal shorthand – “A gaps” and “3 techniques,” etc.
But his knack for evaluation showed up as he started matching a high portion of first-round picks, and identifying sleepers and dark horses. His local credibility was enhanced when he touted an undersized USC linebacker as an overlooked prospect.
The Seahawks took him in the second round of the 2005 draft, and Lofa Tatupu went on to make three consecutive Pro Bowls.
“I’d never seen a more instinctive college middle linebacker,” Rang said.
Derek Harper, executive director of The Sports Xchange, said he’s seen respect for Rang surge in the past six or seven years.
“He has a real laid-back and easygoing personality, and he does so much homework that the people in the business really respect it,” Harper said. “When we travel together, you can see that he does such a good job of striking up genuine relationships with NFL types. And when I say NFL types, I mean GMs, coaches and scouts – they like his combination of personality and how well he’s prepared.”
But reaching that level of preparation takes time. Rang estimates he devotes four or five hours a day and much of his weekends to scouting – above and beyond his time spent as a full-time teacher.
“They complement each other pretty well,” Rang said of his two jobs. “When I look at players, I’m watching for guys with natural talent who work hard to improve themselves. I’m doing the same as a teacher, and I want to help and guide them to pursue their passions.”
At times, Rang uses his connection to high-profile athletes to grab the attention of students, sometimes adding a 30-second anecdote about a player, “and then you can talk to them for the rest of the class about Robert Frost poetry.”
But one of the most important connections might be the students’ perception of Rang, seeing what he’s accomplished as a product of shared circumstances.
“I graduated from Mount Tahoma,” he said. “They can see me as somebody who came from their school who at least looks successful. Maybe that helps them in some ways. Maybe it’s something else in my tool box, so to speak, that can reach them.”
Rang has received feelers from NFL teams about getting into the scouting business from their side of things, but the demands are vast and security scant. Besides, he says, he would miss students.
“I tell people that I must be the most fortunate person in the world,” Rang said. “They say if you have a job you love, you never have to work. And I have two jobs I love. That makes my life very cool. I wish that for everybody.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org