When the Chargers turn in their selections in the NFL Draft, their decisions are the culmination of months of work by a number of individuals. In addition to General Manager A.J. Smith and Assistant General Manager Buddy Nix, the Chargers employ eight college scouts. This is the third story in a series in which Chargers.com will profile each individual in that group. Today we look at area scout Mike Biehl, who is responsible for the Midwest region.
No college athletic conference is more represented on the Chargers’ roster than the Big 10, meaning that area scout Mike Biehl is constantly on alert as he searches for the next Shaun Phillips, Luis Castillo or Nick Hardwick.
Chargers area scout Mike Biehl scours the Midwest in search of talent.
“The Big 10 is my main conference and there are always a lot of prospects from the area,” Biehl said. “My job is to evaluate them and find guys that we think can help us.”
Biehl’s territory includes Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Tennessee. While the Big 10 requires much of his attention, Biehl is responsible for every school in his eight states regardless of size.
“We’ve been successful lately not only because we’ve hit on our top guys but also because we’ve been able to find players in the middle and late rounds,” Biehl said. “That’s been huge. We’ve even signed several rookie free agents that have made our team and helped us. That shows how important it is to do your homework on every guy.”
One recent example can be found in Phillips, who Biehl scouted at Purdue. Despite finishing as the school’s all-time leader in sacks, Phillips was considered too small to play defensive end in the NFL. That caused him to slide to the fourth round of the 2004 draft, where the Chargers pounced on him.
“There was no question that Shaun had some pass-rush ability,” Biehl said. “We were transitioning to the 3-4 that year and we thought he’d be a great fit as an outside linebacker. I thought Shaun should have been a first-day pick, but we’re fortunate things worked out like they did.”
That same year, Biehl got to know Ohio State offensive tackle Shane Olivea, who fell to the seventh round, now a three-year starter for the Chargers.
“He’s just a perfect example of someone who slipped through the cracks,” Biehl said. “We were able to hit on Shane in the late rounds. He came through and is a big part of our football team.”
Biehl makes his year-round home in Tolono, Illinois, which is centrally located in his area. He and the other area scouts spent roughly six weeks out of the year in San Diego.
“We come in two weeks before draft to meet and finalize our board,” Biehl said. “We’re there for two weeks of training camp, one week for meetings before the combine three or four days for mini camp. The rest of the year, we’re all spread out so that we have easier access to our schools.”
In addition to his responsibilities in his own region, Biehl also crosschecks Darrell Moody, who covers the Southeast.
“Once we have an idea where the top-rated players are, we’ll send a second guy in to take a look at those guys on top of what Buddy (Nix) and Jimmy (Raye) see,” Biehl said. “I see pretty much all the top players from the Midwest and the Southeast. By the time it comes around, we have four or five opinions on each guy.”
Biehl joined the Chargers in July of 2001 after spending three seasons in the personnel department of the Buffalo Bills. He began his career NFL career as a training camp intern in Buffalo while he was working on his master’s degree in sports management at Illinois State. Upon his completion of his degree, Biehl worked one season as a season-long intern with the Bills before Buffalo General Manager John Butler hired him full time. When Butler joined the Chargers in 2001, he brought Biehl with him.
“The whole time I’ve been in the league it’s been with John and/or A.J.,” Biehl said. “I’m grateful for that because I’ve been able to learn from two of the best.”