Scouts, coaches and executives are descending on Indianapolis this week to evaluate more than 330 prospects who are eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft in April.
Long before all roads convened in Indianapolis (in 1987 for the first time), the evaluation process was considerably different and on a much smaller scale.
Frank Gilliam was a pioneer in the scouting world as the first scout hired under former General Manager Jim Finks and former Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reichow in the early '70s. Gilliam was also one of the first African American scouts in the NFL.
Gilliam was born in Ohio, and opted to play collegiately at Iowa as part of the "Steubenville Trio" with high school teammates Calvin Jones and Eddie Vincent. Gilliam, who was named to the Hawkeyes all-time football team, played for Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1957-59. He taught for a few years before becoming an assistant coach under Jerry Burns at Iowa (1966-70).
Reichow, who remains with the Vikings as a personnel consultant, recalled the hiring of Gilliam by Minnesota in an interview with Vikings.com.
"He was coaching at Iowa at the time, and I think we had been in our first Super Bowl. They were struggling down there and had some good coaches on that staff at Iowa. I was looking to expand, 'let me have a scout, anyway.' Frank had played for Bud in Canada, and Finks also was general manager in Canada, and they knew Frank. I went down there and was talking to Frank, came back and said I'd like to hire Frank, and they went along with it, 'Yeah, he's a good person. We know him and know about him, and they hired him.' "
The personnel department and Grant went on to put together some of the most successful teams in franchise and football history.
Jim Marshall, who was well into his 19 seasons (1961-79) with Minnesota at the time of Gilliam's hire, said he admired Gilliam's abilities.
"I always had a great deal of respect for Frank and not because we're the same race," Marshall said. "It was because he had a lot of skill, a lot of talent. He had the ability to look out and pick players who had a significance that they could offer to the team. … I know as a group we were very proud of him because we could see he did his job and did it well."