John McCallister, of Upper Sandusky, created The McCallister Scouting Report in 1999 to provide a scouting and evaluation service for college football prospects in Ohio. In the “fourth quarter” of his career, McCallister still loves traveling to games, conducting camps and combines and promoting players.
Daily Chief-Union/Matt Nye
John McCallister knows football and more importantly, he loves it.
McCallister, 66, of Upper Sandusky, has been involved with the game since he played in high school and college, along with a three stints as a head coach before his true passion came to fruition — evaluating talent.
He grew up in Upper Sandusky and graduated in 1966. He went on to Marshall University where he walked on the football team, but said it didn’t quite go the way he planned.“I kind of bounced around colleges early on because I could have been a little homesick,” McCallister said.
He graduated from the University of Findlay in 1971 and was a head coach at the age of 24 at Crestview High School.“We broke a 26-game losing streak in my first year and I was like mayor for the day,” McCallister said.
“Then I got a chance to be a defensive coordinator at West Holmes High School and then went to Ridgedale for five or six years and before ending up as a head coach at Lakota. We went 6-4, which was the most wins in the previous four years combined.”
He stayed at Lakota for five or six years before deciding to get out of coaching and continued teaching junior high English for more 14 years.
After he got out of coaching, football recruiting entered the fold.
“Back in the day when I started, Tom Lemming was basically it,” he said.“He did stories on players and ranked them.”“I worked for a year with Allen Wallace at SuperPrep. I then wrote for Midwest Prospects and I realized there wasn’t much money involved in this and I didn’t like that aspect that much.”
McCallister said he almost folded, but stuck with it when a couple of college coaches approached him and told him he was doing a good job evaluating players and something like that wasn’t out there yet. The idea seem good, but it was all new about approaching college coaches.
“I stayed with it and did evaluations on players and sold my information to colleges,” McCallister said.“There weren’t many people doing it when I started and I just stayed with it and I really enjoyed evaluating players, watching them and promoting kids. I just got lucky because some of the right people liked me like Ohio State and Michigan and the big thing is trying to gain everybody’s trust.”“College and high school coaches trust me because they know I will tell them the truth and I’m going to be honest. People tell me to tell them something they can’t see on a videotape. It makes a lot of sense. I’ve developed a pretty good reputation because those guys try to quiz you early.”
In 1989, McCallister created the Ohio Prep Scouting Report and 10 years later it switched to The McCallister Report, as it is a scouting and evaluation service for high school players.
“When I started out, it was just writing stories about players,” McCallister said.
“I had three little magazines when I started and that didn’t make any money. Then I evaluated players. I used to take their picture and rate them. Now I just evaluate.
“I stuck with it because I had a great wife. My late wife Debbie used to help me with some of the stuff and type in everything and was really involved with it.
Honestly, I just got lucky at it. You gain a reputation and you go to places and they treat you right.”Because of my previous head coaching, I tried to outwork everybody. I put many miles on my cars.
McCallister said at one time that he had over 60 colleges using his service, but now with the Internet continually growing and more media competition, he is down to over 40.
He said most of the schools are Division I and II with all of the Big Ten except for Penn State and all of the Mid-American Conference except Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
Most of the Division III schools don’t use it anymore.
Evaluating a player requires a lot of experience and knowledge of the game, McCallister said.
“As much as I hate to admit, first it comes down to the measurables; the height and weight. Second – the ability to run,” he said.“Strength is important, but you have to be able to run. When you go someplace and watch a kid, after those first two things, you begin to work on character. I’m critical of that.”“When you go to a camp, watch the player’s face. Can you see the drive, determination and is he at the front of the line? The measurables are where you start. When I started it was probably more about strength, but now it’s all about speed.”
He gets most of the kids from the top divisions in high school, but added it’s equally as important to check out the lower divisions as well.
The importance of just going out and seeing a player is key, he said. He attends many high school football games during the season. In the winter, he catches basketball games and some wrestling matches. In the spring – track. Of course, in the summer – camps are important.“Obviously you get a lot guys from the top divisions, but it is really important to try to see everybody,” he said.
Some recruiting services charge a player about $1,200-$1,500 for a shot and McCallister said he doesn’t charge anything. Colleges pay him for his service. He is also certified by the NCAA.
It’s important to get the player’s name out there and one of the ways in the Underclassmen Combine in March.
The Underclassmen Combine, which was created in 2009, helps high school players try to evolve and translate their skills to the next level, according to McCallister.“We run about six drills and get an honest height and weight for them,” McCallister said.“The information goes to the colleges and I usually write about a lot of the kids there.
The MSROHIO camps are just football camps. We put these kids through drills that they are not used to, so they are aware of the things at the next level.”
The business of recruiting has sky-rocketed in the last decade with a slew of different websites rating and ranking high school players.
With all of the different recruiting services out there, McCallister called it a “dishonest business.“Recruiters lie, the kids lie, the parents lie; that’s just the way it is,” he said.“Some coaches will just throw an offer at a kid and have no intention of recruiting them. It’s just an ugly game. Everyone from Ohio State and Michigan to the smaller schools, it’s just a business.”
Rankings and ratings sell and it’s just gotten so big and the worse thing is when people believe everything they hear. It’s fun to read all of that stuff, but there are guys that don’t have the experience, but think they do. I just tell the kids to be honest and don’t say too much. I’m too old for most of that stuff.”
McCallister said he is in the “fourth quarter” of his career right now and still is enjoying every moment of it.
“I have a website (msrohio.com), I still have colleges and I still enjoy it,” he said.“I would like to maybe get back into more of the writing, but you don’t make much money with that even though I think people still would like to read it. I still enjoy going to games and going to camps and that kind of stuff.”
With numerous years in the business, McCallister said a lot of things have changed over the years, including the difficulty of evaluating players.“Back in the day, I would look at video and have to break it down,” he said.
“Now I can watch a video on my phone and everything is just so much easier to get information.
“Another thing is just the quality of football has changed. There are so many better players and what we’ve done with them with camps and exposure is a lot different.”
McCallister does not know exactly what the future holds for The McCallister Scouting Report, but one thing is certain — stands and press boxes will remain occupied for many years to come.
By MATT NYE