May 24, 2022

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The scouting of Steve Watson

6 min read
The scouting of Steve Watson



The Denver Broncos are in the midst of offseason preparations. Things have changed a lot, with concerns over player health and a variety of rules in place to guarantee equality of competition.

But one thing that has not changed much is the scouting of players, though even that creates some different situations.

Such it was for wide receiver Steve Watson, who was signed after being undrafted in 1979. Eventually, his career took him to the Pro Bowl and two Super Bowls for the Broncos, but Steve had an unusual and not very glamorous path to the NFL.

A star at St. Mark’s High School in Delaware, Watson was a good wide receiver at Temple University in Philadelphia. After his senior year he was taking some vacation time in Florida when a spot opened up for a wide receiver in the East-West Shrine Game. Steve got the call, flew west, had to borrow some shoulder pads and played in the game, which was coached by the Broncos staff.

A year later, Watson told Mike Klis, he asked wide receivers coach Fran Polsfoot how he had done, and Polsfoot said, “Stevie, you stunk the joint up. You were so bad you couldn’t catch a cold.”

So Watson asked him how he even became a Bronco after that.

“‘Babe Parilli,'” Watson said Polsfoot told him. “He said, ‘Babe Parilli stood up on the table for you, and none of us could figure out why.'”

During his last semester at Temple, on a gloomy, rainy Philadelphia day, Steve was in his dorm room when a young woman called from the front desk.

“A man named Babe Parilli is here to see you, Steve,” she said.

But Steve was totally caught by surprised and completely unaware of Babe’s visit. After some mild protestation, he went downstairs to see him.

“I am here to work you out, Steve!” Parilli said.

“But it’s raining hard outside, sir,” Steve said.

“No problem, Steve. We need to get a time in the 40 for you,” Babe said. “Let’s see, this hallway is about 40 yards, Steve.”

Watson was in street clothes, of course, but Babe seemed unfazed. Actually, he was really unfazed.

Parilli addressed two girls in a manner typical of the times, though perhaps not today: “Sweetie, you stand by this door and don’t let anyone in for a few minutes. And honey, you stand by the other door and do the same.”

Then, in a hallway at Temple, in street clothes, Steve Watson ran his 40 for the Broncos.

“How did I do?” Steve asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Babe replied. “Let’s see you catch some passes.”

But it was still raining the proverbial cats and dogs, so the two men adjourned to a nearby gymnasium, where Babe threw passes to Steve.

“I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but Babe threw the worst passes,” Watson recalls. “They were high, low — I had to dive on the floor and sometimes in the bleachers.”

After just a few crummy throws, Parilli said he had seen enough. “We’ll let you know, Steve.”

Steve waited, but went through the 1979 draft without getting a call. Afterward, on Parilli’s recommendation, Denver wanted to sign Watson as a free agent.

Watson signed, and I recall that when the rookies ran their 40-yard dashes, Steve had the fastest time. He went on to be one of the most reliable and popular wide receivers in Broncos history, still resides in the Denver area and is as nice as a person can be.

He had over 350 catches for Denver back in the day when teams passed much less than they do today.

And it just goes to show that a player can have an unusual workout, indoors, in street clothes, and somehow catch the eye on a scout.

You must have the ability, but you also have to be ready.

Because you never know when someone will call your room during a rainstorm and say, “Babe Parilli is here to see you!”The Denver Broncos are in the midst of offseason preparations. Things have changed a lot, with concerns over player health and a variety of rules in place to guarantee equality of competition.

But one thing that has not changed much is the scouting of players, though even that creates some different situations.

Such it was for wide receiver Steve Watson, who was signed after being undrafted in 1979. Eventually, his career took him to the Pro Bowl and two Super Bowls for the Broncos, but Steve had an unusual and not very glamorous path to the NFL.

A star at St. Mark’s High School in Delaware, Watson was a good wide receiver at Temple University in Philadelphia. After his senior year he was taking some vacation time in Florida when a spot opened up for a wide receiver in the East-West Shrine Game. Steve got the call, flew west, had to borrow some shoulder pads and played in the game, which was coached by the Broncos staff.

A year later, Watson told Mike Klis, he asked wide receivers coach Fran Polsfoot how he had done, and Polsfoot said, “Stevie, you stunk the joint up. You were so bad you couldn’t catch a cold.”

So Watson went back to Temple for his last semester.

Then one gloomy, rainy Philadelphia day, Steve was in his dorm room when a young woman called from the front desk.

“A man named Babe Parilli is here to see you, Steve.”

But Steve was totally caught by surprised and completely unaware of Babe’s visit. After some mild protestation, he went downstairs to see him.

“I am here to work you out, Steve!” Parilli said.

“But it’s raining hard outside, sir,” Steve said.

“No problem, Steve. We need to get a time in the 40 for you,” Babe said. “Let’s see, this hallway is about 40 yards, Steve.”

Watson was in street clothes, of course, but Babe seemed unfazed. Actually, he was really unfazed.

Parilli addressed two girls in a manner typical of the times, though perhaps not today: “Sweetie, you stand by this door and don’t let anyone in for a few minutes. And honey, you stand by the other door and do the same.”

Then, in a hallway at Temple, in street clothes, Steve Watson ran his 40 for the Broncos.

“How did I do?” Steve asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Babe replied. “Let’s see you catch some passes.”

But it was still raining the proverbial cats and dogs, so the two men adjourned to a nearby field house, where Babe threw passes to Steve.

Watson recalls, “I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but Babe threw the worst passes. They were high, low, I had to dive on the floor and sometimes in the bleachers.”

After just a few crummy throws Parilli said he had seen enough. “We’ll let you know, Steve.”

Steve waited, but heard nothing from the Broncos until after the 1979 draft.

On Parilli’s recommendation Denver wanted to sign Watson as a free agent.

Watson signed with Denver and I recall that when the rookies ran their forty yard dashes, Steve had the fastest time.

He went on to be one of the most reliable and popular wide receivers in Broncos history, still resides in the Denver area and is as nice as a person can be.

He had over 350 catches for Denver back in the day when teams passed much less than they do today.

And it just goes to show that a player can have an unusual workout, indoors, in street clothes, and somehow catch the eye on a scout.

But you have to be ready.

I have discussed this with Steve several times.

You must have the ability, and to have to be ready.

Because you never know when someone will call your room during a rainstorm and say, Babe Parilli is here to see you!”

https://www.denverbroncos.com/news/sacco-sez-the-scouting-of-steve-watson