Chris Johnson among former players curious if scouting is a way back to the NFL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chris Johnson watches football whenever possible, and he knows talent when he sees it.

Now the man nicknamed "CJ2K" for being among the NFL's exclusive group of running backs with a 2,000-yard rushing season is ready to see if scouting is his way to stay involved with the league.

Johnson will be among 20 former players starting a three-day scout school Monday run by the NFL, which has offered finance, business and broadcast boot camps for years. The league also has programs for people wanting to be head coaches, general managers or work in team front offices.

This program will focus on what a scout actually does as a possible career.

“Going through the classes and doing the different stuff that they do will put me at a point and let me know if this is something I really want to do,” Johnson said Thursday.

They will learn how teams structure scouting departments to a scout's typical work week and calendar through the year. They will be taught how an advance scout works, especially on game day, along with how to evaluate players from colleges or other leagues for the NFL down to writing reports.

Roman Oben, the NFL's vice president of football development played 12 seasons as an offensive lineman, said players scout opponents during their careers. That helped him know how to evaluate offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers.

Oben credited Phil Savage with starting the scout school concept at the Senior Bowl and Jim Nagy, the 18-year NFL scout who worked for four Super Bowl champs, for expanding the program when he took over as the Senior Bowl director in 2018.

“This formalizes the process, so that guys have just more understanding of the scouting, the role, the business and how it fits into an organization,” Oben said.

Former players also will have a chance to see just how much they really are committed to the grind of being a scout. The Senior Bowl is held in Mobile, Alabama, requiring either a couple of flights or flying to Pensacola, Florida, and driving an hour west.

They will be scouting players through the 2024 season and through the 2025 Senior Bowl.

"You’re grading film on college prospects now that are going to be drafted in 2025 so you’re really diving into the X’s and O’s, right, so to speak,” Oben said.

Johnson first became intrigued with scouting when inducted into the Senior Bowl last June. Coaching didn't interest him, but he wanted a way to stay involved. He's also watched football film much of his life.

“I feel like I know how to spot talent,” Johnson said. “Is this player going to be good, or does he fit this system or that system?”

Johnson also knows how easy it is for talented players to slip through the cracks. He was a two-star player coming out of Olympia High School in Orlando, Florida, when he went to East Carolina. Four other running backs were selected before the Tennessee Titans drafted him at No. 24 overall in 2008.

He became a three-time Pro Bowl running back, was the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 when he ran for 2,006 yards as part of a 10-year NFL career. He ranks 35th all time with 9,651 yards rushing.

Yet having played in the NFL is no guarantee of a job once someone retires. Johnson sees this program as a way to show just how serious former players are along with the chance at an internship or job.

“They'll see that I'm serious and taking the right proper steps,” Johnson said. ___