Tuesday, May 24, 2005

SCOUTING THE TALENT: Browns Name Rees Director of Player Personnel

"With the third selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select…"

When NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue makes this statement on April 23, there will be an Ohio Wesleyan connection to the Browns' pick. Bill Rees '76 will be part of his first draft as the Browns' director of player personnel.

New Browns General Manager Phil Savage brought Rees to Cleveland from the same position in San Francisco. "This is a great opportunity to work with Phil Savage, a guy who has been a good friend for a long time," said Rees. "There is a great tradition associated with the Browns, and Cleveland is just an outstanding football city."

However, Rees' start in college coaching was 30 years ago and 130 miles southwest of Cleveland Browns Stadium. Former OWU coach Jack Fouts got Rees, a three-year member of the football team, started on a career in coaching and scouting in 1975.

"Coach Fouts gave me the opportunity to coach the wide receivers my last year," said Rees. "I'm sure that experience helped me getting a coaching position at Northwestern."

Rees spent three years coaching the Wildcats, earning his master's degree in the process, before moving on to UCLA and spending 15 years with the Bruins.

In 1994, Rees decided that he wanted to move into player personnel and the NFL was the place for him. Rees joined the Kansas City Chiefs for three years before becoming the director of college scouting for his hometown Chicago Bears.

"In Chicago, I was responsible for college players, and that obviously put a major emphasis on the draft," said Rees. "When I went to San Francisco it was a dual role working with both college and professional players."

Rees estimates that he is on the road up to 60-70 percent of the time, which reaches its peak during the football season. He spends part of a typical week watching practices at the major-college level before traveling to wherever the Browns are playing that weekend. "The schedules are worked so that I can get to our games on Sunday," said Rees. "You usually watch practice on Tuesday through Thursday, do film study on Friday, and travel to the NFL game on the weekend. There is simply no substitute to seeing a player in person."

With all that travel, it has been a couple of years since he had the opportunity to return to campus.

"The quality of students," is what Rees, a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, remembers most. "Ohio Wesleyan has been able to attract a high level of students from all over the country. It was an extremely invigorating experience for me."

He also holds the faculty in special regard. "The faculty at Ohio Wesleyan was excellent. I've spent time at Northwestern and UCLA and put the quality of OWU's faculty on par with their better people." While Rees was hesitant to name a faculty member that stuck out, he commented on a history course with Dr. Richard Smith, professor emeritus of history. "It was exceptionally hard to get an 'A', but you learned a great deal."

Browns fans are hoping Rees' stops in Chicago and San Francisco have taught him a great deal about bringing a winner back to the city.

I know this is about my "trips" around Ohio. But I wrote this for work before the NFL draft about Rees returning to Ohio to work for the Browns after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University. So thought I'd share. Might have a couple more of these "Ohio tied" pieces coming on a couple of unique Jazz musicians that spent four years in Ohio as they slid through to other pursuits.
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