Shonka has been
one of the top professional football evaluators for the past 15
years in the NFL. He contributed greatly in the drafts that put
the Eagles where they are today. Players such as Pro Bowlers Bobby
Taylor, Jermaine Mayberry, and Jeremiah Trotter (now with the Redskins),
along with John Welbourn, Koy Detmer, Cecil Martin, Duce Staley,
Brandon Whiting, N.D. Kulu, Ike Reese, and Barry Gardner were all
area players on Dan's watch. Dan also worked with the pro department
to claim such players as Rashard Cook and Dameane Douglas. However,
Dan's greatest contribution may have been his vision in signing
such free agents as Hollis Thomas, Pro Bowler Chad Lewis, Ryan Schau
(now with the Texans), Sylvester Wright, Troy Drake, Joe Rudolph,
and Kaseen Sincero, among others. The best signing may have been
James Thrash who Dan signed for an $8000.00 bonus - he then was
cut and went to the Redskins. After three years with Washington,
the Eagles then paid a 2.5 million dollar bonus to get him back."
Former Director of Player Personnel
Dan's one year with the Washington Redskins
he signed five free agents that made a team in the league: David
Brandt, Antonio Pierce, and Ifeanyi Ohalete (Washington), Tam Hopkins
(Giants), and Cornelius Anthony (San Francisco)."
Director of College Scouting
Shonka is one of the top personnel scouts
in the NFL, and in a show-me league, Dan has the pelts on the wall."
Draft Expert, Fox Sports
Washington Redskins 2001 Season in Review
Recap: A pair of undrafted free agents - LB Antonio Pierce and OG
David Brandt - contributed and have futures with the Redskins.
Pro Football Weekly
Thrash making a splash
By Richard Justice
Redskins rookie wide receiver James Thrash has burst onto the scene
so quickly and with such a flair for the dramatic that it's natural
to ask a few questions: Who is he? Where did he come from? Why did
he get passed over by all 30 NFL teams for all seven rounds of last
spring's draft? And what prompted the Philadelphia Eagles to cut
him a few days before training camp?
answers are easier than others.
easiest to see is that Thrash will be playing in the NFL this fall.
Having started training camp as the last wide receiver on the Redskins'
roster, Thrash has sewn up a spot by returning kickoffs for game-clinching
touchdowns in both preseason games.
didn't clinch a roster spot with a 91-yarder in the first exhibition
game against Tampa Bay, he certainly did with a 96-yarder in Saturday's
18-12 victory over Tennessee. He also caught three passes for 63
yards, including a 35-yarder to set up a field goal.
can't have enough good football players," Redskins Coach Norv
Turner said. "If a guy can do what James can do, you find a
way to keep him."
beginning, Thrash will team with Brian Mitchell as a kickoff returner.
There might not be much other work for him as a rookie, but considering
where he was a few weeks ago, that's a large accomplishment.
up the son of a factory worker in Wewoka, Okla., population 3,500,
in the Dust Bowl plains 60 miles east of Oklahoma City. He was a
star football player and sprinter in high school, but had no college
Division II Missouri Southern State College in Joplin because his
high school coach, Bill Brown, was a friend of Missouri Southern
Coach Jon Lantz.
said he made the call "because I've never been around anyone
who worked as hard as James Thrash. He'd stay until the last guy
left and then get coaches to throw him passes. This summer, I watched
him bench-press 465 pounds three times. He takes it seriously. He
proves that all those things coaches say about hard work paying
off are true. I never dreamed he'd go this far, but I knew he could
played little as a freshman because Missouri Southern had a star
wide receiver in Rod Smith, now with the Denver Broncos. Thrash
eventually won track championships and set receiving records.
the past two weekends, Thrash's biggest thrill in sports might have
been playing in the Division II all-star game - the Snow Bowl, played
annually in Fargo, ND.
what a science recruiting is, doesn't it?" Lantz said with
a laugh. "I'd really never heard of James until Bill called
and asked me to take him. He told me James had enough other aid
to pay most of his tuition, and I agreed to pick up the rest. It
turned out to be a great move."
passed on Thrash on draft day in April.
James, we knew someone was going to have to be patient," Lantz
said. "He started slowly with us, then all of a sudden - boom.
He's got blazing speed and that's something you can't coach. Don't
give him daylight. He'll break it - in any league."
signed Thrash, then cut him shortly before training camp. Sources
close to the team say the roster spot was needed for others, and
the Eagles didn't think Thrash was going to be anything special.
the Redskins had always considered him a prospect, and signed him
the beginning, Turner said Thrash was good enough to make the practice
squad, then have a chance to earn a spot on the regular roster next
fall. With five receivers, there seemed no other way to fit him
Thrash returned his first kickoff against Tampa Bay, he forced Turner
to look again. He was added to the punt return team and given more
the Oilers, in addition to the 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown,
he returned another kickoff 36 yards and made receptions of 17 and
35 yards to set up a field goal.
has seemed more overwhelmed by the attention than the football.
He has answered questions with one- or two-word answers, saying
again and again that he can't believe how things have unfolded for
him in the past few weeks.
got to pinch myself," he said. "It's hard to imagine how
it has turned out. I just thank God for the opportunity."
grooves on Hollis Thomas' play
The DT has
gone from undersized, undrafted free agent to future NFL starter.
by Jack Schlottman WITH THE EAGLES
- It is a priceless image, one of those mental pictures that must
be seen to be believed: Ray Rhodes dancing around his Veterans Stadium
office, rap music blasting in the background, Hollis Thomas blasting
people on the TV screen.
Ray. Ray Doggy Dogg. Notorious R.A.Y.
Rhodes. Rap fan.
really caught me was, Hollis sent a video tape down with rap music,"
Rhodes says. "It was a highlight film, his big plays set to
rap music. And the song fit the tape, know what I mean?
song was all about being a bad dude. And while the rap's going,
Hollis was playing. And he was just running people's rear ends out.
the rap was playing and I was just bouncing to the music and everything
because he was kicking people's a--. I was getting excited
I said, 'Dan Shonka found one; this kid is a player.'"
is the Eagles' scout who uncovered Thomas, the massive 6-foot, 306-pound
defensive tackle, who was laboring in something close to obscurity
two years ago on the campus of Northern Illinois University.
was clear, because of his height, that Thomas wasn't going to be
selected in the1996 NFL draft.
was equally clear that Thomas had a future in this league.
found Thomas and proceeded to whet Rhodes' appetite. Then Thomas
sent along the videotape that the audio/visual man at NIU had put
together for him.
it did the trick.
had two sacks in last Saturday's preseason opener against the New
York Jets. He's still listed as a backup; Andy Harmon and Rhett
Hall are the starters. But it will surprise no one if Thomas is
in the lineup when the Eagles open the regular season Aug. 31 against
the Giants. In fact, the only surprise might be if he isn't a starter
in primarily as the run-stuffer, Thomas, under the tutelage of defensive
line coach Mike Trgovac, has fast developed into a pocket-collapsing,
pass-rushing force of the kind the Birds haven't had on the inside
since the passing of Jerome Brown.
were extremely fortunate to luck into somebody like Hollis,"
Rhodes says. "And the guy who's responsible for it is Dan Shonka,
one of our scouts. He came to me and said, 'Ray, I found a guy who's
your type of player.'"
said, 'What position does he play?'"
Dan said, 'Defensive tackle.'"
when you've got a defensive tackle you don't think is gonna be drafted,
the first question you ask is: 'How tall is he?' Height is the first
thing that comes up.
Dan said, 'He's ... uh...6-feet ... or so.'"
I said, 'OK, he's 5-11 and what?'"
is a wondrous story, from undersized, undrafted free agent to future
NFL starter in quick fashion. All thanks to a hard-working scout,
a rap video and, of course, the talent of a quiet, soft-spoken sneaker
collector whose high school didn't even have its own football team.
Schlottman is sports columnist for The Express-Times.
Shonka: Scouting Talent in the Midwest
By Seth Burton (Redskins Weekly
Shonka, in his first year as a Redskins' scout, scours the Midwest
in search of not only hidden gems, but the blue-chip players that
lead to Super Bowls.
all comes down to personnel," Shonka said. "You've got
to have the players."
Shonka's job to make sure the Redskins are aware of the best players
in his coverage area. Working out of his home in Iowa, Shonka, like
all scouts, spends the good portion of his time on the road during
the football season.
getting player information from the BLESTO scouting service and
talking with college coaches, Shonka gets an idea of which collegiate
players might become NFL prospects. He then hits the road, arriving
at a prospect's school early in the morning and watching all the
film he can on a certain player in addition to speaking with football
coaches, strength coaches and academic support members to get a
complete picture of a player.
is a real blue-collar sport in terms of scouting," Shonka said.
"You've got to do a lot of work, a lot of watching tape. There
are a lot of good football players out there in the NFL who weren't
then on to the next school and the next prospect, and then Saturdays
include taking in a game to watch how a certain player performs.
is important to watch as much film as you can get on a player,"
Shonka said. "You could watch (Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis
three times at Miami, and if you got the wrong tapes, then you would
have to wonder about his ability."
has been evaluating football talent for 13 years as a scout. He
came to the Redskins following the 2000 draft after several years
working the Philadelphia Eagles. Before that, Shonka scouted players
for National Football Scouting, a service employed by numerous NFL
teams. The Redskins use the BLESTO scouting service, a company similar
wanted the opportunity to work with (Director of Player Personnel)
Vinny Cerrato," Shonka said. "There are a lot of different
ways to do things in scouting and I like the way we do things here."
has been a mainstay in Shonka's life. When his playing career at
Wayne State College in Nebraska ended after three knee surgeries,
Shonka transferred to Iowa State where he served as a student assistant
to the coaching staff. While working at Iowa State and at the tender
age of 19, Shonka founded his own minor league football team, the
Cedar Rapids Raiders, and led them to a 10-2 record and a minor
league title. It was then that Shonka's eye for spotting gridiron
talent first started to emerge.
had to get all the talent for that team," Shonka said. "I
had to get players who were older than me and convince them to play."
moved on to assist and recruit for Iowa State, Purdue, Kansas, and
Rice before becoming the head man at Independence Junior College
and Highlands Junior College in Kansas. By the time he was 27, Shonka
was the head coach of a football team. His next coaching position
came at New Mexico Highlands College, a Division II school.
Shonka had caught the scouting bug and settled in to his lifestyle
of criss-crossing the Midwest in search of NFL-quality talent.
guy has to have the physical characteristics of that position,"
Shonka said of what he looks for in a player. "He has to have
a strong work ethic, athletic ability, and intelligence. Those are
the three attributes."
there are NFL players who succeed with only one or two of those
attributes, and they are the ones Shonka loves discovering.
like finding that diamond in the rough," Shonka said.
has scouted such impact but unheralded players as Kurt Warner, James
Thrash, Eagles tight end Chad Lewis, and Bears running back James
Allen to name a few.
is a skill to evaluate talent," Shonka said. "I love scouting
and I don't mind the traveling at all."