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History of Ourlads' Scouting Services

Ourlads' Staff/Tom Hepler
02/04/2024 10:04PM ET

Ourlads’ Scouting Services officially traces its history back to the 1983 NFL draft when Tom Hepler, an avid draft fan, and his son Phil Hepler passed out mimeographed copies of the first Ourlads’ Guide to the NFL draft. Tom passed out the copies to 400 people standing in line to get into the NFL draft in New York City. It really began before that when Tom would do mock drafts and write up players as a hobby starting in 1979.  He was, at that time, the owner of a computer-based company that serviced the publishing industry by interfacing with clients’ databases. He and a few others would meet most weekends, beginning at the end of the season and until the draft, to forecast how the pending draft might play out. Using every source available such as newspapers, college game videos, college football publications, radio talk show discussions, Combine lists, various all-star game lists (Senior Bowl, Shrine Game, Blue-Gray, for example) and other sources, it was easy to build a database of players. The hard part was to rate the players, not only within their position, but overall as well. After a number of years developing an algorithm, it was left to the computer to do the job.

Some of Tom’s first group of guys included Jim Sabo, Bill Werndl, Steve Sabo, and Phil Hepler. Ourlads grew each year and started selling subscriptions to the guide and a set of newsletters that came out every couple of months from October to just prior to the draft.  Tom and his crew began attending the All-Star game practices and some of the pro days. Tom would also use the computer to do mock drafts for the Eagles. (Tom and Phil were avid Eagle Fans). Tom started sending a copy of the guide to colleges and had several interested coaches provide information for the database. The number of scouts working grew, and over the years several former NFL scouts and both college and NFL coaches came in and out of the organization. The list includes Carmen Piccone, Hamp Cook, John Paul Young, Roy Gerela, Mike McCarthy and others. Roy Kawogoe, who along with Mike McCarthy, put out the Cuts and Keeps book was also involved. Jim Sabo developed the online depth charts which are named after him.

Current Associate GM Jon Cooper, who was coaching at Aurora University at the time, became a regular contributor in 1992. Many NFL teams used Ourlads for various tasks back then and a number of coaches and scouts were very enthusiastic about the reports and depth charts. One coach in particular, longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson would often call Jon about a month before the draft and say “where’s my catalog?” as he called it. Around 1992 Jon introduced NFL scout Dan Shonka to Tom. Years later after the 2004 draft Tom decided it was time to retire. He talked to Dan and Jon about the decision and Dan who had scouted for the Eagles, Redskins, and Chiefs decided to take over the company. Dan added his expertise to Ourlads and along with his wife Peggy continued to grow the company including working the personnel department for the East-West Shrine Bowl. With Dan’s input the website was reworked by Dave Cooper with expanded depth charts and content. Jon, after an eleven-year stint as the head football coach at Benedictine University, rejoined Ourlads in 2016. About that time current Senior Scout Dave Syversten and media contributor Greg DePalma joined the organization. Dan Shonka is known throughout the NFL as a top-notch evaluator and he has been relied upon by several NFL coaches and personnel men for his evaluations.