NFL Draft History: Kilroy Was Here



Bucko Kilroy pioneered scouting in the NFL.

The first day of April. A day of foolishness and for NFL fans, a midway point between the doldrums of another offseason. The Combine has come and gone. The Draft is still over three weeks away. March Madness is finally finished and Baseball is set to occupy every Sports channel across America.

Meanwhile, NFL team Front Offices are finalizing their Draft boards and making sure they have all the information on the prospects they are interested in. Teams nowadays have an itemized structure to their player rankings, and that has become more streamlined with the invention and utilization of the computer. In the early days, players weren’t even  ranked, Teams just used the eye test; if a guy was big, mean and nasty, he got a contract.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that any kind of rating system was used. Using a combination of numbers and letters, the first composite player ranking method was enacted. The pioneer of this method was “Bucko” Kilroy.

In the course of a 64-year NFL narrative, Kilroy made six All-Pro teams; three as an offensive guard and three as a middle guard. He won two NFL championships with the 1948 and 1949 Eagles during that time. At 6’2”, 243 lbs, Bucko had a reputation as one of the toughest players of his time. Put it this way, Al DeRogatis, a former Giants’ lineman, found out the hard way. When he once accused Kilroy of biting his nose, Kilroy denied it.

“I didn’t bite his nose,” Kilroy said. “I bit his ear.”

That was just the first 13 years. Then he went on to a 51-year second career as scout and executive. Bucko breathed football all the way up his passing in 2007 at the age of 86.

Francis Joseph “Bucko” Kilroy was born in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia and played college ball for Temple after being heavily recruited by Notre Dame. Kilroy starred for the Owls in the 1940 and 1941 seasons, playing on both Offensive and Defensive Lines.

After a two-year stint with the Merchant marines during WWII, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Steagles, a wartime merger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Eagles where he continued playing on both sides of the ball.

When his playing days were over, Kilroy stayed with the Eagles as an assistant coach from 1955-1959, becoming one of the league’s first player personnel men. In 1962 he was a  scout for the Redskins until 1964 and then the Dallas Cowboys from 1965–1970. Bucko played a big part in Dallas drafting Roger Staubach despite his Military service.

Kilroy was one of the founders of the National Football Scouting Combine. He was also credited as a founder of the modern day NFL Draft and as an NFL Executive he helped fashion the Super Bowl as we know it today. In 1982, The Boston Globe called Bucko “the man who helped create the science of pro scouting.” It added, “In a football sense, he is a genius.”

He was the Patriots general manager from 1979 to 1982 and vice-president from 1983 to 1993. As the head of scouting in the early 2000s, Bucko was influential in drafting many of the players that won three Super Bowls for the Patriots. He drafted standouts like John Hannah, Mike Haynes, Sam Cunningham, Russ Francis and Steve Grogan.

Retired general manager (Baltimore, Cleveland, New York Giants) Ernie Accorsi said, “Gil Brandt and Bucko put together a system in Dallas. We never had a system. We drafted OK, but it was by the seat of the pants. Everyone talks about Gil and the computers, but Bucko never got enough credit. He took that scouting system to New England and really refined it. He took it to the next level.”

“Most of the historical basis for what I know I learned from Bucko,” Accorsi admits. “I used to listen to him for hours. He knew everything that went on for the last 60 years. People forget he worked in the league office when Bert Bell was commissioner before he got into scouting.”

He was a true football treasure, and he cannot be replaced. “So much of the NFL died with him,” sighs Accorsi.

Bucko’s influence on the National Football League is staggering. His administrative offspring include Bobby Beathard, Peter Hadhazy, Mike Hickey, the late Dick Steinberg, Tom Boisture, A.J. Smith and Tony Razzano among others.

“He was one of the few men in the business who was not afraid to share his knowledge,” reflects former Patriots GM Patrick Sullivan

The only person in NFL history with more continuous service was Wellington Mara, who started as a ball boy and worked his way through his father’s organization until he was the boss. In terms of varied service, however, no one in NFL history can touch Bucko. Among his honors, Bucko was named a  member of the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team, the North Catholic HS Hall of Fame, The Temple University Athletic Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

So when watching the Scouting Combine, the NFL Draft and the Super Bowl, one can truly say, “Kilroy Was Here.”

Go Broncos!

—– Kaptain Kirk

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