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Whatever It Takes | A true Story of a fan making it to the NFL as a scout

Daniel Kelly Whatever It takes book
The amazing and true story of a fan named Daniel Kelly making it into the NFL as a scout.

Daniel Kelly grew up in a small town in Minnesota dreaming of one day making it into the NFL as a fan of the Washington Redskins. He was absolutely fanatical about his love for the Redskins, so much so when he was nine years old and the Redskins lost Super Bowl XVIII to the Raiders, he threw up and missed three days of school. 

As Kelly grew, so did his passion for the game, but how would he make it into the NFL at only 130 pounds? He wanted to play linebacker at Penn State (Linebacker U), but realized he would never get big enough to play. He dabbled a little bit in coaching when he was a teenager and even designed a play and sent it to then Head Coach Joe Gibbs, who used Kelly’s play suggestion and it worked for a touchdown in a pre-season game against the Atlanta Falcons, and it worked for a touchdown However, at 17 is when his life forever changed when his parents gave him a book titled, “Secrets of an NFL Scout,” written by former 49ers Scouting Director, Tony Razzano.

“This is what I wanted to be, I wanted to be an NFL scout,” said Kelly at the time. He read and re-read Razzano’s book and self-taught himself how to scout. During his junior and senior years in high school he applied for scouting internships with the Redskins, but he was turned down. After barely passing through high school and failing out of a small community college, Kelly got his first big break when he received the opportunity to intern with Tony Dungy and the Minnesota Vikings for six months. Dungy left for Tampa and Kelly went back to the real world selling Kirby vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

Then at 24-years-old one day while working at Bank America Mortgage as a loan officer he thought to himself, “What am I doing here, I’ve got to give my dream one last chance, it’s better to go for it and not get it than always wonder…what could have been. Armed with a dream, raw passion and determination, a satellite dish, a subscription to Direct TV’s college football package and some pens and a whole lot of paper, Kelly set out to accomplish his dream of working in the NFL. He began recording every single college football game possible and writing scouting reports. After seven months of working at the bank by day and moonlighting as a scout, all night, every night, and getting only 15-20 of sleep, a week, Kelly’s scouting reports turned into his self-published 350-page “1998 NFL DRAFT REPORT.” 

Kelly spent every dime he had on the project to and then he sent out three copies of his draft book, “his resume,” to every GM, Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel in the NFL hoping to land an opportunity with absolutely no guarantees — and that is when the call came. Kelly was hired by Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli to work in pro scouting with the New York Jets! His dream had come true! From a cubicle at the bank — to the NFL! After playing only one year of high school football and being so bad at playing and being the only kid on his team not to have enough playing time to earn a letter, Kelly had beaten out a stack of Ivy League resumes to get hired on arguably the greatest staff in NFL history. 

“Whatever it Takes,” is not another book written by a player, coach, agent or NFL exec — it is the one-of-a-kind book written by a fan, a fan just like you — who made it into the NFL.  In his book, Kelly gives you unprecedented behind-the-scenes access of what it is like working with some of the biggest names in the game as well as rare insights of what it takes to get hired in the league out of nowhere — with no connections. Kelly also shares what it was like being the first special teams’ scout in league history and a lot of insight of what it is like to work in the day-to-day operations of an NFL team.

“Whatever it Takes,” is about football, but it is even more than that — it is also a story of how he overcame some of the biggest adversities this life — including cancer — to realize his football dream. 

It took Kelly 10 years to write “Whatever it Takes,” and he called the accomplishment of getting it written and published, “The greatest challenge of his life.” He added that ultimately the book is not even about himself — it is about the reader, helping the reader to realize his or her dream and giving the reader a sense of hope. 

Kelly is now a contributing writer to Draft Diamonds and he writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions. His name appears in nearly every major publication in America — including The NY Times and USA Today and his story has been translated into German and Spanish. Kelly has been on football podcasts around the world and he has been interviewed by Linda Cohn. He dreams of getting a second chance in the NFL and jokingly says, “The only thing harder than getting into the NFL out of nowhere is trying to do it the second time,” Since being out of the league he has come close to getting back in with the Eagles (2012), the Browns when he attempted to become their GM (2017) and the Redskins when he almost landed his dream job (2019). His book, “Whatever it Takes,” is available online at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Kelly can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and on Facebook on his WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALKS page. His book website is whateverittakesbook.com.

“Whatever it Takes, is more than the title of a book, it’s a way of life,” said Kelly. “And remember one thing, nothing is impossible. Impossible is just a word in the dictionary — it’s not a reality — it’s a mind set. Whatever your dream is, you can do it. Trust me, if I could go from growing up in that small town and making it into the NFL after playing only one year of high school football — you can do anything.”

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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