What the Heck is Football Makeup?

Chris Hyde

What does it mean to say that a player had a good makeup and/or character.

So last week I talked about a plan. And I talked about "high ceilings" and "projectable" and "makeup". These all seem like made-up words to describe something intangible, but these really are things. When I am reading something and I don't know what a word means I will look up that word right then and there. I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what "high ceiling" and "projectable" means, but I really didn't know what a scout looks at when they talk about "makeup". This post is most likely going to be more informational (at least for me) than anything else.

"Makeup" is a word that is said a lot when talking about scouting players and I think it is important, but I really sort of thought that it wasn't really definable. But then I did a Google search and like everything else, the definition of "baseball makeup" was on the internet, thanks to Minor League Ball and Fangraphs. The more I started to think about this, the more it made sense from a football perspective. These baseball scouts are essentially scouting the same type of players and even sometimes the exact same players that college coaches are scouting. So what do they think of makeup?

Let's start with Fangraphs where they quote from Jim Calllis from Baseball America:

Character and makeup do play a part in our rankings, though talent still has to be the overriding factor. Work ethic, intelligence and off-field issues can help or hinder a prospect as he tries to reach his ceiling. At the same time, the hardest-working, smartest, cleanest-living player isn’t going to make it if he doesn’t have the physical ability.

This is logical and this is why I hate the argument that goes like this, "Well, Wes Welker was essentially a walk-on until Leach gave him a scholarship and that means that Texas Tech and Leach can do more with less, so Player X, who also is a walk-on will be just like Welker." I dislike this argument because it ignores Welker's immense, and I do mean immense, physical talents. It acts as if they don't even exist and that he's purely a guy that's there because of his makeup or because of some other intangible. I think that the truth is that Welker probably does have good makeup, which maybe initially got his foot in the door, but his athletic talent is what's gotten him to be an All-Pro player, not the fact that he might be a good guy.

Now, from Fangraphs:

Character and makeup won’t turn a scrub into a star, nor will it make a mediocre team into a championship caliber squad. It should never be cited as the sole reason a team is playing well, and we should also think twice about citing it in an argument about a player’s value.

Fans of any sport are essentially in the same boat in terms of judging the character of a person without even knowing them. You do it based on their actions, or inaction on and off the field. I tend to find myself looking at a players Twitter to get a feel as to what's going on in a person's brain, but even then, I try not to put too much stock into that.

Last, but not least, from Minor League Ball, where Sickels sums it all up from his conversations with scouts:

Putting it all together, my theory is that the ideal makeup for a baseball player is a guy who works hard, is aggressive and something of a slight asshole (but not a terrible one), and possesses above-average (but not exceptional) intelligence.

Sickels notes that this isn't absolute, but a guide. There are some guys that are so talented that they outweigh a high jerk factor. So I am guessing that this is the idea when coaches look at a players makeup and then weigh it against their athletic ability and then go from there.

I think the asshole factor is something that I hadn't really thought about before. It makes sense the more you think about it because you want a player to be aggressive and sometimes that can come off as being an asshole. I get that. And this isn't to say that the idea of being an asshole just applies to an athlete, but could apply to any person that has significant talent. A person that is highly intelligent and very good at their job, could be an asshole, but because of this person's intelligence, his or her boss tolerates it to an extent because of their talent. This is something that really relates to a lot of walks of life, the difference is that with athletes you somewhat want that quality in a person, where you may try to avoid that in other parts of life.

And this isn't to say that all athletes need to have this asshole factor. In fact, I mentioned this about a week ago, this post from The Dagger about how some college basketball coaches are giving personality tests to recruits to test their personalities. Not everyone is going to fit into a category or have this trait. And having this trait doesn't equate success either. But if you hate to sort of put the personality of a highly successful athlete in a particular trait, then a bit of an asshole factor makes sense.

Those other traits are equally important too: hard-working, aggressive on the athletic field and decent intelligence. It is a combination of these factors all rolled into one human being and trying to decipher what is important and what isn't makes assessing these players incredibly important. I mentioned the last time that I wrote about this as to how Mildren Montgomery committed. He obviously lacks certain physical gifts for an offensive lineman as a high school senior, but he may make up for all of those things in the hard-working, aggressive and intelligence categories and coaches have to predict that the player will be more mature physically. The same could be said for a player that is already mature physically, but has to mature mentally. They both have to make that next step in some respect.

I think that this is something that really every successful college coach has, which is the ability to weigh that makeup versus athletic ability. And maybe this is just something to keep in mind as to why certain players are offered, but maybe have some sort of character issue. Not all character issues are a bad thing. To be confident and brash and aggressive is a good trait for athletes, whereas we might think that those sort of traits are off-putting.

I won't try to summarize things here. I don't really know if this post has a point. Maybe we could discuss how accurate the definition of "makeup" is in terms of an athlete and whether or not you think that slight asshole factor is something that is real or maybe not such a big deal.

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