Team within the team: Scout team is invaluable to a football team's success
They may see limited action, if any, in varsity football games.
Yet they are some of the most important players on the team.
It's why Glenbard East coach John Walters honors not one or two but nine scout team players of the week - those players who mimic an opponent's offense and defense in practice against the starters.
They've got to do it right.
"They're critical to a team preparing for a game and for being successful as a program," said Walters, gearing up for Saturday's Class 7A quarterfinal against Normal, in Lombard.
"The more involved, prepared and harder your guys play, the better your team is going to be because you're trying to simulate a game in practice," he said.
This importance is not lost on the boys who comprise the scout teams.
"We take a lot of pride in our role as a scout player because we know that we are part of the reason why our starters perform as well as they do and we have contributed to the victory," said senior defensive tackle Piero Rivera.
"We have to give them the best look and we have to be as physical as we can," he said.
That wouldn't appear to be a problem for Rivera, a stout 5-foot-9, 210 pounds.
Physicality is not a problem either for senior defensive end Aiden Tufano, 6-1, 220.
"I've been known for that, honestly. A real hardworking player," he said.
"I take it to the most professional level as possible and just make it the best I can, honestly, for my sake and my teammates' sake. Always improving my team as best we can," Tufano said.
After Rams offensive coordinator Walters and defensive coordinator Pat Walker get their intel and crunch notes - Walters hit the road Nov. 4 to scout Normal's second-round win - they discuss it with staff, compose their plans, then publish them to the team on Hudl in time for Monday walk-throughs.
"You're going to see how the other team's playing and how they're lined up, and look at our coaches' notes and what they see in film to better prepare ourselves," said scout team member Nate Miller, a junior linebacker.
Aided by daily film of Rams practices accompanied by coaches' comments both praising players' work and offering suggestions for improvement, players have about 20 hours of video from which to learn and adjust.
One often hears about an opposing athlete or a scheme that "can't be replicated in practice."
Glenbard East scout teams give it all they've got.
"Sometimes the situations are less realistic than they would be in games," said scout team quarterback Max Salek, a junior. "However, we simulate it to the best of our ability. Sometimes we'll take down some of our starters just to help out."
Salek said his scout team reps not only help the Rams defense improve but also make him better. Both he and Rivera said playing with scout team helps diminish nerves once they get into a game. As far as X's and O's, they've been there and done that.
Former scout team players can develop into today's stars. Walters pointed to Rams senior linebacker Augustus "Gus" Winkler as an example.
It's part of the process, the coach said.
"It might not be all 60 guys' year. We may play 30 of the 60 as we go through," Walters said.
"There's 30 guys that their game is on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday where they're growing and developing as players so they can come back the next year and be better football players."