12. Mel Kiper, Jr.
His name is synonymous with the NFL Draft and college football prospects but he was once just a Calvert Hall kid who chased Ernie Accorsi around the Baltimore Colts complex with a spiral notebook full of thoughts and observations about football players. Scouting was barely its own industry within the NFL but a media personality who talked about footballs at dizzying speeds with a jargon – and a hair style – all his own? It was one of the things that made ESPN so unique – they had an “expert” and once a year a guy named Mel Kiper from Baltimore came out to lay his knowledge and opinion on the line. Accorsi, also a Baltimorean, encouraged Kiper to give his draft information to the world and the affable Kiper took something that was nothing in 1978 and turned it into his own cottage industry where he had no peers in the pre-internet world.
Sure he’s been featured in videos games and played himself in Jerry Maguire, but he always gets major play for the funny old video of his coiffed ‘do in 1983 or the live exchange with Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Tobin in 1994 for picking Trev Alberts instead of Trent Dilfer with the fifth pick of the draft.
When he started it was a labor of love and in 2014 it’s a massive, multimillion dollar industry around Indianapolis (of all places),the NFL Network, sponsors, agents and a weekend that’s must-see TV for millions of football fans in America. Mel Kiper never dreamed it what be this big but what was only once important to him is now a part of sports Americana.
See next page for No. 11