NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Long-time Titans scout C.O. Brocato was as opinionated as he was popular.
Those who knew him best recalled him doing his reports on players in pen, not pencil, because he was so sure of himself, and his work. No one was going to change his mind.
A look back at long-time Titans scout C.O. Brocato, who passed away at the age of 85.
And for over 40 seasons, Brocato helped make the Oilers/Titans better because of his keen eye for talent. His fingerprints are all over the organization. With his own personal touch, Brocato also made a big impact on those who crossed his path along the way.
On Tuesday, the legendary scout passed away after a bout with cancer. The 85-year old Brocato had spent 40 years with the organization as a scout, originally joining the franchise in 1975. He was a member of the organization for 599 games and was placed on the preliminary list of nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on four occasions (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2012).
"It is a sad day for our organization, as we have lost a true icon and legend in C.O. Brocato,'' Titans Executive Vice President and General Manager Ruston Webster said. "He left his imprint on everyone he met with his spirit, love of life, and devotion to both the Tennessee Titans organization and the game of football. So many of us have learned so much from him, and his lessons and principles will live on. C.O.'s dedication, eye for talent, knowledge of the game and ability to build relationships set him apart in the scouting profession, and we will never forget his impact on our organization. We send our thoughts and prayers to his daughter, Becky, and the rest of his family during this difficult time."
Blake Beddingfield, director of college scouting for the Titans, remembered Brocato as a "man of the people."
On Tuesday morning, Beddingfield had already heard from secretaries, assistant coaches and school administrators about Brocato, the popular scout "who got to know everybody." Webster, who knew Brocato for 25 years, received emails from fellow general managers expressing their condolences.
"I've been to schools with him, and when you go to the schools with C.O. you went by and saw all his friends,'' Beddingfield said. "Well, all his friends were the trainers, the equipment guys. Of course he was friends with all the coaches, but he was close with everyone, from the maintenance guy who opened the door to the person who made the coffee. He was a people person."
This past April, the organization announced that the draft room at Saint Thomas Sports Park was named the "C.O. Brocato Draft Room."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
"I didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time around C.O.,'' said Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, who joined the organization in January of 2014. "But to me a great indicator of a person's character is the regard in which others hold him. C.O. was loved and respected by everyone here, and that says a lot to be about him. I really enjoyed my time with him.
"Everybody loved the man and I've heard legendary stories about him."
Brocato scouted players from former Houston Oilers greats Earl Campbell to Mike Munchak to Bruce Matthews. He was involved in the scouting of former Titans quarterback Steve McNair as well. Current safety Michael Griffin is one of the players on the current roster Brocato scouted.
"Earl was probably his favorite,'' Beddingfield said. "He ran a like a 4.65 or 4.7, and his favorite comment was 'Earl ran as fast as he needed to run. You'd better take him.'
"Where his legacy will live on is there is not a scout on the road that did not come in contact with either C.O.'s teachings, or somebody that C.O. taught and they're now teaching other guys. He taught guys in this organization how to do things the 'Titan way.' The Titans way, the Oiler way, that's what he would call it.
"And he did things the right way."
Gil Brandt, Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988, became friends with Brocato over 45 years ago.
The two men would meet and ride together on some trips. They spent countless hours together. Brandt said Brocato was proud of his ability to grow tomatoes, and the Chevrolet he retooled. Brocato renamed the car, complete with a Titans logo on the side, "Old Blue."
He was known for being a great cook, and for having a well-manicured lawn. Each year during the week of the draft, Brocato would make his famous Italian feast, complete with homemade meatballs, chicken parmesan and garlic bread, for every employee in the building.
But his real passion was football, Brandt said. He was close friends with former University of Texas coach Mack Brown. Beddingfield recalled a time with Brocato called Alabama coach Nick Saban and had six tickets for a hotly-contested game against LSU within minutes when scalpers were paying $1,000 per seat. The players he scouted would oftentimes thank him many years later, after they'd reached success in the NFL.
"C.O. was a special person, in that he did more for relations between colleges and the NFL than anyone,'' Brandt said. "He was a good evaluator, was very thorough, and more than anything he was loyal to Mr. (Bud) Adams and the Oilers and Titans organization. He loved that organization and loved being a part of it.
"But we lost someone who was not only a great evaluator who helped teams be successful, but also a great humanitarian and a person who built a bridge of relationships between colleges and the NFL."
Floyd Reese, general manager of the Titans from 1994-2006, said Brocato "took great pride in being a scout."
Brocato ran many pro days, and had a chair set up for him at the end of the 40. When Brocato was on hand, the events would start 10 minutes early. Webster noted many of the drills used at the combine were put in place because of Brocato's vision.
"He was the ultimate scout, really,'' Reese said. "He probably mentored half of the scouts you see running around the league now. It was very important to him at a time when scouts might come and go a little bit. If you couldn't get a job as an assistant coach, maybe you would scout a while, and then do something else. He wanted to be a scout. He was good at being a scout and it was very important that it be done the right way, in a professional manner with a lot of integrity."
Reese said Brocato never hesitated to offer strong opinions on players. Reese didn't take Brocato's advice one time despite him insisting over and over again. And he never heard the end of it.
The player: Wes Welker.
"He begged me. He begged me,'' Reese recalled. "He begged me to sign Wes Welker. At that point and time we were spending so much time trying to get bigger receivers and bigger corners. Everyone thought that was important, to get the Tyrone Calico-type guys.
"It's what everybody wanted. I kept telling C.O., this guy is (too short) and he was like, 'I don't care. You have to sign him.' He was on me for days."
Welker went undrafted in 2004. In 11 NFL seasons he has 890 career catches, 9,822 receiving yards and 50 touchdowns in his career while playing with the Chargers, Dolphins, Patriots and Broncos. He has been named to five Pro Bowls.
"Every time I saw him, he would bring it up,'' Reese said. "Hey, did you see where Welker is going to the Pro Bowl? Did you see where Welker did this or that? He never let me forget about that one."
Brocato recently served as National Supervisor of College Scouting for the organization, where was responsible for scouting Texas and Louisiana. He spent recent years cross-checking all college talent west of the Mississippi. Prior to that, he spent five seasons as the team's National Coordinator of College Scouting and was primarily responsible for assessing talent in the Central United States.
Brocato re-joined the Titans in 1981 for his second tour of duty with the club as a scout. Brocato was placed on the preliminary list of nominees of former players, coaches and contributors for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame four times (2012, 2008, 2007 and 2005).
Brocato was presented a game ball from Titans owner K.S. "Bud" Adams, Jr. at halftime of the Titans/Bengals game in 2004 in honor of his 30 years of service to the team. Brocato was inducted into The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame of the S.M. McNaughton Chapter of North Louisiana in 2002, being recognized for outstanding contribution to amateur athletic football in North Louisiana.
"I'm deeply saddened to learn of the passing of C.O. Brocato, a friend to me and to so many in our business,'' said former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, now with the Rams. "I knew C.O. for more than 20 years and always loved an opportunity to talk football with him. He was an extremely loyal man, and there are a lot of scouts and coaches in our game that owe great deal of gratitude to C.O. for the way he helped them and shaped their careers. Without a doubt, C.O. is one of the best scouts our game has ever known, and he'll be deeply missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the Brocato family."
Brocato also was recently named one of the NFL's top 10 scouts in a newspaper poll of league general managers. Following his graduation from Baylor University, where he played football, Brocato was the head football coach at Jesuit High School in North Louisiana from 1958-67. He capped his tenure by earning Coach of the Year honors in 1967 when he led his school to a perfect 13-0 record in AA play.
In 1968, he assumed the title of Defensive Coordinator at Northern Arizona, remaining at the Flagstaff school for three seasons. From 1971-74, he held a similar post at Texas-Arlington before joining the Oilers in a scouting capacity from 1974-76. From 1977-81, Brocato served as a scout for the United States Scouting Combine.
Brocato loved being a part of the draft. In more recent years, he watched practices in a golf cart at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
"He was always my guy. I always felt like he had my back,'' Griffin said. "He was always pulling me aside to give me coaching points. He was always the guy that pulled me to the side and said something.
"I know he saw a lot of players over the years. You just kind of felt like he was in a league of his own."
Brocato will be missed, his friends said.
But he won't be forgotten.
"I think his handprints are all over the National Football League, to the drills he came up with that we run at the combine every year to the way he went about scouting and trained others to be a scout,'' Webster said. "He is a person that made the sport of football and scouting and the NFL better because he was a part of it."
"I always enjoyed being with him, and I enjoyed being with him because I admired his work habits,'' Brandt said. "If you got somewhere at 7 a.m., he would already be there. And he was very good at his job. He was very thorough and he was a great evaluator.
"But the thing I thing I'll remember most about C.O. is how well-liked he was by everybody. I don't know of anybody who didn't like. He made his mark not only on the game, but on that organization and on everyone he came across. He was a special man."