I consider myself blessed to have met the great Bill Walsh, a man who had a prominent influence on my life.
I was 5 years old the first time I met Walsh, but most of my fondest memories of him came later. Because my father, Dennis Green, was a coach on Walsh's 49ers staff, I got to be a ball boy from 1986 to 1988. When I wasn't playing sports myself, I would spend hours upon hours at training camp and practices. It was an honor to hang around legends such as Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig, Tom Rathman and Mike Wilson.
One of the things I used to love about hanging around the 49ers' facility was the amount of game tape that was available. It was around 1980 that I decided I wanted to work in player personnel. I never wanted to coach. It was evaluating players that I came to love.
In the mid-1980s, my relationship with Walsh began to blossom. I would always spend my free time at training camp and practices watching film. He was always quick to pop his head in when I was watching film to ask me what I liked about different players. He would ask me why a play worked or did not work. At the time, I thought he was just trying to be nice to the son of one of his assistants, but it was more than that. He knew my passion was personnel and was always quick to encourage that passion whenever I was at the 49ers' facility watching tape.
My friendship with Walsh continued even after my father moved on to other coaching positions. When Walsh learned I was evaluating players for a scouting firm, he and team president Carmen Policy called me to fill an area scouting job with the 49ers that had become available. I took that job and was blessed to be able to work for him.
Many remember Walsh as a great head coach and innovator of the West Coast offense, but I also remember Walsh as an incredible personnel executive. He was a man who knew his way around a draft room. In the first six rounds of the 1986 draft, San Francisco selected defensive end Larry Roberts (second), fullback Tom Rathman (third), cornerback Tim McKyer (third), wide receiver John Taylor (third), defensive end Charles Haley (fourth), offensive tackle Steve Wallace (fourth), defensive end Kevin Fagan (fourth) and cornerback Don Griffin (sixth). Each of these players became part of San Francisco's foundation for success.
Walsh was known as the master of maneuvering on draft day -- he did a great job maneuvering back in the draft and acquiring more draft picks. No coach in the modern era had as much talent as Walsh when it came to evaluating and drafting players, whether it was a first-round pick or a late-round pick.
I was fortunate to participate in two drafts with Walsh. I remember once reading a report on a player and pointing out all the things he did not do well, when Walsh looked at me and said, "I don't want to hear what he can't do. Tell me what the player can do to help us." I reviewed my notes and began talking about how the guy was an excellent special-teams player, as well as a smart player who had played all three linebacker positions in college.
The 49ers wound up not drafting the player, but Walsh was a man who always saw the glass half full. He had a great ability to find the best in each player and staff member, and use their strengths for the good of the team. He will go down in NFL history as a legend, and I am fortunate to have considered him a colleague and friend.
Jeremy Green is the director of pro scouting for Scouts Inc.