INDIANAPOLIS – Bears Southeast area scout Sam Summerville was honored by the Fritz Pollard Alliance as the NFC Scout of the Year Thursday at the NFL Combine.
Founded in 2003, the Fritz Pollard Alliance promotes diversity and equality of job opportunity in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of NFL teams. It's named after the first African-American head coach in NFL history; Fritz Pollard coached the Akron Pros in the league's first two years of existence in 1920-21.
Summerville, who has worked for the Bears since 2012, was presented his award at the Fritz Pollard Alliance's annual meeting at the Indianapolis Marriott.
"It's a huge honor," Summerville said. "The history of this organization and the things that they've done for the advancement of African-Americans in the business is unbelievable. Fritz Pollard was the only African-American head coach in the NFL from 1920 up until 1989. So to be honored by an organization named for him means so much to me."
Summerville was introduced at Thursday's event by Bears general manager Ryan Pace. Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were on hand, including several head coaches and general managers. The Bears' contingent also included coach Matt Nagy, director of player personnel Josh Lucas, assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, director of college scouting Mark Sadowski and director of football administration Joey Laine.
"I know this room knows this," Pace said in introducing Summerville. "But these scouts are really the guys behind the scenes, doing the grind and rarely given credit. As I look at our roster, it's made a transformation over the years and Sam Summerville has been a critical part of that transformation for us.
"He covers one of the most important areas for us, the Southeast, so when I think about it, from Eddie Jackson to Roquan Smith to Tarik Cohen, Sam's fingerprints are all over our roster and he deserves a ton of credit. As an organization, we're very proud of Sam and I personally feel very fortunate to work with Sam."
The feeling evidently is mutual.
"For Ryan and the rest of the people at the Bears to give credit to a scout for contributions to the team is unbelievable because a lot of times scouts work in anonymity," Summerville said. "So it's awesome the team has been willing to give some credit for some of the players that I've [scouted]."
In addition to Jackson, Smith and Cohen, other players the Bears have drafted from Summerville's region include outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and nose tackle Eddie Goldman.
Summerville was joined at Thursday's awards ceremony by his wife, Dawn, and his parents, Steve and Fonda.
Before being hired by the Bears, Summerville worked for the Philadelphia Eagles as a pro personnel assistant from 2007-09 and the Cleveland Browns as a player personnel assistant from 2009-12. He attended Jackson State University, where he played linebacker and earned a Bachelor's degree in business administration.
Jackson State, of course, is the college that produced legendary Bears Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton.
"As soon as I got the job, that's the first thing that I thought about was the fact that I'm following in the footsteps of a great Bear and I have big shoes to fill," Summerville said. "I try to do as best I can to honor his memory and try to find some players that are hopefully going to be close to what he was in the future."