KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the final days before each NFL draft, longtime Green Bay Packers chairman Bob Harlan would make it a point to sit in the draft room and listen to the discussions.
The one voice he wanted to hear was John Dorsey’s.
Dorsey, who will be introduced Monday as the Chiefs new general manager, spent 21 years in the Packers organization as a scout and later director of college scouting under highly regarded general managers Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson. His opinion went a long way in determining the club’s draft choices that produced three Super Bowl teams and two world champions.
“I noticed under both Ron and Ted, John speaks out, he’s well prepared,” said Harlan, now the club’s chairman emeritus after retiring in 2007. “They listened to him. He will say this guy is a prospect, or he’s not. He’s not afraid to put somebody down if other people are praising him and he doesn’t like him. He’ll say why doesn’t like him.
“He’s just as quick to tell everybody about the talents a player has and how he thinks he’ll fit in with Green Bay. He’s patterned himself to build a football team the way they built the Green Bay Packers. He’ll build through the draft. He’ll be very cautious on his free agency ... but he knows talent.”
Dorsey has another characteristic that will be just as important in Kansas City. Though requests to speak to Dorsey were declined by the Chiefs, he’s regarded as a people person, unlike the man he is replacing in Kansas City, the unapproachable Scott Pioli.
“One of the things that’s going to be very appealing in Kansas City is John’s personality,” Harlan said. “He’s very down to earth. The fans will take to him in a hurry. He’s great in the office, he’s great in the locker room.
“His enthusiasm will rub off on everybody.… There’s no arrogance, there’s no ego … I think he’s perfect for a franchise like Kansas City, and I think Kansas City needs some of that right now.”
Dorsey has turned down opportunities to leave Green Bay in the past — other than spending 1999 with Thompson and coach Mike Holmgren in Seattle — and has been a Packer since his playing days as a linebacker during 1984-89.
But Dorsey, 52, worked with new Chiefs coach Andy Reid when Reid was a Packers assistant during 1992-98, and couldn’t pass up this chance.
“He’s a very capable guy who deserved this,” Harlan said. “He called me a couple of weeks ago when this process started, and I told him it’s a great place to go. It’s a great franchise, a wonderful fan base, and he and Andy are so close, they’ll work extremely well together. I think it’s a natural fit.”
And Dorsey’s wife, Patricia is a graduate of Kansas with a law degree from Washburn University and practiced law in Kansas City before moving to Green Bay. She still works from home for the Kansas City-based law firm, Polsinelli-Shugart.
“They’ve got a wonderful family,” Harlan said, “and are huge KU basketball fans, I can tell you that.”
While a two-time Yankee Conference Defensive Player of the Year and Division I-AA all-America linebacker at the University of Connecticut in 1983, Dorsey envisioned a career as a trader on Wall Street before he was taken in the fourth-round of the 1984 draft by the Packers.
Dorsey was an overachieving, special teams captain for the Packers, leading the club in special teams tackles three times and playing in 76 consecutive games before suffering a freak knee injury in pregame warmups before the 1989 season opener.
“I guess you could call him a robust player,” Harlan said. “He was a hard-charger. I don’t know that he had the greatest talent the world, but he worked extremely hard, played extremely hard. He was on some bad Packers teams in the ‘80s. We were not a good football team. It was not an easy team to play for. “
Once his career was over, instead of making investments in the stock market, Dorsey began sizing up NFL futures by going into scouting for the Packers.
"After my playing days, I wanted to stay involved with football,” Dorsey told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel a few years ago. “I could have gone the coaching route, but there is something about scouting and the college game, the college environment that is unique and enjoyable to me. It’s fun."
Dorsey spent 1991-97 as a college scout, then 1997-98 as the Packers director of college scouting; a year at Seattl e as director of player personnel; followed by stints as director of college scouting for the Packers during 2000-11 before his promotion as director of football operations in 2012.
Dorsey first approached then-general manager Tom Braatz in the fall of 1989 about a scouting position.
"I went to Tom Braatz and said, ‘I notice your scouts are 55-60 years old … it’s time for some new blood,’ ” Dorsey said. “He really tried to discourage me from getting into it. He said to come back in May after the draft and that we would talk some more if I was still interested."
Dorsey returned and the job unsung job of scouting players on college campuses and evaluating them on film was his. For the next 22 years.
“He’s got a great relationship with the college coaches around the country,” Harlan said. “People like to see John Dorsey arrive on their campus.”
Dorsey applied the same work ethic to scouting and evaluating talent as he did as a player.
"I always say if you’re not out there working, someone else is," Dorsey said. "You have to put in the time to find the players. You have to personally visit the schools and build relationships."
When Wolf was hired as the new general manager in 1991, Dorsey wondered about his future. He got the answer while on a scouting trip.
“I was at Rutgers scouting,” Dorsey told the Milwaukee paper, “and I got a call from Ron saying, ‘Can you fly back here and show me how to work this computer?’ ”
Dorsey credits his principles of drafting and building a team to what he learned from Wolf and Thompson, including the philosophy of acquiring value in the draft. Dorsey has said the Packers have always been committed to drafting the best available player.
“Best player available. We live it,” Dorsey told the Packers’ web site before the 2011 draft. “Our job is to find the best player we can possibly find to improve our roster. If we can make our roster as competitive as we possibly can, that’s all you can do. We’ve always been taught to stay true to the board, whatever you do, and we stay true to the board.”
That’s what happened in 2005 when quarterback Aaron Rodgers slid to the 25th spot because so many teams drafting ahead of the Packers in the first round did not see the position as one of need, including the Chiefs ,who took linebacker Derrick Johnson with the 15th pick. At the time, Packers legend and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre was coming off his 13th season, but Green Bay kept to their board and drafted Rodgers.
Rodgers understudied Favre for three years before taking over in 2008 and led the Packers to a Super Bowl title following the 2010 season and was league MVP in 2011.
Aside from a player’s height, weight, speed and strength, Dorsey said he looks at five intangibles in a player.
“One, are they a good guy? Two, do they work at their craft? Three, do they love football? Four, are they going to be good in the locker room? And five, would you like to have them as your neighbor?” Dorsey said.
Dorsey also told the Journal-Sentinel that he strongly considers things such as societal factors in figuring out a player.
"Alcoholism, bipolar depression, learning disabilities, ADHD. Each one of those specific types of disabilities will carry over to a person," Dorsey said. "I’m sure there’s a certain percentage of players that have varying degrees of these types of things. We’ve probably found one of the best tests in terms of helping us not to specifically label somebody but at least to throw up a flag to do deeper study in case it does come up.
"We turn rocks over. But tests alone are not the sole determining factor of a person, now, because I can sit down with a person for 10 minutes and kind of walk away and tell you exactly what he’s all about."
All of those factors will be taken into consideration for the Chiefs, who have the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.
“You have the No. 1 draft choice,” Harlan said of the Chiefs. “They can make some hay this year with what they’ve got. I don’t think John feels they’re far way. You’ve got some Pro Bowlers … there’s some talent there. You’re picking up a head coach and personnel man with a lot of experience. That team isn’t very far away. I didn’t think we were in 1991 when I hired Ron Wolf.
“John’s the same age Ron Wolf was when I hired Ron in 1991 … it seems to me it’s a great time for someone to come in and take over a ball club. “
In fact, Harlan points out, in the two decades of the 1970s and 1980s, before Wolf was hired, the Packers had four winning teams and made two playoff appearances. In the last 21 years, under Wolf and Thompson as general manager, the Packers have had 17 winning seasons, made 15 playoff appearances and won two Super Bowls.
“Those,” Harlan said, “are the gentlemen (Dorsey) has learned under.”