Skip to main content

Nine first-time attendees to know at fourth annual Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum 

Two of my favorite events on the NFL calendar are right around the corner: the fourth annual Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum and the seventh annual Quarterback Coaching Summit, which will take place June 17-18 in Inglewood, California.

Executives and coaches are interacting throughout the year -- in person at the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine -- but next week's symposium offers them a more focused environment that is solely dedicated to professional development and networking. During the forum, participants will learn what a typical calendar year looks like from a general manager's point of view, including tutorials on how to build a staff, time management, their role within the team and balancing their personal lives. Participants in the coaching summit will gain insights directly from QB coaches, offensive coordinators, head coaches and team executives.

Of course, ideas are rarely brand new, rather an evolution of something. Clinics -- such as the Gilman Coaching Clinics, Glazier Coaching Clinics and Jake Gaither Clinics -- have historically been an instrumental part of learning the game of football. Gaither's clinics were catalysts to the dynasty he created at Florida A&M, as well as elevating Black coaches. Former NFL coach Bill Parcells once told me that when he was an assistant coach at Florida State in the 1970s, he attended the Jake Gaither Clinics and cultivated a relationship with the famous coach, mentioning it was one of the best and most productive clinics he attended. The NFL's Ozzie Newsome GM Forum and QB Coaching Clinic were derived from the idea of these old-school clinics, with an emphasis on elevating minority executives and coaches.

It's encouraging to see how far these events have come in less than a decade, with eight previous participants earning positions as head coaches or general managers. As a founding member of the Bill Walsh Diversity Council -- which began roughly three decades ago in an effort to discuss issues of equity and to find solutions to making coaching and NFL front offices more inclusive -- one of the conversations that was constantly brought up was how few minority quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators were in the league. Groundbreaking NFL quarterbacks Doug Williams and Shack Harris were driving forces behind those conversations, and that is essentially where the QB Coaching Summit was born. Williams and Harris went on to become executives in the league, leading to discussions about how the NFL also lacked minority general managers. Those talks turned into the GM Forum, where executives could learn and network with owners and other league officials. It was named after former Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who had a Canton-worthy career as a general manager after his Hall of Fame career as a player (Class of 1999). There is no better person to represent this forum than Ozzie because of what he's accomplished and what he stands for.

This event is so beneficial to all who are part of it, myself included. After attending each year, I am routinely motivated to maintain relationships I have built. The amount of mentor/mentee relationships that are created during the forum is great, and they can really help elevate participants in their professional journeys.

There's a long list of presenters and participants who will be in attendance next week. As a participant at both events, I am eager to meet and learn more about this year's attendees. Below is a list of first-time attendees from the GM Forum, in alphabetical order, whom the football world could come to know very well down the line thanks to symposiums like this one.

Adam Al-Khayyal, Cleveland Browns: Al-Khayyal is entering his third year as director of pro scouting. He joined the organization in 2015, initially in football administration and player personnel before being promoted to a college scout and then assistant director of pro scouting.

Donovan Cotton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Promoted in May, Cotton enters his 11th season with the Bucs and first as the team's assistant director of pro scouting. Prior to joining Tampa Bay, he worked as a player personnel scouting intern with the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 and a training camp scouting intern with the Green Bay Packers in 2011.

Regis Eller, Jacksonville Jaguars: Eller enters his fourth season with the Jaguars and his second as the team's director of player personnel. He previously worked for the Chargers as the assistant director of pro scouting (2016-2021), an area scout (2011-15) and an administrative assistant in the coaching department (2008-2010).

AJ Highsmith, Tennessee Titans: Highsmith was hired as the Titans' director of scouting in May. He also spent time with the Bills (2019-2023) and 49ers for five years before that, where he worked with current Titans GM Ran Carthon.

John Park, Dallas Cowboys: Park enters his second season as the Cowboys' director of strategic football operations. He spent seven years with the Indianapolis Colts in various positions: director of football research (2021-22), manager of football research and strategy (2017-2020) and football research/analytics (2016). Prior to making the jump to the NFL, Park worked in player development for the Rutgers football team for two years.

Roman Phifer, Denver Broncos: Phifer has more than two decades of NFL experience as a coach/scout/executive and a three-time Super Bowl-champion linebacker. I spent five seasons with Phifer when he was a player -- one season with the New York Jets (1999) and four seasons in New England (2000-04), where he helped us change the culture and win three titles. He was a quiet leader, respected by the locker room because of the consistent way he went about his business. Phifer has held the role of senior personnel executive for the Broncos since 2021 and is heavily involved in both pro and college scouting. Throughout the years, he has held multiple positions, including area scout for the Detroit Lions (2018-2020), director of player development at UCLA (2016-17) and assistant linebackers coach for the Broncos (2009-2010).

Deon Randall, Denver Broncos: Randall is a southwest area scout for Denver, where he has been working in the player personnel department since 2017.

Cole Spencer, Carolina Panthers: Spencer enters his fourth season with the Panthers and second as director of player personnel after initially joining the team as the director of college scouting. Prior to that, Spencer spent 11 seasons (2010-2020) with Washington as a national scout, area scout and scouting assistant.

Ashton Washington, Chicago Bears: She joined the organization in 2021, becoming the Bears' first full-time female scout. Prior to working in the NFL, she was the director of recruiting operations at Texas Tech and an assistant coach/director of high school relations at the University of Illinois, where she worked for coach Lovie Smith. I was first connected with Washington while she was at Illinois, and I quickly discovered why she is so widely respected, as she is organized, detail-oriented and very driven. Bears GM Ryan Poles echoed my thoughts when he recently told me, "She is able to handle a high volume of work while maintaining quality."

Related Content