NORFOLK, Va. - Former Norfolk State running back Donovan Cotton was reading a book titled "The Draft" during his sophomore season at NSU and a light bulb went off in his head.
"It really detailed a full year of a scout's life and journey, and after I read that book there was no doubt in my mind that's exactly what I want to do," Cotton, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers college scout, said. "Evaluating players, learning how they tick and being part of a staff that ultimately puts a team together."
The journey to becoming a scout wouldn't be so easy, though.
Cotton had no connections within the field of scouting and he asked his NSU running backs coach for help. His coach sat down with him, taking the time to write letters to NFL general managers and directors.
"At the time I didn't know any, or know how to forge a relationship with them, so we just started with letters," Cotton said. "I actually counted because after a while you get so many noes you kinda make it a game. Like, I know there's a yes out there somewhere, right? And so I stopped at 377.
"After two or three years of getting multiple rejection letters, I got a phone call from the Packers for an opportunity for an internship and it kinda went from there."
That internship was the beginning of a career path that's led him to what is now his seventh season as a scout for the Buccaneers, who he'll watch face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
"Truthfully, it was the goal that I had set when I was back there [at Norfolk State], to be a part of a team and a scouting department that is able to build a team that plays in the Super Bowl, and ultimately wins the Super Bowl," Cotton said. "It was the goal, but it's so many things that have happened between now and then, and so many people that helped me get in this spot, that it still feels amazing and almost surreal. You can always write it down and work towards it, but I'd say when it's really here it's still unbelievably exciting."
He gets to experience that excitement in-person at Raymond James Stadium, where the Chiefs and Buccaneers play for a Super Bowl title at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.