Growing up, Shawn’s dream was to scout in the NFL. Every year, he and his dad would go to the NFL draft in New York. In 2006, they were coming home from the draft and he said to his dad, “I think I can scout like these people on TV who talk about the players.” His dad replied, “Do you think you could start a website and see what happens?” And that’s how it all began.
Shawn transferred to Minnehaha Academy midway through his sophomore year and it immediately reshaped the way he went about his daily life. As soon as he got to MA, he saw how many resources were available to him: he could play multiple sports like football and lacrosse, and also participate in Jazz Band. At his previous public school, he had to choose one or the other. “At MA, they celebrated my involvement in many things. Teachers at MA had the mindset to go over and above and gave such great support. The atmosphere was incredibly welcoming. It was easy for me to prosper.”
“The camaraderie at MA was absolutely special.” Shawn was not a basketball player, but Coach J. (Lance Johnson) was still fully supportive of him. When LSU was playing Kentucky, Shawn told Coach J that he thought Kentucky was going to win for the first time in 15 years. Lance told him, “If that happens, I’ll wear your Kentucky jersey to school the next day.” It did happen, and Lance wore Shawn’s jersey the whole next day at school. Mr. Scholl was his homeroom teacher and also coached football. “When I was in the newspaper, Mr. Scholl posted my stories on the board in his room. It was always motivation to succeed. I had really never received that type of support anywhere else in my life until I came to Minnehaha.”
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
Within 9 months of being at MA, Shawn started his first company, the website mentioned above, called Draft Headquarters. That took him onto a different path than he was ever expecting his life to go. He traveled around the country and scouted every single one of the 255 NFL players who were drafted into the NFL from 2007-2018. His senior year, he took a week off school and went to Indianapolis to work for the NFL Network as a production intern. He also wrote 2 books, “Shawn Zobel’s 2007 and 2008 Draft Preview,” while he was at MA—both were about the NFL players that were drafted by the teams. He distributed the books to the NFL teams and sold them digitally. A highlight for him was when the MA librarian, Bonnie Morris, allowed him to give a 15-20 minute presentation to the whole school about his books, and he personally signed them afterwards in the library.
The NFL and Beyond
Throughout college at the University of St. Thomas, Shawn continued to run his business. He also worked for the Gopher football team, and after he graduated, did some part-time work for the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams. In addition, he coached high school football in Eden Prairie. A year later, he went to work in the NFL league office and shut down Draft Headquarters for good.
After his stint in the NFL, he realized that he wanted to do something different. In 2015 he started his second company, Zobel Sports Consulting, working for agents, financial advisors, and for a company in Bloomington, MN who wanted to bring professional rugby to the NFL. “It was a lot of fun but a cut-throat world to be living in: it exposed me to everything the NFL is, the good and the bad that can come with working in that industry. Eventually, in 2017, I signed 13 players and one was a first-round pick--college kids going into the NFL.”
Shawn got married, bought a house, and decided he wanted to see what else was out there, outside of sports. He got a call from someone who was associated with the MN Chamber of Commerce and they asked him, “Can you scout companies the same way you scout football players?” He could, and in 10 months, he brought in about 55 companies.
“The school played a major role in my development – personally, professionally, spiritually, really across the board—with the foundation that allowed me to become the person that I wanted to be.”