Letter from George Heddleston
George Heddleston

George Heddleston – Former GM of the Pittsburgh Maulers and Administrative Assistant with the Cowboys and 49ers

To whom it may concern,

Though our life was brief as a professional football team back in the 1980s, the Pittsburgh Maulers of the United States Football League – a team run by me as General Manager – had one MOST VALUABLE EMPLOYEE. That was John Westenhaver, our head scout. Without John’s ability to help us find good football players and fringe players (the latter because we operated on a limited budget), we never could have competed on the professional level. Without the ability to add talent, no team can succeed.

When the USFL folded at the end of its 1985 season, six Maulers’ starting players went on to have long careers in the National Football League. John helped us land each of those players. And he had evaluated each of them as collegians.

John and I have remained friends and in touch over the years.
Players that John signed as free agents or drafted and signed were the members of the team who produced the most on the field during our season of play 1984. I could name names of some of those players, but they likely would not mean anything to most people. However, the way the USFL was constructed, teams had five territorial schools and rights to their players. I still remember John’s report for one of our territorial schools, tiny Kutztown State. Wide Receiver Andre Reed from Kutztown was the only collegian back in 1983 whom John said WE HAD TO HAVE GOING FORWARD.

When our team folded in 1984, John spent two years helping the Buffalo Bills prepare for the NFL Draft. His reputation was that strong. He insisted Reed was a guy the Bills should select in the draft. The Bills knew little about Reed but drafted Andre on John’s recommendation. Reed went off to play 16 years for the Bills, made numerous Pro Bowls, played in four Super Bowls, and was a first-ballot NFL Hall of Fame selection.

I have gone into a lot of detail about one player, Reed because John’s evaluation of him – and so many other prospects – was typically spot on. Also, John was tireless traveling for our team. After many weeks on the road in 1983, I had to insist he travel back home just so he could check on his family again. We were a fledgling franchise, and a few of us had a major job to sign prospects. We signed over 100 free agents that year. And numerous other teams were competing in the free-agent market often trying to sign the same players. John had plenty to do with our free-agent class, which was one of the strongest in the league.

John also spent a brief time on the Dallas Cowboy scouting staff reporting to Gil Brandt. But he decided to come home to West Virginia to help rear his young daughter and had to forego that terrific opportunity with the Cowboys. Brandt, whom I had worked with in Dallas, in the 1970s, always told me how sorry he was not to be able to keep Westenhaver on his staff.
A defensive coach by trade, John has become an excellent QB instructor for High School, College, and Pro prospects, and today still helps prepare many players for that position each year.

With 12 years as a college coach, including four as a head coach, and 10 years as a pro scout, I can say unequivocally that John Westenhaver’s scouting reports are the kind that Pro and College teams value.

George Heddleston – Former GM of the Pittsburgh Maulers and Administrative Assistant with the Cowboys and 49ers