After concluding their first search for a new general manager in over a decade, the Broncos have chosen longtime Vikings executive George Paton (pronounced Pay-ton). The first-time GM has more than two decades of experience in the NFL and much more in the game of football overall. To get to know him better, here are five things to know about the Broncos' new general manager.
1. Paton is a former UCLA defensive back and high school quarterback/safety
As a player, Paton matriculated as a two-way player at Loyola High School in Los Angeles. On offense, he was the team's quarterback and helped Loyola reach the California Interscholastic Federation quarterfinals. In 1986, Paton was selected All-Del Ray League at quarterback and was picked as the Loyola Cubs' MVP that season.
But his future in the game would be on the other side of the ball, where he played safety. After high school, Paton didn't wander far, as he opted to attend college at UCLA. There, he played defensive back.
At one point, Paton prepared to face USC and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Junior Seau. Though they both played defense, Paton was responsible for blocking Seau on UCLA punt returns. It was not something he was optimistic about.
"I'm supposed to shield him, block him all the way downfield," Paton later told Jason Cole. "I kind of laughed when they told me that. So the whole time on the bus ride over, this is on my mind.
"We're pulling up to the stadium. We walk by the SC locker room, and I see him out in front with his T-shirt on. It's this cut T-shirt, and you can see how cut he is. I'm just wondering how the hell I'm going to block him."
Seau suffered a shoulder injury during the game and was taken off special teams before he got the chance to take on Paton.
2. Before the NFL, Paton was a high school coach
After college, Paton tried to make good on his pro football dreams and found opportunities abroad on teams in Italy and Austria. But he had already realized in college that his future would not be to play in the NFL, so after his playing career, he turned to coaching.
His time coaching would bring him back to his high school alma mater, where he was head coach of Loyola's sophomore team. Under his leadership, his teams went undefeated in 1995 and 1996 en route to back-to-back league championships.
"He is a competitor through and through," said Chris Rising, who was one of Paton’s teammates at Loyola. "He doesn't give up. His success is all deserved because he has put in the hours to become an expert at what he does.
"No one outworks George Paton."
3. Paton has worked his way up from his start as a scouting intern
It wouldn't be long until Paton made the jump to the NFL. In 1997, he "stumbled upon an entry-level scouting position" and joined the Bears as an intern.
"I was as low as you can get on the totem pole," Paton said in 2018. "I don't even remember what my title was, but I was involved with everything. That first year, I learned more than I have since. A lot of people in that first year don't last, but I enjoyed every minute of it."
The next season, he was promoted to become a pro scout, and then became Chicago's assistant director of pro personnel in 2000.
With the Bears, Paton would work closely with director of pro personnel Rick Spielman, forming a bond that has lasted more than two decades. After Spielman moved on to Miami in 2000 as the Dolphins' vice president of player personnel, he hired Paton to be Miami's director of pro personnel in 2001.
"He's a very smart, young guy with a great work ethic," said Dave Wannstedt, then the Dolphins’ head coach, who had also worked with Paton in Chicago.
Dolphins fans got a glimpse of that work ethic in 2001 when The Palm Beach Post did a story on his preparation for Miami’s season opener against the Titans, who had gone 13-3 the year before.
As Todd Archer reported, Paton's scouting report ran 35 pages and included such minute details as how the kicker liked the laces on the football to be lined up for field goals. On a weekly basis during the season, he served as an advance scout and helped catalogue a laundry list of details beginning three hours before kickoff to help his team the following week.
"Paton's reward comes after a win," Archer wrote. "If Jason Taylor can take a piece of the scouting report and end up with a sack, or if Jay Fiedler knows what a cornerback can or can't do, leading to a touchdown pass, then Paton has done his job."
4. Paton helped Minnesota acquire 22 Pro Bowl players through draft, free agency and trades
In 2007, Paton made his move to Minnesota, reuniting with Spielman, who had been named the Vikings' vice president of player personnel in 2006.
That season started an impressive run in which Paton helped Minnesota acquire 22 Pro Bowl players — 15 through the draft, four as free agent signings, two as college free agent signings and one via trade.
Those 15 drafted players have totaled 33 Pro Bowl selections in their careers. The Vikings' most recent Pro Bowl draft pick is wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who set a new NFL rookie receiving record in 2020 with 1,400 yards.
Two of Minnesota's top pro personnel moves came in 2008 and 2009, when they traded for star pass rusher Jared Allen and Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Those two moves helped the Vikings get to the 2009 NFC Championship.
Eight years later, Paton and the Vikings got back to that point after a magical run with quarterback Case Keenum. But the strength of the team was its defense, which led the NFL in scoring and total defense and had five players selected to the Pro Bowl. The Vikings also saw former CFA Adam Thielen make the league's all-star game for the first time that year.
5. This is Paton's first general manager job
What's most surprising about the decision isn't that Paton got the job; it's that he hadn't been hired as a GM before. But it's not for a lack of opportunities.
"Paton has been selective with GM openings over the years," the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling wrote recently.
According to Goessling, Paton was a finalist for the Rams' job in 2012, turned down four interview requests over the next two years, met with two teams in 2017, declined two more interviews in 2017 and 2019 and the withdrew from consideration for the GM opening in Cleveland in 2020.
Before accepting the job with the Broncos, Paton also interviewed with the Lions.