It’s more than just a game

From ‘Mad­den’ video to scout for Dol­phins, is fi­nally do­ing what he loves

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS - STEVE SIM­MONS

Chris Ros­setti was in the li­brary at the Univer­sity of Guelph, par­tially study­ing, his mind drift­ing as it al­ways did to his favourite sub­ject, his favourite dream: How was he go­ing to get a job in pro­fes­sional sports?

He was play­ing quar­ter­back for Guelph back in 2011, know­ing that wasn’t go­ing to take him to the next level. He was a huge high school star at St. Michael’s Col­lege. The game con­sumed him, as it con­sumes so many peo­ple.

“I was al­ways play­ing Mad­den,” Ros­setti, the young pro scout with the Mi­ami Dol­phins, said of the wildly pop­u­lar video game. “I was al­ways fas­ci­nated with play­ers and per­son­nel and ros­ters and play­ing NCAA video games. I’d in­put all the ros­ter names, make my own teams, just spend a lot of time do­ing that. Play­ing Mad­den, chang­ing ros­ters, sim­u­lat­ing games. That was me.”

Near the end of Ros­set- Mis­sis­sauga’s Chris Ros­setti al­ways wanted to work on the per­son­nel side of pro foot­ball. The Ar­gos gave him his first chance as an in­tern be­fore he joined the Mi­ami Dol­phins and worked his way up to be­ing a pro scout. ti’s ju­nior year at Guelph, at the an­nual Gryphons Foot­ball Gala Din­ner, the guest speaker hap­pened to be Thomas Dim­itroff, the Guelph alum­nus and Mike O’Shea’s old team­mate. He is, and was back then, the gen­eral man­ager of the At­lanta Fal­cons.

Ros­setti lis­tened to Dim­itroff speak, was en­thralled by him, and when the night ended, he seized an op­por­tu­nity.

“I saw him off to the side. I had about three min­utes, I fig­ured,” Ros­setti said. “I went up, in­tro­duced my­self, told him I was friends with Dy­lan (his nephew, then a re­ceiver at Guelph). He was re­ally easy to talk to and down to earth. I asked: How do I get into the busi­ness of scout­ing? He spoke highly of the CFL and his start­ing-out there. He told me to call his as­sis­tant and we could fur­ther dis­cuss this.”

Ros­setti had al­ready worked as an in­tern for the Toronto Arg­onauts in me­dia re­la­tions the sum­mer be­fore. He had emailed ev­ery team in the CFL look­ing for an in­tern­ship. Eric Holmes, then with the Ar­gos, was the only one to re­spond.

Af­ter his con­ver­sa­tion with Dim­itroff, he reached out to Jim Barker, who was then GM of the Ar­gos. Ros­setti told him he wanted to work in the scout­ing depart­ment.

“I was will­ing to work for free,” he said. “I was will­ing to do any­thing.

“I was in the li­brary when Barker first called me. He was pretty clear about things. He said: ‘It’s not go­ing to be easy, its go­ing to be a lot of work, a lot of low, tough jobs, long hours, grunt work, you’re go­ing to miss the cot­tage and I’m not go­ing to pay you any­thing.’

“I said: ‘Let’s do it.’ I needed a way in. This was the way.”

It wasn’t a mag­i­cal be­gin­ning. The Ar­gos’ trailer of­fice at Erindale Col­lege had just burned down. There was ba­si­cally no front of­fice to work in.

“I shared a desk in the locker room with (Ar­gos long­time ther­a­pist) Danny Webb,” Ros­setti said. “My first job was to go through all the DVDs that had been mailed to the team and see if there was any­one with any ta­lent. I had no idea what I was do­ing, but I kept watch­ing the film, and kept look­ing for things, and Jim was re­ally good at spend­ing time with me, help­ing me and teach­ing me.

“Jim told me the scout­ing part is easy. He said: ‘The thing you have, the mem­ory, the re­call, the de­tails, that is go­ing to set you apart.’ He was teach­ing me. (For­mer Ar­gos coach) Chris Jones took the time to teach me. He didn’t have to do that. We’d watch play­ers, I’d ask ques­tions. The more you watch, the more you see things, the quicker you pick it up.”

The world opened up for Ros­setti when the Ar­gos sent him to NFL camps dur­ing his first train­ing-camp pe­riod. It was at Ar­gos camp, not just NFL camps, where NFL scouts would of­ten ap­pear. It was at col­lege all-star games like the Se­nior Bowl and the East­West Shrine Game where Ros- setti started to make friends and con­tacts and get no­ticed. He was in his 20s, younger than most, but it wasn’t just his youth that stood out.

When he went to the Fal­cons camp, Dim­itroff took re­ally good care of him. He brought him to the front of­fice. He ex­plained their tech­nol­ogy, how their data­base worked, ex­plained how they op­er­ated. It was a real eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Ros­setti, who was still fo­cussed on the Ar­gos.

The first NFL team to con­tact Ros­setti, who had ad­vanced from in­tern to un­paid scout to Ar­gos scout, was the Hous­ton Tex­ans in 2014. He was 24 at the time. They brought him down for an in­ter­view — the Ar­gos were aware of it — but he didn’t get the job.

Barker was aware enough of the ris­ing Ros­setti to pro­mote him to di­rec­tor of player per­son­nel, an un­usual ap­point­ment con­sid­er­ing Ros­setti’s youth.

“I was dis­ap­pointed I didn’t get the (Hous­ton) job but Jim gave me a ton of re­spon­si­bil­ity af­ter that,” Ros­setti said. “I had to sign the Amer­i­cans, deal with agents, went on the road, took part in Amer­i­can scout­ing, dealt with the neg list.”

The next team to call was the Kansas City Chiefs. They wanted Ros­setti in for an in­ter­view. Small world, the NFL. When word some­how leaked that he was head­ing to K.C., the Mi­ami Dol­phins called. Not even a day later, the New York Jets called. Sud­denly, Ros­setti’s world was get­ting won­der­ful and com­pli­cated, all at once.

“I had an eight-hour in­ter­view with the Jets and they had a pro scout job open,” he said. “They told me they couldn’t of­fer it to me that day be­cause the boss wasn’t there and had to meet him first. The next day, I flew to Mi­ami.”

The Dol­phins of­fered him an as­sis­tant’s job in the player per­son­nel depart­ment. The job he thought he could get with the Jets was for a higher po­si­tion, prob­a­bly more money. The dif­fi­culty then: Loy­alty to the Ar­gos; a def­i­nite of­fer from the Dol­phins; a pos­si­ble of­fer of an even bet­ter po­si­tion from the Jets.

“Jim wanted to keep me,” Ros­setti said. “But I never re­ally con­sid­ered stay­ing in Toronto. I’ve al­ways been a foot­ball junkie, re­ally pas­sion­ate about the CFL, re­ally pas­sion­ate about the NFL, but this was an op­por­tu­nity I couldn’t turn down.”

There are thou­sands of

Dol­phins scout

PHOTO SUP­PLIED BY CHRIS ROS­SETTI

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