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Fly Like An Eagle - Howie Roseman
11/01/2011 - By Teja Anderson
Photo: McKay Imaging (mckayimaging.com)
Philadelphia Eagles General Manager is Flying High
When you ask many 10-year-old boys what they want to be when they grow up you are bound to get a lot of police officers, doctors, firefighters and professional athletes - although not many of those boys actually become that when they reach adulthood. But imagine knowing at that age that you wanted to be an NFL team’s general manager, a job so unique that there are only 32 people in the world who fill that position. Howie Roseman knew from a very young age that that is exactly what he wanted to be. And not only did he become the general manager for the Philadelphia Eagles in January of last year but, at age 36, he is currently the youngest GM in the NFL.
Although Howie was born in Brooklyn, New York, the Rosemans moved to Marlboro, N.J. when he was four and he lived there until he left for college.Although the younger Howie was more taken with sports than academics in his early years, finding he had too much energy to be trapped in the conventional settings of a classroom, he persevered and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and then a professional doctorate (JD) from the prestigious Fordham Law School in Manhattan.
In 2000 Howie commuted to Philadelphia and started working for the Eagles as a salary cap/staff council where he quickly moved up the ladder to director of football administration and then vice president of administration. After two seasons as the Eagles vice president of player personnel he procured his dream job as general manager.
Howie’s parents and step parents still live in Marlboro as does his only sister, Jennifer (Levine), and he comes home to visit them several times a year. Living In Western Monmouth was delighted to talk with Howie about his remarkable story on one of those visits.
HR: Yes, that’s it, it was like Mayberry. The schools were great, the sports were great, and it was just an easy and fun place to grow up.
LIWM: Which elementary school did you attend?
HR: Marlboro Elementary, then Marlboro Middle School and then Marlboro High School.
LIWM: Did you play any sports; football?
HR: I did not play football, except in my backyard. I was not allowed to play. I was 125 lbs. when I was a senior. I begged to play and my Mom would not sign the permission slip - probably rightfully so because I was only 115-120 lbs. when I was a junior. But I wrestled. When I was smaller I played soccer and baseball and all that stuff.
LIWM: But you liked to watch football right? It was your passion?
HR: Yes, from a very young age I was obsessed with football. I was obsessed with everything about it. I used to wait for my friends to come home from football practice to play another game of football with me. I played in any pick up games in the neighborhood I could and I loved everything about the game. I just wasn’t big enough to do it.
LIWM: Which national teams did you follow and how obsessed were you? Did you have sports posters all over your walls?
HR: I was a Nets and Jets fan. Now that I am with the Eagles it’s kind of an easy transition. Yes, I did have a lot of football paraphernalia.We had season tickets in the upper deck to the Jets at Giant Stadium and I would watch every game with my jersey and my football by myself because no one was that interested in football in my family.
LIWM: So no one was really pushing you in this direction?
HR: Not at all. I remember when I was five years old, maybe six, and the Jets were playing a game and I was watching it on TV by myself. I was just transfixed and it never stopped from then on. It was kind of a unique situation because usually it’s the family that gets the kids into a team or sport. For example, my kids will be force-fed this just because they are going to be so over-exposed to it.
LIWM: You have three children under the age of five?
HR: Yes, Jake is almost five, Emma is almost three and Tyler is six months.
LIWM: Wow, that’s a handful right now for you parents. How did you meet your wife Mindy?
HR: She was friends with my cousin and my cousin thought that we needed to meet each other.We went on a blind date in New York City in 2002. She is from Cleveland.
LIWM: Cleveland, Ohio? So is she a Browns fan?
HR: [Not missing a beat] She’s an Eagles fan.
LIWM: [Laughing] Okay, so is she as big a football fanatic as you are?
HR: She grew up in a family with three brothers and one sister and a father who loved football. They went to every Browns home game. Her whole life was going to sporting events and being around it. I remember when I met her I asked her; “Do you like football?” and her answer was “What else is there to do on a Sunday but drink beer and watch games?”
LIWM: Right answer.
HR: Right answer; she’s no dummy.
LIWM: So you knew at this very young age that you loved football, but you actually pinpointed it to wanting to be a general manager of an NFL football team. How did you come to be so specific? Why not an owner or a player or coach?
HR: [Chuckles] I have a story that kind of relays that. At that age, I would read every story and buy every magazine and watch everything that I could about football. To be up to date during draft time I would have my own drafts of who I would pick if I was the general manager. I think there was always something about building the team that appealed to me. There was even a time before I went to college that I think I did want to possibly coach - but I love the building aspect of the team, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. When I was growing up I remember watching the Mets when Frank Cashen was GM and they won the 1986 World Series. He would always make these trades and I was just enamored with reading the details of those trades. The Jets had a general manager whose name was Dick Steinberg. I loved reading about his research into players. I found it all very interesting and I had this huge passion for football - probably bordering on an obsession. I was with my family on a plane to Florida when I was about 6 or 7 to visit my grandparents and I was wearing a Yankee’s hat.
LIWM: Really? I thought you were a Mets fan…
HR: Yes, it is kind of ironic but I think in the beginning I liked both the teams.Anyhow, I feel this pull on my hat because we were seated right next to the bathroom and this man asked me if I was a Yankee fan. I told him I was but probably a much bigger Mets fan.And he said, “Oh, that’s too bad. My son played for the Yankees.” It turned out his son was John Elway! So I said, “Your son isn’t a baseball player. He’s football player, he’s a quarterback!”
The man turns to my mom and says, “Listen, I’m on a recruiting trip to Florida, I have two hours and a seat right next to me and I’m only two rows up. If he’s not doing anything I’ll talk to him, have a conversation.” When we got off the plane he handed my mom a business card and said, “My son’s in the NFL and I’ve never met someone his age who is so passionate and knows so much about football. I don’t care if he can’t play. You make sure that you contact me when he graduates high school.”
LIWM: That is an amazing story. Did you contact him when you got out of high school? Did you ever see him again?
HR: No, he got out of that job and my mom didn’t call him either. He passed away about a year after I got into the NFL and I sent his wife a letter and told her that he had been my inspiration to keep following my heart because of what he said, that he believed I could do what I knew I could do. And recently, just this year, his son John (Elway) became the general manager of the Denver Broncos and I saw him at a press meeting. I told him the story and what a great guy his dad was. As a very young kid I had found someone who was in this role that I felt believed in me and I held onto that story for a long time. It kind of got me through the stacks of rejection letters.
LIWM: There were a lot of rejection letters at first?
HR: I started sending out letters and cold calling while I was still in college, looking for internships, and I just got stacks of rejection letters. Right before I graduated college, I had been continuing to call the Jets because that’s where I really thought I wanted to be at the time. I got a call back from the guy who is now the general manager of the Jets, Mike Tannenbaum, who at that time was doing their salary cap. He said, “Listen, I have a ton of letters from you. I can appreciate your determination. I don’t have a job for you but, I have five minutes to answer any questions.” Basically what he told me was that salary caps had just started, a lot of people weren’t experts in it and, based on my background that would be my best opportunity to get in the league. This luckily coincided with my plan to go to grad school and to go to law school. I went to law school and continued to make phone calls and write letters looking for an opportunity, trying to make contact with people.
LIWM: Did you start to get some positive feedback now that you had found a niche?
HR: No, still stacks of rejection letters. Finally, in my second year of law school, I got a letter from the Eagles saying that they didn’t have any opportunities at that time but that I could keep in touch with them. To me that was like a job offer! I tried to find someone in the front office there that I could have a relationship with that could help me get in. Joe Banner, who is part of our team, had an assistant who would take my calls and talk to me. One day I asked her why she was helping me. She didn’t even know me! She said, “I just have a feeling you will be good.” This went on during my last year of law school. I was about to start studying for the bar when I got a call from the Jets.
LIWM: Wow, just what you had been waiting and hoping for.
HR: Yes, and luckily this was when phones were all starting to have caller ID. I saw that it was a 516 area code. Otherwise I would have thought one of my friends was playing a prank on me because they all knew what I wanted to do. It was for an interview with the Jets. When Mike called back he said he had been going through everyone’s resumes looking for someone for this job and no one had as many letters or “thank yous” or phone calls as I did so he would give me a phone interview. Out of the top three candidates for the job he would have them come in. He did bring me in but he ended up giving the job to somebody else who had a better background in scouting. But he told me that if I needed help in any way to let him know. I took that as a recommendation even though he didn’t say it that way. So I called the Eagles and I told them, “You better call the Jets; they are going to recommend me for any job that you have.” What I didn’t know at the time was that Joe (Banner) and Mike (Tannenbaum) were talking all along about how determined and persistent I was and whether or not it was a good thing or was I just some crazy stalker!
LIWM: I guess they decided you were passionate as opposed to crazy…
HR: Yes, Mike told him that if they had any opportunities they should bring me in. So the Eagles brought me in and gave me an interview. Joe basically told me that they didn’t have a job, not even an internship. This was just when the head coach, Andrew Reid, was taking over and they had brought in a quarterback who was just going to kind of hold the fort until Dovan was ready to play. The team was a little bit better and I said, “You have Doug Peterson right now quarterbacking, holding the seat warm for Donovan McNabb, that’s who you have in my job.” And he said to me, “I think you should talk to personnel right now!” [Laughs] So it took about thirty days and constant calls but they gave me an internship at no pay. I was living in New York and driving back and forth with no promise of a job but at the end of the season I got hired full-time.
LIWM: So persistence really does pay off. You must have stayed extremely focused and very organized over the waiting period, and you are in a job where that is also extremely important. How did you keep on top of everything? Every team, every player and every potential player?
HR: It’s very easy in this day and age with the resources that we have. Really, our job is to make the decisions and the only way to do that is to make sure that you have all the information at your disposal and that you are able to process that information. Having good people around you, working with you, is also very important.
LIWM: So do you have a Blackberry®, cell phone, computer….?
HR: Yes, all that. I think everyone does these days; it’s the only way to conduct business. But for us, a big part of our job is evaluating players and watching them on tape and going to see them live. That is still a very core part of what we do.
LIWM: What exactly is a general manager? What are your responsibilities?
HR: It’s to make sure that we are evaluating all of the college talent in the country in preparation for the college draft. It’s evaluating all the players in the NFL for free agents for trades for those players who are about to get cut or leave and then fitting them all - hopefully - into the salary cap. So you try to make sure that you are solid on all that and then make sure you give the best talent you can to your coaching staff and your head coach.
LIWM: What is the hardest part of the job?
HR: I think the hardest part of the job is making sure that you work with an unbelievable coach. I am fortunate enough to be working with a guy like Andy Reid, who has one of the best winning percentages over the past 30 years and is really an underappreciated guy. Working with him every day and learning from him has just been an unbelievable opportunity for me, as well as having an incredible ownership group supporting us. And, the president of our team, who gave me a chance in the NFL, Joe Banner, is just an exceptional individual.
LIWM: So the hardest part of being a GM isn’t finding the players, it’s getting the job done with an incredible organization. Okay, but besides the obvious - athletic ability - what do you look for in a player?
HR: Really the same thing you would look for in any other business - character. High character. Obviously, we’ve been known to have some players who seem to not have high character that we’ve given a second chance to. You want guys that fit into the profile of a determined football player with a passion for the game. We are looking for talent and the goal is to build the best team. In football you have 50 great guys on a team and 22 of them that start. But you are building the best team as opposed to just collecting good players; you have to have guys that fit specific roles.
LIWM: Michael Vick is one of those players who you gave a second chance to. Now that he is heading towards superstar status, do you think he is becoming the face of the Eagles, like Donovan McNabb was prior to his departure?
HR: Michael had a great year and Michael is an example of a guy who had some adversity in his life. But that is in the past and he is determined to make amends for his situation and do the right thing. He did phenomenally well last year and hopefully moving forward he will continue to excel. But his leadership on the team is really the thing that has struck me. He is trying to change his life and to help other people change theirs.
LIWM: Are there any players that you think will be significant contributors as rookies from the latest college draft?
HR: (Danny)Watkins. He’s a guy that we are counting on to come in and start right away. He’s a little older than your normal draft pick; he’s 26 years old. He actually came to the states for fire fighting science because that’s what he did in Canada and the football coach (at Butte College) saw him and asked him to come out for the team. He was just phenomenal and after playing there for two years he transferred to Baylor (University) and played two years there, starting every game. He is just a really mature individual with exceptional strength and we are really looking for great things from him and for the team.
LIWM: Do you have any superstitions?
HR: I do, I have a lot of them. [Laughs] I’m trying to get out of them. I once wore the same suit and tie for eight straight weeks. When I am on the road I have the same routine. The time I work out, the time I have breakfast, the bus I get on and where I sit on the bus. Funny story: we were playing the Giants this year and we were losing and then we started to catch up. We were in the owners’ box and one of their guests got up to stretch her legs and I told her that she had to sit down. She said, “Are you kidding?” and I said, “I wish I was and I apologize, but I am that superstitious!” And she sat down and we won the game!
LIWM: If you could snap your fingers and change places with any player in the NFL right now who would it be?
HR: [Laughs] I feel really fortunate to have the job that I have right now. I really wouldn’t trade places with anyone. There are some amazing players out there who are exceptional individuals, but I really wouldn’t want to be doing anything other than what I am doing right now!
LIWM: That’s a wonderful thing! Congratulations on all your success!
HR: Thank you, thank you very much.
Marlboro Pizza & Bagel World
“Delta Force” or “Rocky”
3 People You’d Like to Dine With:
Both my grandfathers and Mindy, my wife
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