Blue Streaks in the NFL: The new football ‘hotbed’

January 24th, 2013

Debates often rage on about the worth of a college education. As proven by several alumni, a John Carroll University education is priceless.

A few JCU grads have recently worked their way up to higher-ranking positions in the NFL. David Caldwell ’96 was appointed the general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Jan. 8. One day later, Tom Telesco ’95 was named the general manager of the San Diego Chargers. In that short span, two JCU graduates were appointed to essentially run two of the NFL’s 32 teams.

Even before the hirings of Caldwell and Telesco, many JCU men populated key positions in the NFL. San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman ‘94 has been the catalyst behind a highly successful 49ers offense ready for a Super Bowl matchup with the Ravens on Feb. 3. Josh McDaniels ‘99, offensive coordinator for New England, was one game away from leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl. If the Patriots had won, it would have marked the first time in Super Bowl history that two coordinators from opposite teams would share an alma mater.

While JCU boasts famous alumni Don Shula, one of the best NFL head coaches of all-time, and London Fletcher, the ever-consistent linebacker for the Washington Redskins, the school also has many representatives in less-visible positions. Nick Caserio ’99 is the director of player personnel for New England and has helped to craft a highly successful Patriots squad. Pat Moriarty ’93 is the vice president of football administration for the Super Bowl-bound Ravens. In Tampa Bay, Ben Milsom ’01 serves as the director of ticket sales for the Buccaneers. A number of teams also employ JCU men as scouts, namely the Broncos (David Ziegler ’00), the Patriots (Frank Ross ’10) and the Falcons (Chris Polian ’93). Ken O’Keefe ’75 is also the wide receivers coach for the Dolphins.

“It’s great to see the tradition carry on,” Shula told The Plain Dealer. “It speaks highly of the kind of people the school is producing.”

Thanks to perseverance, an outstanding work ethic and dedicated leadership, three JCU men in particular have shone bright. Telesco, Caldwell and Roman, who all played together, have enjoyed tremendous success. “There’s no major that prepares anyone to be a general manager or to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL,” JCU Head Football Coach Tom Arth said. “Most of those individuals who are doing so well in the NFL right now started out in entry level positions for little or no pay, and they have worked their way up through perseverance and hard work and attention to detail.”

Recently hired to head the John Carroll football program, Arth knows the NFL too. He was a backup quarterback for both the Colts and the Packers after his successful career at JCU. Arth further explained the success of these JCU grads in the NFL. “I think that’s such an important piece to it because a lot of people just don’t come from that background: they want everything given to them from the beginning. I think our graduates really understand that it’s about helping other people become successful first, and your own success will follow.” Telesco, Caldwell and Roman have certainly done a spectacular job in both aspects.

A wide receiver while at John Carroll, Tom Telesco moved on to the Panthers following his graduation. He spent two years there as an assistant scout and one as an area scout. In 1998, the Colts scooped up the bright, young JCU alum. Telesco moved his way up the organization over the course of the next 15 years, advancing from area scout all the way to vice president of football operations. John Carroll assistant coach Ron Dolciato, a 25-year JCU veteran, is not surprised at Telesco’s meteoric rise to Chargers GM. Dolciato praised the new leader of the Chargers as “intelligent” and “cerebral.” Telesco expressed his readiness to lead an NFL organization in his introductory press conference: “I’m excited for the opportunity to be part of the San Diego Chargers family and the San Diego community … I can’t wait to get started.”

David Caldwell, the new Jaguars GM, was only a year behind Telesco at JCU. Dolciato remembers the outside linebacker as a player with remarkable intensity. “He was very tough … He was a kid who played really hard all the time. He played linebacker for us, and I remember him being one of the more physical players we had,” he said.

Caldwell carried his passion to the NFL. Starting out in a similar fashion to Telesco, Caldwell began his NFL career as a scouting assistant, ascending the scouting ranks. He was employed by the Panthers for two years before spending 10 alongside Telesco in Indianapolis. The Falcons then hired Caldwell to be the director of college scouting, a position he held for four years. He was promoted to director of player personnel in 2012, a job he performed well, as the Falcons made a serious playoff run this season. Though he enjoyed his time in Atlanta, Caldwell is excited for the opportunity with the Jaguars.

“This is where I want to be. I know we can be successful here,” he said at his introductory press conference. “We have a great opportunity here and a great obligation to be the first to bring a Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville … I believe we can do this, and I promise, moving forward, we will do this.”

Another Blue Streak grad making headlines is Roman, the 49ers offensive coordinator. He has helped San Francisco reach two consecutive NFC Championship games under two different quarterbacks. Roman has crafted a prolific offense over the past two seasons and has the 49ers offense in position to win a Super Bowl.

The former JCU defensive tackle played on the same team as Caldwell and Telesco, and was even roommates with Caldwell at John Carroll. Roman, an All-OAC selection his senior year, fit right in with the other two.

Dolciato had nothing but praise for  Roman. “Greg was a hard worker like all of them … He was probably underrated on how good he was: He just played on such a great team. But I think out of all our defensive linemen, he was the best that year,” Dolciato said. “He is a guy who has no ego when it comes to what he does. I’m really happy for him being in the situation that he’s in, coaching as offensive coordinator in the Super Bowl.”

Roman had to work hard to get to where he is. He started out with the Panthers, as Telesco and Caldwell did. Roman began as a strength and conditioning assistant/defensive quality control coach in Carolina, later becoming assistant offensive line coach in 2001. He also had stints in Houston, as a tight ends and quarterbacks coach, and Baltimore, as assistant offensive line coach.

Before San Francisco, Roman was a running game coordinator at Stanford for Jim Harbaugh, who recently praised Roman. “The job that Greg has done this year is really in so many ways just one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Harbaugh told The New York Times.

The futures of Telesco, Caldwell and Roman, as well as the other Blue Streaks in the NFL, are bright. These JCU alumni have proved, and continue to prove, the value of a John Carroll education.