Craig: Rosburg took the long road for a Super Bowl ring

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 5, 2013 - 11:09 PM

Ravens assistant Jerry Rosburg, a Fairmont, Minn., native, took the long route to the top of the hill in the NFL.

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Baltimore Ravens assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

Photo: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

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MVP quarterbacks, retiring future Hall of Fame linebackers and the oldest son of Jack and Jackie Harbaugh aren't the only ones who will be wearing Super Bowl XLVII championship rings.

Unlike Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and John Harbaugh, Jerry Rosburg is a name you probably never heard of before or during the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Unless, of course, you're a Ravens fan or an old buddy still living in Rosburg's native Fairmont, Minn.

But that doesn't mean Rosburg is any less deserving of the bling that will be decorating his right ring finger.

"As a coach, you always hope that all your hard work will lead you to the ultimate game," said Rosburg, the Ravens' special teams coordinator/assistant head coach. "And this definitely is the ultimate game."

Rosburg is 57 years old. He's been working since long before he knew coaching was the biggest love next to his family.

"I was probably in third grade when I started delivering the Minneapolis Tribune," Rosburg said. "I had that route forever. You know, delivering a newspaper as a kid is good training for the real world. You got to get up early every morning and go to work. And if you don't do that seven days a week, a lot of people who depend on you are going to be very upset."

Rosburg has spent the past 34 years coaching football. In 1977, he was a Division II All-America linebacker and conference MVP under Jim Wacker at North Dakota State. A year later, he was an assistant coach at Fargo (N.D.) Shanley High School.

"I still keep in touch with some of those kids," Rosburg said. "My first semester there, I taught seven classes with six different preparations. I had to take care of all that before it was time to hit the football field.

"That also was a great training ground. I learned that you better be prepared before you walk in front of your class or you're going to get embarrassed. It's the same thing now when I go before my players. You better have a game plan and present it well."

When Jim Driscoll, one of Rosburg's coaches at North Dakota State, went to Northern Michigan, he invited the young Rosburg to come help with a summer football camp in Marquette, Mich. That's when he got to talk football long into the night with longtime successful coaches such as Hank Bullough, who was with the Cincinnati Bengals at the time, Chuck McBride from Nebraska and Buck Nystrom from Michigan State.

"Marquette is right there on Lake Superior, so a lot of coaches would use this camp as a summer vacation for their families," Rosburg said. "Coach football in the morning, fish in the afternoon. That's when I really got the coaching bug. I'm sitting here talking to Hank Bullough, the father of the zone blitz. All these great coaches and I'm looking at them and thinking, 'These guys get to coach football fulltime. How cool is that?'"

Rosburg ended up at Northern Michigan with Driscoll as a graduate assistant in 1981-82. He stayed as a paid assistant through 1986.

At Northern, Rosburg got to know a young assistant at Western Michigan. His name: John Harbaugh, son of then-Western Michigan head coach Jack Harbaugh.

Rosburg ended up at Western Michigan from 1987 to 1991, but not with the Harbaughs. Instead, he coached under another native Minnesotan, Al Molde.

Rosburg's coaching trail continued to the University of Cincinnati (1992 to 1995), where he coached with John Harbaugh; the University of Minnesota under Wacker (1996); Boston College (1997 to 1998) and Notre Dame (1999 to 2000).

"My memories of the University of Minnesota?" Rosburg asked. "I wasn't there long enough to have many good football memories. Jim Wacker hired me to coach the secondary. But we got fired after my first year. But it was nice to be close to home."

In 2001, he made the leap to the NFL as special teams coach with the Cleveland Browns. He was there for six seasons before taking the same job in Atlanta (2007) and finally in Baltimore when John Harbaugh, a longtime special teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, became head coach in 2008.

"It's been a great ride," Rosburg said. "I haven't taken any shortcuts to get here. I've seen the scenery along the way. But I'm glad I didn't take any shortcuts. I would have missed a lot of great scenery."

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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