Dante Rosario: Next stop Dallas
The camp posters and t-shirts depict Rosario, 28, in a new uniform and helmet (the Dallas Cowboys) and the 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end is eager for the opportunity to play for his father Pedro’s favorite team.
“It feels good,” Rosario said of the deal that brought him to the Cowboys in June. “There are a couple of players on the team that I played with previously at Carolina and the special teams coach I had in San Diego, Rich Bisaccia. He played a big role in me coming (to Dallas).”
Dallas is the fifth stop for Rosario, who is entering his seventh NFL season.
What makes him marketable is a jack-of-all trades skill set that is traceable to his formative years at Dayton under the tutelage of coaching legend Dewey Sullivan. Back then, as he was leading the Pirates to the 2002 state championship, Rosario was a man-amongst-boys fullback, linebacker, kick returner.
At Oregon, he found his niche on offense first as a blocking fullback and then later as a tight end.
Rosario has made himself valuable in the NFL for not only possessing deft tight end skills — he had three touchdown receptions in a game for San Diego last year — but also a willingness to bang heads and learn all of the nuances of special teams play.
“The fact that I can not only play offense at my position but all four phases of special teams as well, that plays out at the end of training camp,” Rosario said. “That’s when (teams) figure out which guys to keep and who to let go. On game day, you only get to suit 45 guys.”
The margins of victory are so finely sliced that special teams skills simply can’t be overlooked.
In addition to catching 10 passes last season for the Chargers he also blocked a punt in a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rosario got a quick two-week taste of life as a Cowboy in mini-camp, and he returns to the team for training camp Friday. Dallas starts a week earlier than most team because it’s playing in the Aug. 4 Hall of Fame Bowl preseason game.
“They have the tag ‘America’s Team’ and it really is a first-class organization,” Rosario said. “It’s a good group of guys and a good opportunity for me to showcase my skills and get quite a bit of playing time.”
Back to his roots
As Rosario discussed the latest twist of his NFL career, campers at the Dante’s Inferno Football Camp were warming up for Saturday’s session at Linfield’s Maxwell Field.
Former Oregon teammate and NFL running back Jonathan Stewart was there in a coaching/counseling capacity and so was former Dayton standout and Oregon State tight end Hayden Craig.
The two-day camp, which is free if a family can’t afford to pay the suggested donation, is focused on fun, sportsmanship, and football instruction. Among the 300 campers this year there were also eight girls. The camp is something special for Rosario.
“I grew up in this area and the kids I see (here) are some of the ones I grew up around in Dayton,” he said. “When I first started playing football they were 5, 6, 7 years old and now they’re in high school. The (family) names, I recognize some of them and they’re the people I grew up around. To give back to the Dayton community, the McMinnville community, the whole Yamhill County community feels great because this is where I came from. I grew up with the same dreams these kids have.”
When Rosario interacts with the kids in his camp, he typically gets down on his knees to look them square in the eye. He likes the idea he’s showing kids it’s OK to dream big.
“A lot of times, it’s hard work and determination that will do it and that’s what we’re trying to build into kids, on top of coming out and having fun on a Friday and Saturday,” Rosario said.
He is also aware media coverage of football injuries and new research demonstrates the harmful effects of concussions have cast a shadow on the game. He knows many parents are concerned about letting their kids play.
“It’s one of those tricky questions,” Rosario said thoughtfully. “It’s such an enticing sport. You watch it and it looks so awesome. And when you go out and play it you come to find that it’s a dangerous sport. I don’t call it a contact sports. It’s a full-speed collision sport.”
The long-term effects of concussions are a major medical concern for many former NFL players and the potential for massive liability lawsuits hangs over the league.
“The best safety we can teach the kids, or even guys at my level, is the proper mechanics and proper technique of how to play the game,” Rosario said. “We’ve been shown videos in the NFL, and I’m sure others have been put out there for educating younger kids, that show that when proper techniques aren’t used that’s when bad things happen.”
On Dewey Sullivan
Rosario said he was aware last fall when Dayton won the Class 3A football championship. He gets updates from his dad and is also in contact with the Kearns family.
The Pirates won their first state title in 10 years, since the 2002 team that featured Rosario and Caleb Kearns in the backfield. Of note, in Dayton’s 45-20 victory vs. Amity in the title game that year, a future NFL tight end scored four touchdowns, but the Pirates didn’t attempt a single pass).
“I know they lost the championship game (in 2011) and then won (in 2012) and I was very happy for them,” Rosario said. “They’re still keeping a big football tradition over at Dayton even with the passing of Dewey Sullivan.”
Sullivan was Oregon’s all-time winningest high school football coach before he died in November of 2006. He had a significant impact on Rosario’s life, simply by urging him to play football when all the teenager was focused on was basketball.
“I will catch myself, sitting somewhere and it dawns on me where I’m at and also where I’ve come from,” Rosario said. “Dewey had a big role in getting me out to play football and turned out that’s the sport I ended up loving the most.
“There are so many choices you are offered to make in life and that was a simple choice. When I started playing it and enjoying it and got a knack for it, that’s when the determination and dedication came in. (Sullivan) saw that all the way through until I got to Oregon.”
Sullivan helped get Rosario into the Oregon football camp, which led to the Ducks offering a scholarship.
“I believe people are placed in our lives, and they do tremendous things for us as individuals,” Rosario said. “It’s almost impossible to repay that.”
In a way, Rosario is paying it forward with his camp and touching the lives of the kids who attend.
Later this week, Rosario will begin training camp and wear one of the most popular helmets in the NFL. In some ways, it’s a dream come true.
“When I was a very young kid (I liked them),” Rosario said. “My dad was always a Cowboys fan, and I used to watch Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. I loved that team.”
After that mini-dynasty was over, Rosario became a Denver Broncos fan because his favorite player was Terrell Davis.
In a sport with a short shelf-life, Rosario has an ongoing chance to pursue his dream. And Pedro Rosario, Dante’s dad, gets to live it too.
“No matter where I’m at he always comes out to catch a game,” Rosario said. “He’s one of my biggest supporters out there.”