While the Minnesota Vikings failed to advance past the NFL wild-card game on Jan. 5, football fans in Fairmont and the surrounding area have a good reason to cheer for another purple-clad team in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Jerry Rosburg, a 1974 Fairmont High School graduate and former Cardinal prep football standout, will be donning a headset along the Baltimore Ravens' sideline at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Rosburg has served as the Ravens' assistant head coach and special teams coordinator since the 2009 season after joining Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh's staff in 2008.
HOMETOWN HERO — Baltimore Ravens assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg speaks during a news conference at the team’s practice facility in Owings, Md., on Jan. 17. The Fairmont native and the Ravens will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Photo by Associated Press
"Everyone affiliated with the National Football League aspires to reach this game (Super Bowl)," Rosburg said in a telephone interview last Friday. "We consider the National Football League as the most competitive sport in the world, and to go through a stern test to get to this point of the season is quite an accomplishment. But just making it here (Super Bowl) is not enough - our (the Ravens' organization) goal is to win the game."
Ironically, as special teams coordinator, Rosburg will officially coach the Super Bowl's first play when either Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker connects on the official 5:30 p.m. kickoff or the Ravens' Jacoby Jones returns the San Francisco 49ers' opening kick.
"We (special teams coaches) have an expression in the NFL when it comes to what we do - we have one play to be perfect," Rosburg said.
And the Fairmont native has fueled an incredible 34-year football coaching career on the strength of his expertise in flawlessly teaching the "third phase of the game."
In fact, Rosburg's special-teams units are ranked No. 1 overall in the NFL for the 2012 season by the nationally-renown Football Outsiders' website.
While the pride of Fairmont has literally made a name for himself in the NFL as a special-teams guru, including his first coaching stint in the professional ranks with the Cleveland Browns (2001-06) and then the Atlanta Falcons (2007), Rosburg built a stellar collegiate coaching resume on the strength of his defensive knowledge.
Ironically, his first collegiate coaching stint at Northern Michigan University led Rosburg to cross paths for the first time with now long-time friend John Harbaugh.
"John and I go back to my days of coaching the defense at Northern Michigan, and he and his father were at Western Michigan," Rosburg said. "We met at a University of Michigan high school football camp and both of us were working with the special teams. We talked a lot when we were there and became friends.
"Ironically, I was on the coaching staff that replaced the Harbaughs at Western Michigan in 1987, and we both met our wives at the same place."
John Harbaugh later recommended Rosburg for the linebackers/special teams/secondary coaching job at the University of Cincinnati in 1992, and the Fairmont native continued his meteoric rise through the collegiate ranks.
Rosburg coached the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers' defensive secondary in 1996 before taking the same job at Boston College for the 1997-98 campaigns. He then served as the cornerbacks/special teams coach for Notre Dame in 1999-2000 before making the leap to the NFL ranks with Cleveland in 2001.
Now, the former Fairmont all-state linebacker and All-America linebacker at North Dakota State University stands only one victory away from what many primetime sports analysts consider the apex of the professional sporting world - a Super Bowl championship.
"Unfortunately, at the time I graduated from college, NFL scouts didn't have the same assessment of my skills as I did," a chuckling Rosburg said in reference to his aspirations to play on the pro gridiron on Sundays instead of coaching the game. "But everything worked out very well for me and my family.
"I have a wonderful home town and I'm proud to be from Fairmont. It was a great community to grow up in, and I appreciate everybody's support back there (on Sunday)."