Roseman has avoided the spotlight since then, calling the award a credit to the entire Eagles organization. But in recent weeks, journalists and fans alike have been singing his praises, referring to him as a “genius” and a “magician,” and crediting him for a series of shrewd, often bold roster moves that have paid off in a big way this year.
The Eagles overcame back-to-back losing seasons and some potentially devastating player injuries to soar to a 13-3 regular-season record and advance to the Super Bowl, thanks in large part to the depth of young and veteran talent Roseman brought together.
“Every one of his free-agent or traded-for acquisitions were successes,” Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jeff McLane wrote on Jan. 21, after the Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings, 38-7, to win the NFC championship.
Now the resilient Eagles are set to face the New England Patriots, winners of two of the past three Super Bowls. Philly will be underdogs on Feb. 4, just as they were in their first two playoff games this year. But that’s a role the team and its fans seem to relish. And it’s one that’s long been familiar to Roseman, who overcame long odds just to land a job in the NFL.
Here are five things to know about Howie Roseman before the big game:
1. He’s living his childhood dream.
Roseman was born in Brooklyn but grew up in suburban New Jersey, where he rooted for the New York Jets and dreamed of a career in an NFL team’s front office. He once said that when he was 9 or 10 years old, “people would ask what I was going to do. I’d say, I’m going to be general manager of a National Football League team. They used to laugh.”
2. His persistence is legendary.
In a 2014 interview with Bleacher Report, Roseman estimated that between his senior year of high school and his third year of law school, he wrote more than 1,000 letters to NFL teams (one letter to each team, several times a year) in hopes of landing a job.
He received rejection letters that could be “stacked as high as the ceiling in any room in your house,” he said, and he admitted that he “really didn’t have a backup plan, which, looking back on it really wasn’t so smart.”
3. A Fordham Law degree helped him get his foot in the door.
Roseman received a glimmer of hope during his senior year at the University of Florida. Mike Tannenbaum, who worked in the New York Jets player personnel department at the time, agreed to give Roseman some advice by phone. No team would hire him as a scout, Tannenbaum reportedly said, because Roseman had no football experience. But if he were to earn a law degree, he might be able to sell himself as a salary-cap expert.
So Roseman enrolled at Fordham Law School. Shortly after earning a J.D. in May 2000, he landed his first NFL position: an unpaid summer internship with the Eagles. And he hasn’t forgotten his alma mater. In spring 2011, he returned to Fordham to deliver the keynote address at the annual Fordham Sports Law Symposium.
4. He rose from intern to general manager in just 10 years.
Roseman initially shared a desk with an administrative assistant in the Eagles’ front office, but before long, he was hired full time as staff counsel and began a rapid, steady climb through the corporate ranks—to director of football administration in 2003, vice president of player personnel in 2008, and general manager in 2010. By then, he was 34 years old, the youngest GM in the league at the time. He’s been in his current position as head of football operations since 2015.
5. He’s the latest exemplar of Fordham’s Super Bowl connections.
Fordham’s ties to the big game date back to the very first one. On Jan. 15, 1967, Fordham grad Vince Lombardi, FCRH ’37, led the Green Bay Packers to victory in what later became known as Super Bowl I. He repeated the feat the following year. After his untimely death in September 1970, the NFL named its championship trophy in his honor.
One of Lombardi’s Fordham classmates, Wellington Mara, FCRH ’37, also had a share in two Super Bowl victories. As longtime co-owner of the New York Giants, he steered the team to the top in 1987 and 1991.
More recently, Wellington’s son John Mara—a 1979 Fordham Law grad and the Giants’ current president, CEO, and co-owner—has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy twice, in 2008 and 2012. In both games, the odds were against his team, and in both games, the Giants defeated the New England Patriots.
No doubt Roseman will be looking to extend that Fordham underdog tradition on Super Bowl Sunday.
Update (Feb. 5): The Eagles defeated the Patriots, 41-33, to win the Super Bowl 52. After the game, Roseman told NBC Sports Philadelphia, “It’s hard to win a world championship. Everything has to go right. And not everything went right for us. … [But] we’re world champions forever. This group is a special group.”