By ROB MAADDI
The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA -- Howie Roseman worked a long time to become the youngest general manager in the NFL.
As a kid -- yes, the story goes back that far -- Roseman would toss a football around in his backyard and wait for his friends to return from practice to play pickup games. He hoped to become an NFL quarterback, maybe even the next Richard Todd or Ken O'Brien.
But he couldn't even play pee wee football. His mom wouldn't sign the permission slip.
That didn't dampen Roseman's feelings. His love for football went beyond passion. By the time he was 7, he was obsessed.
"From the first game I watched, Jets vs. Bills in 1981, I was incredibly hooked," Roseman said in an interview during which he recalled his career from his expansive office overlooking the field at the Philadelphia Eagles' practice facility.
If nothing else, Roseman's life in the NFL offers a lesson in persistence.
He began reading football magazines, watching games, following all the players and taking notes as a kid. Born in Brooklyn and raised in North Jersey, his favorite team was the New York Jets.
On a plane ride with his mother and sister to visit his grandparents in Florida, young Howie had a chance encounter with Jack Elway. He impressed the Stanford coach and John Elway's dad with his vast knowledge of football. When the plane landed, Elway gave Roseman's mother a business card.
Roseman wasn't blessed with the size or skill to play football -- he's 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, though he wrestled at 125 in high school. But his conversation with Jack Elway made him realize he could still pursue a career in the NFL.
"From that meeting on, I knew I wanted to be a GM in the National Football League," he said. "I would tell people, and they would laugh at me."
Roseman not only grew up to fulfill his dream, he did it at a young age. Roseman was only 34 when Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie named him general manager on Jan. 29, 2010. Three years later, he's still the youngest person in the league to hold that title.
With free agency set to begin in the NFL next week, Roseman is in the middle of a critical offseason for the Eagles. The team finished 4-12 and fired coach Andy Reid after 14 mostly successful years in Philadelphia. Roseman played a key role in luring Chip Kelly away from Oregon to replace Reid. He also made other moves to bolster the front office, including hiring Tom Gamble as vice president of player personnel.
Despite tremendous success for much of the past decade, the Eagles are desperately seeking their first Super Bowl title. Roseman gladly accepts that challenge. With Lurie's support, he's determined to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy home to a city starving for an NFL championship.
"Everyone here is committed to winning the Super Bowl," Roseman said. "That's powerful when everyone is united for the same goal and it's all about teamwork."
Considering the tenacity Roseman has already shown in his career, you have to think his team has an honest chance. On his way up, he simply wouldn't take "No" for an answer, regardless how many times he was rejected along the way.
Roseman was in elementary school when he started evaluating players and making draft predictions. Other kids watched cartoons; he was a draft geek.
"I'd have my draft board and I would sit there with a note pad and pretend I was picking for the Jets," he said.
During his senior year at Marlboro High School in New Jersey, Roseman began sending letters to NFL teams. He applied for a job with the football program when he went to Florida and continued sending letters to teams twice a year.
All he got were rejections.
Finally, during his senior year at Florida, former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum called him and offered some advice. Tannenbaum told Roseman no team would hire him as a scout. He advised him to get a law degree and sell himself as a salary cap expert.
So, Roseman went to Fordham Law School and continued his pursuit only to get more rejections.
"I would've worked anywhere," he said. "I just wanted an opportunity, a summer internship. I would've worked for free."
By now, though, Roseman wasn't just sending letters to teams. He sent his own scouting reports and individual breakdowns of players by position.
Roseman was considering applying for a job with the XFL when he got his first break. Tannenbaum had become the director of pro personnel for the Jets and he called to interview him for an internship.
"He said: 'Every three resumes, I see a copy of yours. And then after it, I see letters from you thanking me for rejecting you,"' Roseman said.
Roseman didn't get that job, but Tannenbaum told him he'd recommend him if another team had an opening.
Hoping to stay close to New York, Roseman began calling the Eagles and he finally convinced Joe Banner's assistant to get him an interview.
He eventually landed a non-paid summer internship in 2000. The Eagles were still in dingy, old Veterans Stadium then and Roseman's desk was at the end of the assistant's table.
Roseman spent the next six months waking up at 4:15 a.m. to catch a train from New York to Philadelphia. He'd arrive at the office at 7:30 a.m. and get home late at night. Instead of paying off his student loans, he was accumulating more debt paying for those expensive train rides.
"I was pursuing my dream," he said. "I was in the NFL. No matter how tired I was, when I walked up to the Vet and saw where I was going to work every day, I was fired up, I was energetic and I do the same now."
Roseman would spend long hours in the office during the day and join the guys in the personnel department afterward. He was fortunate that Lurie, Banner and Reid allowed him to learn whatever he could about scouting and evaluating players.
"They would open the door to me and let me watch tape and write reports, so I was doing the cap stuff and contract stuff during the day and then at night they would expose me to personnel, which was my passion and what I wanted to do," Roseman said.
Roseman's hard work and diligence paid off. In 2003, he was promoted to director of football administration.
"I started doing draft reports and going on the road," he said. "It was an unbelievable experience and I'm very fortunate the people here exposed me to it."
He didn't stop there. In 2006, Roseman was named vice president of football administration. Two years later, he was elevated to vice president of player personnel. Then, after Tom Heckert left for Cleveland in 2010, Roseman replaced him as the Eagles' GM. With Banner and Reid around, it was more of an advisory role. Now, it's Roseman's show.
"When you have a goal and you decide early enough that you want to achieve it, you are so far ahead of the pack because so many people when they are going through college, they're trying to figure out what they're doing," Roseman said.
All he has to do now is win a Super Bowl.