Jerry Rosburg coached with passion, enjoyed tremendous success, but never sought accolades.
When he decided to retire as Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams after 11 seasons with the Ravens, Rosburg wanted no attention. During his final week on the job this week, Rosburg deftly dodged interviews about his retirement like one of his punt returners dodging a tackle.
"Jerry is like Douglas MacArthur philosophy. 'Old soldiers never die; they just fade away,'" Head Coach John Harbaugh joked Thursday. "He thought he was going to slip out of the building."
Rosburg almost made it out the door Thursday without fanfare. But on Wednesday, coaches and players blindsided Rosburg with a well-deserved surprise celebration during mandatory minicamp.
Rosburg was caught off guard when his wife, Sherry, entered the auditorium at the Under Armour Performance center. Before seeing his wife, the unsuspecting Rosburg thought this was going to be a typical team meeting.
Players started chanting "Jerry, Jerry!" as Rosburg was summoned to the front of the room. After Rosburg embraced his wife, the couple sat down and joined the entire team to watch a video tribute.
There were messages from Ravens players past and present, including Justin Tucker, Anthony Levine Sr., Sam Koch, and Jacoby Jones. Other messages came from some of Rosburg's oldest friends, like former NFL coach Steve Mariucci and Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo. Other players he worked with, including kicker Phil Dawson and Joshua Cribbs, shared tributes. There were touching messages from Rosburg's wife, and the couple's three children.
Rosburg remained stoic as usual, but he was clearly moved. He received a standing ovation when the video ended, and there were tears shed in the room. Harbaugh calls Rosburg his best friend, and there was no way Harbaugh was letting Rosburg leave without a gesture of appreciation.
Rosburg was the first coach that Harbaugh asked to join his staff when he became head coach in 2008. Harbaugh and Rosburg's relationship began during the 1980s when they both worked at Western Michigan on the coaching staff headed by Jack Harbaugh, Harbaugh's father.
"We became brothers, the kind of brother you can choose," Harbaugh said. "I just tried to learn from him every day. He made me a better man, a better coach, a better father, a better husband."
For the past seven seasons, the Ravens have finished among the top five in the league's special teams rankings compiled by NFL senior writer Rich Gosselin. Rosburg's attention to detail could often be witnessed at practice, running special teams drills repeatedly until players executed them exactly the way he wanted. The 63-year-old Rosburg's legacy as one of the NFL's all-time great special teams coaches is secure, and Rosburg looks forward to spending more time with his family in retirement after a coaching career that spanned 40 years.
Rosburg's announced his retirement on March 15, but he remained on staff for about three more months to help with the transition to new Special Teams Coach Chris Horton.
"[Rosburg] feels good about where he's going, and he's looking forward to the next stage. He can't wait," Harbaugh said. "His kids are all doing things. They're adults, but they're doing stuff – playing hockey, playing volleyball, in the working world – and he wants to be a part of all that."
An appreciative Rosburg ended his surprise celebration by making remarks that fit his personality – succinct and heartfelt.
"My cup runneth over," he said. "I'm so grateful to all of you that made this moment possible in so many ways. I feel great. I'm retiring from one profession, but I'm starting a second life. I'm excited about the adventure. I have no idea what it's going to be like, but if it's anything like this last one, it's going to be a lot of fun."