Eric DeCosta's introduction as the Ravens' new general manager is a story for all the dreamers and interns out there.
The dream took root when he was just 6 years old at the bus stop in Taunton, Mass. In 1996, the English major from Colby College was one of Ozzie Newsome's first entry-level hires in Baltimore, and one of DeCosta's jobs was taking then Head Coach Ted Marchibroda's car for oil changes. Marcibroda would give him $100 and tell him to keep the change, so DeCosta found a $9.99 special up the road.
DeCosta worked his way up with numerous draft bulls-eyes on his resume, making him a hot name in NFL circles. In 2007, Owner Steve Bisciotti first mentioned to DeCosta the possibility that he could succeed Newsome. Last year, after DeCosta turned down countless opportunities elsewhere, Bisciotti announced that DeCosta would take over after the 2018 season.
DeCosta's coronation has been a very long time coming, but it's been tough to step back and reflect on the journey since officially taking over as GM on Jan. 11. The season ended abruptly and he immediately jumped into college all-star games and planning for the future. It's been a whirlwind.
On Wednesday, however, with time to prepare his remarks and his family and much of the organization in attendance for his first press conference, the significance seemed to sink in. And, at times, it was clear that DeCosta was a bit emotional.
"This is a very, very – for me – very humbling experience standing up here today in the city that I love, Baltimore, working for this organization that I've worked for for 23 years, and that I love," DeCosta said in his opening statement.
"This has really been something over the course of my life that I always just dreamed about being: a general manager for an NFL football team."
DeCosta first became a Dallas Cowboys fan in 1978 when he was 6 years old and picked them to beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII. He chose the Cowboys only to be a "contrarian" amidst the other kids at the bus stop.
The Cowboys won and DeCosta began to take more interest in them. He became fascinated by the way legendary coach and executives Tom Landry, Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm operated the Cowboys differently than all the other clubs.
Since then, DeCosta has wanted to push the boundaries, to think creatively about how to craft teams. He's had a lot of influence under Newsome and has been running the team's draft meetings since 2004. But now he's the one steering the overall direction and making final decisions.
DeCosta knows he has big shoes to fill stepping in for Newsome, who could easily be a Hall of Fame general manager if he weren't already enshrined as a Hall of Fame player.
"Well I have size 10.5 feet, and I think Ozzie is a 13 – so there you go," DeCosta joked.
"I think from a pressure standpoint, no one can put more pressure on me than I put on myself my whole life. I've been an overachiever my whole life. I've always felt I had to battle and scrap to survive. From that standpoint, that doesn't bother me. The scrutiny and all that – I get it."
DeCosta could have reached his general manager goal far sooner. Over the years, he's had serious interest from the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks and others. Last offseason, the Green Bay Packers called with what Bisciotti described as the "best job in the NFL." DeCosta turned down interviews with all of them.
"Did I ever really consider it?" DeCosta said. "Not really, because every time I'd go to bed thinking that maybe I would consider something, I'd wake up and say, 'What are you, crazy? You know you're going to have the job someday that you've dreamed about, so just wait and make it perfect.
"I love this place. I love the idea that I started here when we had a blank helmet on our stationary, and we had holes in the walls over there at the police barracks on Owings Mills Boulevard, and all the tape was just scattered everywhere in the hallways. One of my jobs was to take all that tape and file it away. Here we are now."
DeCosta and Newsome will still work hand-in-hand, but, of course, their decisions and the way they do the job will be different from each other. DeCosta acknowledged that he and Newsome didn't always agree on everything or every player. DeCosta is down with analytics more than Newsome and will incorporate them more into his decision-making process.
But DeCosta won't try to reinvent the wheel now that he's in charge. He's a product of Newsome, and will forever operate with his lessons ringing in his ears.
DeCosta thanked his father, mother, sister, wife and kids. He thanked Bisciotti, Head Coach John Harbaugh, the rest of the coaches, his scouting staff and his assistants. But his last "thank you" was saved for Newsome.
It was 23 years ago, when DeCosta was at the Combine "wandering around aimlessly" in the Lucas Oil Stadium stands trying to find a place to sit – feeling insecure. He looked up and saw Newsome sitting with a bunch of general managers and head coaches. Newsome caught his eye and waved for DeCosta to come up and join him, and that's where DeCosta has sat ever since.
"He basically took a 25-year-old kid who had no experience in the NFL, who was so different from him, and gave me a chance and accepted me," DeCosta said. "He and I have always been very different in a lot of ways, but so aligned. It's been a special relationship in my life. I've learned a lot of football, but honestly, just a lot more about being a good person."
DeCosta said probably the greatest gift that Newsome gave him was the opportunity to learn, starting at the bottom and working his way up.
"I think sometimes people would think maybe that I would be embarrassed that I started off as an intern now that I'm a GM, that I want to forget that," DeCosta said. "But to be honest with you, I cherish that."