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From high school coach to Bengals' 'rock star' and Zac Taylor's right-hand man

CINCINNATI -- Less than three days into his new job, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor grabbed dinner at a downtown Chipotle to recruit a high school coach to join the staff.

Doug Rosfeld, a Cincinnati native, was at his dream job. The 40-year-old had just wrapped up his first year as the head coach of Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller High School, Rosfeld’s alma mater and a place where he spent nine years as an assistant. He declined overtures from college staffs to stay at Moeller and had no intention of leaving when he met with Taylor in February.

But Taylor, a 36-year-old who had never been a head coach, quickly realized he needed an old friend to be his right-hand man. Two days after dinner, Rosfeld was in tears at the back of a church during his daughter’s confirmation, knowing he was going to accept Taylor’s offer.

"I love [Moeller] and was really sad to leave," Rosfeld told ESPN. "I made the right decision. This is where I wanted to be, who I’m doing it with, who I wanted to work for."

Officially, Rosfeld is the Bengals' director of coaching operations. Unofficially, he's Taylor's chief aide who handles a litany of tasks. One year after Rosfeld was coaching high school kids, he’s in the pros and is one of the most important people to an NFL coach.

Rosfeld has been entrenched in Cincinnati's football landscape. He was a center at Moeller, one of the city's most notable preps programs, and the University of Cincinnati, where he started 34 games and was a first-team all-conference selection in 1999 and 2000.

He spent nine years as an assistant at Moeller before he joined the University of Cincinnati as a director of player development. In 2016, Tommy Tuberville hired Taylor to be the offensive coordinator. Taylor said Rosfeld showed a strong ability to solve problems as they arose in addition to taking care of the day-to-day scheduling.

Once Taylor was named the Bengals' coach in February after three years as an NFL assistant, it didn't take long before he realized he needed Rosfeld.

"When I got here, it felt like weeks," Taylor said. "It felt like three weeks. I had probably been here three days, and I really needed someone in that role. I called Doug."

The role is significant when it comes to establishing Taylor's vision for the Bengals.

When Taylor wants a change made to the practice schedule, Rosfeld is the one who pumps it out to everyone around the organization and posts it on the monitors around the facility.

Before Taylor's debut at Seattle, the coach realized the team meeting was scheduled too late because of the three-hour time change by going west. Rosfeld already had the itinerary adjusted ahead of the Week 11 trip to Oakland.

And in the midst of an 0-10 season, which is one loss shy of the worst start in franchise history, Rosfeld plays a significant role in reinforcing the culture Taylor wants to build as he tries to turn around the Bengals.

"Watch his energy on the sideline trying to get guys going," Taylor said of Rosfeld. "His reaction to plays is always positive. There's no negative body language. He's just a rock star."

But from a more tangible standpoint, Rosfeld’s job with the Bengals revolves around one thing -- efficiency. When he started crafting the team schedules during OTAs, he had them littered around him everywhere, including the medicine cabinet in his bathroom.

He helps the coaching staff build the various presentations that are given to the players and to other coaches each week. He checks to see whether there will be frost on the practice field, which then requires a shift to move practice inside Paul Brown Stadium instead of on the usual grass fields across the street. Rosfeld even will put on a scout-team jersey during walkthroughs.

But his most visible contribution comes on game days, when he carries Cincinnati’s red challenge flag in his back right pocket. When Taylor decides he wants a ruling reviewed, Rosfeld will hustle down the Bengals’ sideline and fling the flag onto the field.

"In the moment, you kind of lose track of how you look doing it," said Rosfeld, who has had a few close calls this season.

All of it is done with the same passion and energy he had even as an offensive line coach at Cincinnati’s Western Hills, Moeller and the University of Cincinnati.

When Luke Fickell was hired as Tuberville’s replacement in 2016, Rosfeld compiled a list of names, phone numbers and background details for the incoming Ohio State assistant to make introductory calls. On one call, the numbers were flipped and Fickell issued condolences regarding the death of a player’s father who was actually very much alive. When Fickell relayed the error to Rosfeld, a distraught Rosfeld drove to the Bearcats’ facility around 11 p.m. to apologize in person.

"That kind of told you who he was," Fickell said.

That's more or less the person Rosfeld has been during his professional career. Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard has seen it as well as anybody. Rosfeld was Hubbard’s teacher at Moeller before Hubbard became a varsity football player and then a defensive end at Ohio State.

"He’s always been very good at relating to his students, talking to guys, trying to get them to be better men, better people," Hubbard said.

Rosfeld, a father of six kids ranging from a freshman in high school to a 2-year-old, is trying to help Taylor establish a process and culture that can transform the Bengals from one of the most underperforming franchises in the NFL to a championship contender.

Since he was hired in February, Rosfeld has studied everything from the nuances of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement to how many padded practices are allowed during the offseason.

He hasn’t had time to reflect on how drastically his job has changed in eight months. In many ways, it’s a similar experience for Taylor, who was a college offensive coordinator just three years ago.

But when it comes down to it, Rosfeld said, football players share a lot of commonalities at every level, something he has experienced firsthand at every level of the sport.

"They’re giving their all -- their physical health, everything they’ve got -- for a team," Rosfeld said. "When you see that in a guy, you like working and being around it.

"It doesn’t matter if it’s a young guy or a college player or a professional athlete. When you see somebody giving everything they’ve got for the benefit of the team and the guy next to him, it doesn’t matter. You want to be around it. You want to help them in any way you can."