From gridiron to ring, Rossy's rising fast

In the ring, Marc Gastineau was an abomination. Fellow NFL alumnus Alonzo Highsmith TKO'd him, yet detestably, Zo wasn't much better. And Ed "Too Tall" Jones barely smartened up in time to exit through the ropes and resume his football career.

When the ultra-competitive male ego is attached to a proven gladiator's body, it's only natural to be drawn to the fight game. What's not natural are those bulked-up warriors having enough skill to pull it off with any success.

"I'm very aware of those guys," said 15-0 New York heavyweight Derric Rossy. "The difference is I'm an athlete first. I can use my athletic skills regardless of the sport. Those guys were football players first."

The 6-foot-3, 248-pound Rossy would know. He has had success at both. Although both sports boil over with intensity and full-contact violence, boxing is a much different beast than football. In each, pure athleticism is needed. In some instances, however, it seems as if you can get by strictly on athleticism in football.

Do you really think simple sprinters like Renaldo "Skeets" Nehemiah and "Bullet" Bob Hayes, or a college basketball power forward like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, would have found a home in the ring the way they were welcomed on the gridiron? Probably not.

Could you ever imagine the Manning brothers weaving in for a left hook and getting one thrown back? Yet the Klitschko brothers could've surely played defensive end.

"Boxing is much harder than football," said Rossy, the former Boston College standout.

"I'm very aware of those guys. The difference is I'm an athlete first. I can use my athletic skills regardless of the sport. Those guys were football players first."
Former football player-turned-boxer Derric Rossy, on predecessors Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Marc Gastineau and Alonzo Highsmith

"In football, I can play one game and then, if needed, I could play another. I could practice double sessions. You can't do that in boxing. It's so physically and mentally draining. To hone ring skills is just tougher than football."

As a starting defensive end at BC, Rossy was a good college player on a very good team. He was instrumental in BC's 2002 late-season defeat of unbeaten title-seeking Notre Dame. Now, he's the one trying to protect an unblemished record.

Rossy takes on fellow undefeated heavyweight prospect Eddie Chambers on "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2, 9 ET). It will be in front of his hometown fans in Long Island.

This wasn't supposed to be the road for Rossy. He was trying to go the way of his college roommate -- current Patriots starting center Dan Koppen. But scouts felt Rossy was caught between positions.

So during the spring semester of his senior year in Chestnut Hill, he tried to make himself faster. Derric's father had boxed a bit. He suggested his son do bag work and spar for better conditioning.

"Boxing found me. It sparked a fire. I liked it more than football."

When you're disciplined and determined, the thought of controlling your own destiny can spark those fires with ease. Rossy no longer has 10 other guys in a defensive huddle to lean on. Come Friday, he stands alone to face Eddie Chambers (27-0, 15 KOs).

"Boxing found me. It sparked a fire. I liked it more than football."

Chambers is a product of the Philadelphia gym wars. He has a strong amateur background. Chambers also has a steady jab. Rossy could have had a steady job.

"I was a dual major at BC. Education and History. I was going to be a high school history teacher," Rossy said.

Instead of teaching history, Derrick Rossy is now convinced he will make it. He believes he is getting better every time out. Rossy feels the current weak crop of heavyweights sets up well for him. He believes he will be champ.

However, most observers feel Rossy, boxing full time for only three years, is still learning on the job. Heavyweight fights are a tough job to learn on. Your mistakes can be career-ending.

"It's strange. I know it's a big fight and the turning point of my career, but I don't feel worried. I feel it's just another fight," Rossy said. "I respect anyone who goes in the ring but I feel I'm taking this step because I'm ready for it. You have to fight the best to be the best."

Derric Rossy is just two credits short of a master's degree. But he seems to have a doctorate in boxing reality.

Fighting the best to be the best is a concept that is lost on most prospects. It's nice to see Derric Rossy isn't "most prospects." Here's hoping for the best from this main event. Here's hoping that the world can wait a few more years for another high school history teacher who can coach some football.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."