Seize the Opportunity

Feb. 18, 2011

Big Ten Black History Month Website

By Taylor Thomas

Some say the best is yet to come.

For Purdue University defensive end Rosevelt Colvin, a lot of his childhood focused on being just that, a child. With both of his parents being teachers, education was always important, but the most important trait of Colvin’s childhood was taking advantage of all opportunities he was given.

“Growing up as a kid, I was always focused and driven on the present,” Colvin said. “My parents have always taught me to take advantage of the opportunities in front of me. You never know, you might put yourself in a position where you are doing something good and benefitting from your choice.”

Colvin began playing organized football in seventh grade and progressed through the ranks until high school. During his final years at Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis, Ind., his head coach approached him with a chance to earn a scholarship.   

“Fifteen to 20 years ago, it wasn’t about being a professional athlete, it was about getting a good scholarship to schools in order to get a free education,” Colvin stated. “I knew that if I could secure myself a scholarship, I could put myself ahead of the game. I worked very hard to become a better player and student.”

He had been recognized as First Team All-State and Indianapolis News Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and was given numerous scholarship offers.

“I was given another opportunity when I was approached to play collegiate football,” he said. “I’m a homebody, so being around the places where I grew up would make me the most comfortable. I felt like Purdue was close enough to home but far enough away to have time for myself. I also wanted to be a part of a university where the degree is above and beyond anything you can imagine.”

The same dedication stayed with Colvin through school, as he finished his career as a three-year starter (1995-98), including first-team All-Big Ten honors after his senior season. He is the Boilermakers’ career leader with 35 sacks and ranks second with 61 tackles for loss in 36 career starts.

As his career at Purdue was coming to a close, Colvin faced a similar situation that he experienced a few years prior. He was given the opportunity to play professional football. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1999 National Football League (NFL) Draft by the Chicago Bears. During his four years with the franchise, he led the team twice with 10.5 sacks (2001-02) and became the first Bears linebacker to ever record back-to-back double-digit sack seasons. However, things did not come easy for the Purdue standout.

“The NFL and the Chicago Bears presented me with a new challenging opportunity,” said Colvin. “After playing defensive end my entire football career, the Bears drafted me as a linebacker. Therefore, I had to start from square one and re-learn everything about the new position, including being nearly cut from the team. ”

After the Chicago Bears, the Indiana native continued his success with another NFL franchise, the New England Patriots. During his time with the Patriots, New England won two Super Bowls (2004 and 2005), becoming the first team since the 1997-98 Denver Broncos to win consecutive NFL titles.

“I really enjoyed being a part of the New England Patriots,” he said. “Bill Belichick will do whatever it takes to put the team in a winning position. Everyone was expected to do their job, regardless of the task at hand.”

On Sept. 14, 2003, after signing the biggest free-agent contract in Patriots history at that time, Colvin suffered a season-ending hip injury.

“It was a very humbling experience because you take a person who can make 60-70,000 people cheer because you sacked the quarterback to not being able to use the bathroom on your own,” said Colvin.

But as Colvin has done so many times before, he continued to persevere and was therefore selected as the Patriots Ed Block Courage Award winner in 2004.

“I had to relearn how to do the basics such as walking and sitting,” said Colvin. “With the help of my wife and Patriots staff I was able to put myself back into the position of competing as a professional athlete.”

Nineteen years after playing his first game of organized football, Colvin decided to retire from the game and concentrate on giving back to the city he was born and raised in, Indianapolis. In 2010, he was awarded the Major Taylor Award, which is given to African-American athletes, coaches, athletic administrators and officials who not only make a significant local and national contribution to youth but also encourage excellence in future generations.

“Indianapolis means a lot to me,” Colvin stated. “Coming home is always great for me, because I get the opportunity to show the inner-city children they don’t have to settle. I try to provide an example for them that they can do anything they put their mind to. To put my name with individuals such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Muhammad Ali is very humbling.”

Colvin’s activity in the community includes hosting the first annual R59 Shootout, a 5-on-5 charity basketball tournament at his high school alma mater. The proceeds from the tournament went back to providing scholarships for two graduating seniors.

He also teamed up with CVS to create “Rosey’s Sack Pack”, a back-to-school backpack that was sold at CVS stores throughout New England. All of the efforts benefited Easter Seals, which received $5 for each bag sold.

From growing up in the inner-city to being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the defensive end from Purdue University has taken every opportunity given to him and succeeded.

“Opportunity after opportunity, that’s the story of my life, “said Colvin. “I’ve been truly blessed with great opportunities and surrounded by people that help me make decisions that are correct for me.”