‘Size doesn’t matter’ as South Fayette’s Charley Rossi adds first Division I offer

Thursday, April 30, 2020 | 11:37 PM

Charley Rossi took a break from helping his dad clean out the garage Monday to return a phone call to a college football coach.

He knew how the conversation would go.

How’s quarantine going? Is everybody in his family healthy? How’s school? What are his workouts like nowadays?

All standard recruiting questions while everybody is stuck at home.

“I was expecting him to say they wanted me to come to their camp, kind of work out, run the 40,” said Rossi, a junior wide receiver at South Fayette. “He said, ‘Our staff is going to offer you (a scholarship).’ I was shocked for a minute. He kept talking but I’m not even sure what he said to be honest. … He asked, ‘Are there any questions you have for me?’”

Rossi had one big question. Did Sacred Heart just offer him his first Division I scholarship?

“It was just shocking to me,” Charley Rossi said with a laugh. “I told him thank you and how appreciative I was. It was so unexpected. I thought he was just calling to check in.”

Rossi ranks among the top receivers in the 2021 WPIAL class, so it’s not surprising that a college football coach would want him on the roster. He led South Fayette in receiving yards last season and ranked 10th in the WPIAL with 53 catches. He’s built a reputation as a skilled route runner. As a sophomore, he caught the game-winning touchdown in a WPIAL championship at Heinz Field.

The only question was his 5-foot-9 height.

“Coaches say, ‘We love you but you’re just two inches too short,’” Charley Rossi said. “I know I can play and film doesn’t lie.”

Rossi and his father, South Fayette coach Joe Rossi, have witnessed other players receive their first offer countless times. Former Lions receivers Justin Watson and Zach Challingsworth both went to Division I schools, as did quarterbacks Christian and Brett Brumbaugh. The alumni list is long.

The 2019 class alone sent players to Cornell, Delaware and Richmond.

“One of my favorite things is when a kid gets his first offer,” Joe Rossi said. “The family is never really expecting it. Whenever I get to give a family a call to say, ‘Hey, your kid is going to be able to go to school for free,’ the phone drops, there are tears.”

Still, this one was different.

“Charley came back with his mouth dropped,” Joe Rossi said. “He was expecting the same old things. Hey, if we have camps, come to camp. If not, he’s a senior-year-of-film guy. He said, ‘Dad, they just offered me.’ It was a pretty neat experience.”

Rossi is strongly considering the Sacred Heart offer and plans to visit either this summer or fall, whenever the covid-19 pandemic allows. He has family in New York City and wants to pursue business, which makes the Fairfield, Conn., campus a good fit. But he’s also optimistic more college coaches will take notice of him during a recruiting period that currently has no in-person visits.

A college coach recently requested that he run a 40-yard dash on video while his dad holds a stopwatch in view.

“You see kids throwing stuff on Twitter,” Joe Rossi said. “That’s what they have to do. They’re trying. They’ve got to sell themselves.”

Sacred Heart’s coaching staff had communicated several times with Charley Rossi through social media before making an offer. Coach Mark Nofri is entering his eighth season as coach of the Pioneers, who compete in the Northeast Conference with Duquesne and Robert Morris.

“He sent me a link to one of their receivers who had graduated,” Charley Rossi said. “He was like a 5-8, small, white kid and he tore it up for them as a three-year starter. He sent me his highlight tape and a text that said size doesn’t matter.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.


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