Scan for the name Anthony Cioffi in 2017 NFL Draft prospect boards compiled by mainstream sites like NFL.com and CBS Sports and you won’t find it. You won’t find it among the 330 players who have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, either.
Cioffi, who played four years as a defensive back for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, isn’t one of those whose name will show up in mock drafts or who fan bases will be screaming about as a “must have” leading up to the draft.
He is just a kid with a passion for the game who is hoping for an opportunity, and working as hard as he can to get one.
“You’re right at the finish line. It’s a race to the next chapter of what I want to do,” Cioffi said during a recent phone conversation. “I’ve always had a mindset where I’m always going to outwork everybody, I’m going to try to do my best. If I don’t have the ability I’m just going to give it my all. Heart and hard work and dedication is something I try to pride myself on.”
After four seasons and 41 games at Rutgers during which he intercepted eight passes while playing both cornerback and safety, had 13 passes defensed, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, Cioffi does admit to feeling overlooked by NFL talent evaluators.
“There’s a feeling in my stomach about that. I do feel I was overlooked, but I mean these are the cards that I’m dealt. Everything happens for a reason,” Cioffi said. “It’s something where it gives me another chip on my shoulder that I don’t mind having.”
Cioffi does have one thing sure to get the attention of NFL teams. Blinding speed. He used it to run what was clocked as a 4.37 40-yard dash during a recent training session.
If you were wondering what a 4.30 sec 40 yd dash looks like, here it is. @anthonycioffi31 again giving everything has to make it to the NFL. pic.twitter.com/FaOgM74ZEH— Evolution Fitness (@EvolutionFitNJ) February 11, 2017
He has also used it to make plays like this against Michigan’s highly-regarded Jabrill Peppers.
If he can run that time, or close to it, at the Rutgers Pro Day that should be enough to earn him a chance with an NFL team. Perhaps invitations to the local Pro Day workouts held by the New York Giants and New York Jets and, should be go undrafted, an invite to a rookie tryout camp somewhere.
Cioffi believes he can go faster.
“There’s always room to improve,” Cioffi said. “I watch that tape every day to critique myself and see what I could do to trim that down. That would give me a great opportunity.”
Cioffi has been training at the Chip Smith Performance Center in Norcross, Ga., under the tutelage of former NFL defensive back Ray Buchanon. He has found a confidant in Giants’ safety Andrew Adams, who also trains there. The two are represented by the same agency. They also share a similar path, with Adams starting 13 games for the Giants last season despite having gone undrafted.
“I’ve spoken to him countless times. I try to pick his brain and talk to him about the whole process. How everything goes, what to expect, what not to expect,” Cioffi said. “We’re really in the same boat.”
If Cioffi were to wind up in camp with the Giants, the two would also likely be competing for the same job. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Cioffi has played all over the secondary, but spent the last two seasons starting at safety. That’s the position he feels best-suited for.
“I like scanning the field, understanding what was going on, knowing the ins and outs of the offense that we were going against,” he said. “I’m very comfortable back there.”
He knows, though, that his versatility and his experience on many of the Scarlet Knights’ special teams units — plus that speed — is what might give him a chance.
“Everything that’s going to happen in the coming weeks is something where I have to jump on every opportunity that presents itself,” Cioffi said.
“I just have to make the most of my opportunity and continue to push and prove that I’m worthy of a pickup.”
Cioffi doesn’t have far to turn for examples of how hard work and pouring your heart into something can pay off. The food business his grandfather started and his family still runs taught him that.
“My grandpa came here when he was 18 years old. He didn’t know a lick of English and he started this whole thing. It all starts with him. He’s the backbone to everything. He started it from the ground up, not knowing anything, just coming here off the boat from Italy,” Cioffi said. “That hard work is something totally different than football hard work.”
That lesson, and that 4.37 speed, might lead him to a shot at his own dream. A chance to make an NFL roster.