Undrafted players trying to make a team in the NFL need to show their coaches something. Mere effort doesn’t suffice. In order to crack an NFL roster, one must stand out and shake things up. So far, Anthony Cioffi has done just that.
The Oakland Raiders signed Cioffi after the former Rutgers standout went undrafted in the 2017 NFL draft. Since then, the speedy safety has shined. Cioffi displayed the highest work ethic and mega hustle in training camp. In the preseason, the defensive back has stepped things up even more.
Cioffi has been a ball hawk since his days as a Scarlet Knight. The Springfield, New Jersey, product has a nose for the ball. From his days as a youth player to Jonathan Dayton High School to RU, Cioffi has seemingly always been in the right place at the right time. That trend continues now in Oakland.
In his first exhibition game, despite limited playing time, Cioffi recorded a tackle against the Arizona Cardinals. With family in attendance to cheer him on, Cioffi looked good. To the untrained eye, it was just another football game. Though clearly it meant so much more to Cioffi, who had worked so hard to get there.
Then, in the second preseason tilt Cioffi really turned some heads, literally and figuratively. Despite being better known for his swift feet, Cioffi showed the world he can lower the boom with the best of them. A self-described fan of hard-hitting Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, Cioffi delivered a couple of blows that would make the Seattle Seahawks superstar smile.
First, Cioffi rocked Los Angeles Rams wide out Pharoh Cooper with a hellacious blow after Cooper made a catch over the middle. To his credit, Cooper held on to the ball, but paid a dear price for a preseason reception. Cioffi leveled Cooper with a legal, ferocious hit that sent Raiders fans in to a frenzy. Later in the game, Cioffi showed even more of the beast he can be in this league.
After LA’s Mike Thomas hauled in a Sean Mannion pass, Thomas got by a couple of Oakland defenders, but then he met his match. Cioffi absolutely lit up Thomas, forcing a fumble on the play. Like he did at Rutgers and all his football life prior, Cioffi is out there making plays. Thomas was on the ground for a while after the Cioffi crunch. Trainers had to attend to him and Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay even ran on to the field. Coaches usually don’t do that unless a player is particularly shaken up. Thankfully, Thomas seems to be alright. Though, he surely won’t soon forget Anthony Cioffi.
These are just preseason games, that is much understood. However, for an undrafted rookie to make an impact, he must be able to separate himself from the crowd. In silencing the Rams, Cioffi showed Raider Nation and the entire NFL that he can absolutely hang with the big boys, and hang some of them out to dry.
Cioffi is ridiculously fast and he can get physical too. What’s not to like? Oakland is learning quickly how special this guy is. Back in the Garden State, they’ve known that for years. Cioffi’s hometown is pumped up for the Raiders rookie. The town of Springfield which is filled with Giants and Jets fans is now a little more Silver and Black. Even the Cioffi family, who root for the Minnesota Vikings, are adding Raiders gear to all their purple swag. The family is proud of their guy, and Springfield is proud of their guy.
Springfield is a town of about 15,000 residents. If Cioffi makes it to the NFL regular season, he will be only the second Jonathan Dayton grad to achieve that lofty goal. Curt Merz played for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1960s. Now another Dayton grad is hoping to make it with the Chiefs’ arch rival., so far so good.
Little Springfield is so excited for Cioffi they held a party/pep rally in honor of him earlier this month. The crowd met at Dayton High and wished Cioffi the best all while wearing #37 Raiders shirts and jerseys. Well-wishers rocked out to music and ate food catered by Cioffi’s Deli, the Cioffi family’s popular eatery.
Also this month, the Springfield Township Committee officially honored Cioffi. Springfield’s Republican Mayor Diane Stampoulos presented a proclamation to Cioffi and his family in recognition of his NFL achievement. While the man of the hour was miles away playing football, he addressed the committee through a letter. Always thinking about others, Cioffi focused more on volunteerism, Special Olympics, and giving back. Cioffi isn’t seeking the spotlight, his incredible play on the field has just happened to land him smack dab in front of it.
The Raiders have two more preseason games to go. That means two more dress rehearsals for Cioffi and perhaps more undressing of opposing wide receivers. Final roster cuts are still a long way away. However, if it’s a hard hitting, intelligent, durable player, with a nose for the ball and blazing speed that they’re after, it looks like Oakland will have an easy decision to make heading into the regular season. Small town Cioffi is a big time football player.
Follow Kevin Scholla on Twitter @kevinscholla