Anthony Cioffi taking versatility, strong work ethic to NFL

Nov 5, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash talks to defensive back Anthony Cioffi (31) during a timeout in the first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Chris Ash talks to defensive back Anthony Cioffi (31) during a timeout in the first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

Rutgers safety and 2017 NFL Draft hopeful Anthony Cioffi knows the value of hard work. He’s excited to prove he belongs in the NFL…

Anthony Cioffi is a playmaker.

He learned through the experiences of his family that nothing ever comes easy. You have to work for every inch. As he now prepares for life after the Rutgers football program and perhaps a shot at the NFL, Cioffi believes a ‘family first’ approach to how you work will never return void.

“I’ll start off with my grandfather,” Cioffi said in an exclusive interview with NFL Mocks. “He’s someone that came over from Italy when he was 18 not knowing any English. Forget about football, he was just thrown into a new country not knowing anyone and figuring out how to adapt.

He taught me that you have to be able to adapt to your surroundings. My Father and Uncle also taught me that things don’t always pan out the way you want it to be, but whenever you make a mistake you never lose, you always learn. You always have a chance to improve yourself.”

Cioffi came to Rutgers four years ago as a three-star prospect out of Springfield, New Jersey. Since his arrival at Rutgers, Cioffi has had to work hard for every rep, fighting through the adversity of playing on a team that didn’t have much success as a whole.

With his senior season now finished, Cioffi recalls the moment he felt like he belonged on a field with elite level athletes…

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“When I was a freshman, when I sacked Teddy Bridgewater and got thrown into the fire against Louisville. We called a corner blitz. I was like, man, first couple of plays in college and I get a blitz! That really put in my mind that I could do this. There’s always doubt as a freshman, but I made a play to help the team and felt like I made some guys proud.”

Starting off his college career as a cornerback, it was apparent that the 6-foot defensive back had a nose for the football. He mentioned his sack against Teddy Bridgewater, but Cioffi also had 31 tackles, four for loss, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and a blocked kick as a true freshman.

As a junior, Cioffi made a position switch to safety, and it paid huge dividends. He picked off four passes as a junior, racking up 46 tackles in the process. He talked about the fact that his change of positions was beneficial not only at the time, but looking to the future as well.

“I feel that I shifted to my more natural position at safety my junior year, and I’m gearing up for that. I have enough versatility to where if they need me for nickel support or dime, I can cover the slot and be a zone type of safety. I feel like I’m gearing up more toward a safety role in my training.”

After proving his versatility through three seasons at Rutgers, Cioffi truly saved his best for last as a senior, now having a year of experience at safety and adding nearly 30 pounds to his 6-0 frame. Weighing in at 203 pounds (listed weight) and maintaining his elite speed, Cioffi was like a heat-seeking missile in 2016.

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He notched a career high 63 tackles and added a pair of interceptions, breaking up four passes. Now with four years of experience in college, playing in 47 games with experience at both corner and safety, Cioffi needs only to prove to NFL scouts that what he brought to the table in college will translate to the NFL.

“I believe my best asset as a player is my ballhawking ability, as far as reading a quarterback and knowing what could go on in the play. Play recognition. Just being a step ahead of the quarterback is one of my greatest attributes. I pride myself on making plays and being a difference maker. I feel that also being in the film room and being smart — I’ve been around for four years now and feel well versed in that facet.”

NFL coaching staffs are always looking  for players like Cioffi. Players that understand different concepts within a defense, players that know multiple positions and can play them well. But most of all, NFL coaching staffs are looking for go-getters who are great football players. With the way Cioffi played this past season on a Rutgers team that was among the worst in the country, it’s clear that he’s not the type to give up when the going is tough.

“I kind of came up with something myself this year. As far as putting it on tape, I would always say to myself — because some of the kids would want to give up — I’m a senior and I figured this is my last go-round, so I always prided myself in putting something on tape, giving the best effort every play.”

That type of effort won’t go unnoticed by talent evaluators at the next level. For the lack of success Rutgers has had as a team over the last few years, they have certainly put plenty of kids in the NFL, and guys that are having some really nice success.

Something tells me Cioffi will be the next one to do exactly that.