Rossum was the smallest man on the Packers roster last season, but made one of the biggest impacts and some felt he was the team's most valuable player. He solved a critical need for a quality return man after being acquired from Philadelphia for a fifth-round draft pick, providing not only a steady spark with his returns, but also stability with his sure hands.
The 5-foot-8, 178-pound Rossum enters the regular season as a potential Pro Bowler after being named the first alternate as a return man for the 2000 NFC Pro Bowl team. Rossum produced the third-most kickoff return yardage (1,288) in Packer history and was one of only five players in rank among the top 10 in the conference in both punt and kickoff returns.
Rossum generated 1,536 total return yards and finished fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average (25.8) and eighth in the NFC in punt return average (8.6). He scored just one touchdown, a 92-yard kickoff return against Indianapolis, but had several pivotal returns that allowed the Packers to seize momentum.
Despite his lack of height, Rossum also surprised many observers by making a solid contribution as a cornerback. When injuries created a potential crisis in the secondary, Rossum filled in competently in the dime package, making 12 tackles and breaking up three passes.
"He was an immediate impact player for us, not only as return guy, but as a cover guy on special teams," said special teams coach Frank Novak. "He had some big momentum plays for us. The guy is a consummate team player."
Spend a few minutes with Rossum and his reputation for being a team player quickly surfaces. The way Rossum sees it, only a blockhead of a return man wouldn't appreciate his blockers.
"Being a return man is all about believing in your blockers," said Rossum. "If you don't have faith in them getting the job done, there's no way you'll get the job done. It's not all about you. No, you've got 10 guys out there working so hard for you. And if you don't have faith in them, they won't have faith in you, and you won't get anything done out there.
"You get that faith with a big return. And it doesn't have to be a touchdown. Ten yards can be a big punt return – 30 yards can be a big kickoff return. We work hard on special teams. We're out there working in the hot sun while a lot of guys have the afternoon off." Rossum enjoys playing for Novak, the energetic, enthusiastic special teams coach who quickly cleaned up what was been a disaster area for the Packers in 1999.
"Frank's a hell of a character," chuckles Rossum. "He can always give you a quote of the day. You might get in his doghouse, but he'd put himself into his doghouse if he messed up. But it's all fun and games. As special teamers, we don't get in each other's face, cursing each other out. We have mutual respect for one another and that's what Frank persuades. If we see someone slacking or messing up, we say, hey, 'Let's pick it up, man. We need you."
Rossum – a third-round pick by Philadelphia in the 1998 draft – feels fortunate to have landed in Green Bay where he's grown not only professionally, but personally.
"Coming to Green Bay may have been the best thing that happened to me in my life," Rossum said. "It helped me mature a lot. It helped me religiously to become closer to my Lord and Savior. Those are things that I always wanted to do. I just always seemed to make up excuses."
"And as a player, I finally found guys who were just like me, out there fighting hard for the same thing."
Rossum can be an unrestricted free agent following this season, but is confident he'll eventually reach an extension with the Packers.
"I'm pretty sure we're going to be able to reach an agreement," said Rossum. "I'll let the people who pay handle it and it's not something I can really control. But I'm pretty positive. If all else fails, I'll step in and say, 'Hey, let's get this done.' I'm going to be here for awhile. I'm not planning on going anywhere."
Rossum – a third-round pick by Philadelphia in the 1998 draft – has always thrived on challenges and would welcome the opportunity to again contribute in Ed Donatell's defensive package. At Notre Dame, Rossum was a three-year starter at cornerback. He started 36 consecutive games at the position, finishing with seven interceptions, 144 total tackles, 12 passes defenses and two sacks.
Rossum still holds an NCAA career record with 9 returns for touchdowns: 3 on interceptions, 3 on punts and 3 on kickoffs.