From small town to big time: Morris alum Ossenfort collecting rings with Patriots
No former Minnesota Morris student-athlete has ever played in the Super Bowl. One former Cougar football player, though, just collected his third Super Bowl ring.
Monti Ossenfort, a 2000 graduate of Minnesota Morris who was a two-year starter at quarterback, is the New England Patriots director of college scouting. He just completed his 12th year in the organization and now has three Super Bowl rings.
He worked for the team as a personnel assistant in 2003 when the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVIII over the Carolina Panthers. In 2014, his first season in his current role, New England defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Then a week ago Sunday the Patriots completed an incredible comeback to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Ossenfort, who was in attendance for the game, said it did not look good when the Patriots were trailing 28-3 late in the third quarter.
"We turned the ball over twice, gave them a defensive touchdown; everything had gone wrong to that point," he said. "We kept chipping away until we had a chance to get back in there. Those two-point conversions in the fourth quarter were huge. The team kept playing and it came out the right way for us."
Ossenfort's responsibility with the Patriots is preparing for the NFL Draft, which is a process that starts the day after the previous year's draft ends. His department is responsible for looking at all college senior prospects, juniors that declare for the draft, and third-year sophomores. Their job is to get all information necessary to evaluate them as players and look into their backgrounds to determine if they will be a fit for the team and organization. He oversees seven scouts who travel the country looking for those right fits and they report back to him what they find.
Minnesota Morris Head Men's Soccer Coach Scott Turnbull '99 was a two-year teammate of Ossenfort's on the Cougar football team in the late 1990s. He says he is not surprised at the professional success of his fellow alum.
"Monti had a great work ethic and great attitude and could learn something from anybody," he said. "He works hard, he's intelligent, and he can soak everything in. It is great that he has been able to take advantage of his opportunity."
Ossenfort's opportunity has led him to work under Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio and five-time Super Bowl champion Head Coach Bill Belichick. Caserio, who runs the Patriots scouting operation, is Ossenfort's direct supervisor, but Belichick oversees the whole operation. He has clear expectations and asks a lot of each department.
"He's on top of everything," said Ossenfort. "He's involved in all aspects of the football operations. He's a tremendous person to learn under and work for."
As a student-athlete at Minnesota Morris, Ossenfort learned the key attribute of perseverance. His Cougar football teams won a total of five games from 1996-99. Despite being unsuccessful on the gridiron, he loved his time in Morris and it is what made him the type of person he is today.
"We kept getting knocked down, but we kept coming back, answered the bell, and gave everything we could out there," said Ossenfort. "We had a bit of an overachiever mentality where we went to work every day and put our best foot forward."
After graduating with a degree in economics and management from Morris, Ossenfort earned a master's degree in business administration and a master's degree in sports management from Ohio University. It was at Ohio where he decided football was the business he wanted to get into. He gained his first NFL experience working as a training camp intern with the Minnesota Vikings in 2001. After obtaining his master's degrees he worked as an intern in the pro personnel department of the Houston Texans in 2002. After his 2003 stint with the Patriots, Ossenfort returned to Houston in 2004 as a pro and college scouting assistant. In 2006 he went back to New England and worked as an area and national scout and later as the assistant director of college scouting.
While working with a Super Bowl championship team can definitely be an enjoyable experience, the job requires a lot of travel and that is where he is grateful for his wife, Shannon.
"This job is something I love doing and there's no greater feeling, professionally, doing what we just did," said Ossenfort. "I do spend a lot of time away from family, though. A lot gets put on my wife's shoulders. We have two daughters and are expecting a third in April. She's done a great job."
Prior to making it to the ranks of the NFL Ossenfort was a small-town Minnesota resident who grew up in Luverne and went to college in Morris. He says small-town life should not deter you from having big aspirations.
"It's a big world out there; find out something that you love to do and go for it," he said. "There are opportunities out there. If you have determination and willingness and you're able to sacrifice to go to the extra mile, anything is achievable."