01 Jul 2004
By Rick Pedone News-Gazette Staff Writer
Anyone who saw Bobby Sippio play football and basketball at Osceola High six years ago probably guessed that one day Sippio would be a star at the collegiate and professional levels.

Although it took longer than expected, and the course was more circuitous than he would have liked, Sippio has made it.

Last week he signed a two-year contract with the Miami Dolphins to play wide receiver and defensive back.

“It feels great. It’s a dream to make it to the professional level. I know I speak for every athlete when I say that this is the dream for all of them; they all want to make it,” Sippio, 24, said from his parents’ home Monday.

After coming out of Western Kentucky University as a junior two years ago only to be snubbed in the 2002 NFL draft, Sippio resurrected his career after two seasons of Arena football.

During the 2003 season with the Dallas Desperados, Sippio caught 75 passes for 1,218 yards and scored 32 touchdowns. He had 28 tackles and two interceptions playing defense.

In 2002, Sippio played for Greensboro of the AFL2 and caught 57 passes for over 1,000 yards. He made 66 tackles and had five interceptions there.

Sippio’s receiving yards are impressive considering that he never played the position before the 2002 season.

“The Arena League really helped me. It gave me a clue about receiving and how to run the routes because I had never played receiver before,” said Sippio.

His agent, Marvin Prince, said from his California office that several teams sought Sippio, who also tried out for the Tampa Bay Bucs last week.

“Dallas wanted Bobby to wait until July 8 before trying out so they could try to pick him up, but Bobby and I sat down and talked about it and since Dallas had the last (waivers) option on him it didn’t look like he’d be going there anyway,” said Prince.

Tampa Bay also wanted Sippio, but it didn’t have a roster spot available.

“They were trying to get us to wait before Bobby tried out somewhere else to give them time to clear a spot, but we didn’t want to take that chance,” said Prince.

Sippio’s workout at Miami impressed both the offensive and defensive coaching staffs, said Prince.

“Bobby had a plane to catch two hours after the workout, but they literally wouldn’t let us leave until they had a contract,” said Prince. “They finally decided to give him the offensive and defensive playbooks, and they are going to let him choose where he wants to play.”

Sippio is unconcerned about learning two positions for the Dolphins.

“It’s not as hard as you think. It’s basically just learning the pass routes. And there are only so many techniques you can learn on defense,” he said. “I’m not nervous about it at all.”

Sippio, at 6-3 and 217 pounds, would be one of the largest cornerbacks in the NFL. He ran a 4.5 40-yard-dash in Miami, not fast by NFL standards.

“The coaches knew that I wasn’t in running shape, that I had just come off a season and I was beat up,” said Sippio. “They know that when I come to camp fresh, in shape, I’ll run a 4.4.”

Prince learned about Sippio while he was playing at Greensboro last year.

“Guys who played against him would tell me, ‘Man, this guy is killing us.’ You look at him on tape, and he’s like a man playing with boys. Then, you see him this year in the Arena League and it’s the same thing. A man playing with boys. He’s one of the top rookies,” said Prince.

Sippio’s contract with the Dolphins isn’t guaranteed but is loaded with incentives, said Prince.

“The Dolphins just don’t have any bonus money left. Bobby will get rookie pay in training camp, and if he makes the roster, he’ll earn the NFL minimum. We were talking about it, and we were both laughing. We’re saying, ‘Who are we to be negotiating with the Dolphins after last year when Bobby was playing for $250 a week in Greensboro?’” said Prince.

As a senior, Sippio played quarterback for the Kowboys’ 1998 Class 5A state championship team. He rushed for 1,210 yards and passed for 1,198. He threw four touchdown passes against Daytona Mainland in the regional final, sending the team into the championship against Estero.

Sippio was recruited by several Division I programs such as Alabama and Clemson, but he didn’t meet NCAA qualifying standards and accepted a grant to Western Kentucky.

As a defensive back there, he set the school’s single-season record for interceptions (10) and return yardage (236) as a sophomore and was named to five Division I-AA All-American teams.

But, Sippio developed a reputation as an undisciplined player who was difficult to coach, and that combined with his early departure from school hurt him when the NFL held its 2002 draft.

“I’ve learned a lot, and now I’m looking forward to playing for the Dolphins. Growing up in Florida, I didn’t really have one favorite team. I followed all the local teams and it’s great to be with Miami,” he said.

Prince expects Sippio to be a Dolphin for a long time.

“The coaches told me that he’s got a very good chance to make the roster, and that at the very least it would be difficult for him to not make the practice squad,” he said.