Dimitroff set to make mark at NFL draft

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

In another life and another country, Thomas Dimitroff was a relatively unheralded safety for the University of Guelph football team.

Though he was a captain of the Gryphons in his senior year in 1989 and an OUAA all-star in '87, not many in the football world at large would have taken notice of Dimitroff, even though his father, the late Tom Sr., was both a player and coach in the CFL.

It's safe to say all that will change on Saturday when of the 32 general managers shooting for stars in the annual NFL entry draft, Dimitroff will be in the hottest of hot seats.

The 41-year-old first-year general manager of the Atlanta Falcons will be looking to make his mark at the rudder of a 4-12 franchise still reeling in the fallout from the demise of jailbird quarterback Michael Vick.

Recent history of the franchise aside, Dimitroff is the envy of his peers, as the Falcons have 11 selections in total, including seven of the first 103 and four in the first 48.

"I'm really excited about where we stand here," Dimitroff said earlier this week as he put the finishing touches on his first NFL draft board. "I feel we will come out with a good group of draft picks. And we could use all 11."

Dimitroff and the Falcons will get things started with the third pick overall, one widely speculated will be used to take Boston College quarterback, Matt Ryan. The options were narrowed yesterday when the Miami Dolphins signed tackle Jake Long to a five-year deal, sucking the suspense of the first pick, but as you would expect, Dimitroff isn't tipping his hand.

"We still have (time) to work on the process and on Saturday we'll come up with the final answer," Dimitroff said. "I know everybody would like to know what we're doing at number three, but we're still working on that."

One thing you can be certain of is that Dimitroff will do his homework. Before he became a surprise hire by the Falcons in January, he worked for four other NFL teams, learning from some of the best in the business.

The drive to get to that position and the football wisdom he has shown comes as no surprise to those who knew Dimitroff well in Guelph, including one prominent CFL star.

"I enjoyed the short time I played with him -- I found him to be a good leader, especially for a young guy," said Argos linebacker Mike O'Shea, who was a teammate of Dimitroff's for one year with the Gryphons. "You could tell he was very logical and very intentional in his approach to football. He was a good football player, but he spent a lot of time thinking about the game as well."

Don't discount Dimitroff's ties to Canadian football as an important factor in getting him to where he is today. Tagging along with his father, a one-time quarterback for the Ottawa Rough Riders, Dimitroff lived everywhere from Ottawa, to Hamilton, to Guelph and Regina. In the latter stop, he spent a couple of years in the head office of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, where he acquired some of the rudimentary tools of what would become his career.

As is so often the case in pro football, family ties can help open doors and Dimitroff's biggest connection came from his father's time as a scout for Bill Belichick when both were with the Cleveland Browns.

When Belichick moved on to New England, he hired the younger Dimitroff, who in the past five seasons emerged as one of the dynasty franchise's foremost college scouts.

Dimitroff appears to have learned his lessons well. This weekend is the time he begins to prove it.

"Character is a big thing for us, something that was always drilled into my mind at New England," Dimitroff said this week. "We'll be looking at players who want to be a winner and can be a team guy."


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