January 2015. The little boy and his dad crossed the street from their Sunnyside home nearly every afternoon and headed for the park, the dad toting a large duffle bag filled with all types of sports equipment.
They’d play baseball, football, basketball and even lace on boxing gloves and spar a bit. And when they were done playing together, other kids would join in, or the dad would leave and the boy played with friends until his mom called out from their fourth-floor apartment window: “Teddy, it’s dinner time.”
It was a ritual except when the dad was away on business— and mom took over.
“I was surprised the first time my mom stepped in,” said Teddy Atlas III, the son of famous boxing trainer Teddy Atlas Jr. and Elaine Atlas. “But she would pitch to us, run the bases.”
Pretty cool mom.
In the years that followed, Atlas spent a lot of time around pro sports, “in the gym, at major sporting events and meeting professional athletes” through his dad’s work in boxing.
It’s not surprising, then, that Teddy Atlas III would wind up with a career in sports. At 29, he’s the scouting coordinator for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League and loving every minute of it.
“I get paid to watch football for a living,” Atlas said.
It’s a lot more involved than that, but more on that later.
Atlas grew up like a lot of kids from local sports families. He played in the Staten Island Boys Football League, the East Shore Little League, the Mid-Island Babe Ruth League and CYO basketball for St. Teresa’s, and wound up on the football, basketball, and baseball teams at St. Peter’s High School.
Naturally, Atlas also boxed, trained by his dad. He later boxed a bit at Northeastern University in Boston, where he graduated with a degree in economics. Having interned with the Jets when Eric Mangini was head coach, Atlas found himself with two job offers after graduation: one with an accounting firm and the other in football operations with the Cleveland Browns, where Mangini wound up after being fired by the Jets in December 2008.
It was no contest.
“Without hesitation,” he said, “I took the job with the Browns.”
The hours with the Browns were long; the tasks — like being in charge of locker room music, Gatorade inventory, transportation — were many. But he stayed late on his own time and begged the player personnel guys for more stuff to do. It was a great education, and in 2010 the Browns’ president promoted him to that department.
But Mangini was fired after that season and his whole staff was let go. So Atlas took a pile of resumes to the college Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and gave them out to every general manager and head coach in attendance. Two weeks later the Raiders called him, and Atlas moved to Oakland, where he’s been for four seasons.
In 2013, he was promoted to Raiders scouting coordinator. His responsibilities run the gamut, from coordinating prospects’ evaluations to evaluating that talent himself; from talking to agents of potential free-agent players and working them out. He also arranges the advance scouting reports of teams the Raiders will play each week.
“He is a great worker,” Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie told The Press Democrat newspaper in California, “and he understands football. And he understands what needs be done. No job is too big for him. Those are the kind of guys you need to have around your team.”
Atlas loves all of it. “It doesn’t feel like a job a lot of days,” he said. “I get to watch guys I helped draft. I have a say.”
He credits his parents for preparing him well for the challenges and responsibilities of the job, such as “seeing what my father went through to get to the top of his profession, the hard work, long hours and sacrifices he made. And the sacrifices my mother made, too,” he said.
He also gives credit to Mangini, who taught him “how to grind,” he said.
Atlas, who bears a strong resemblance to his dad, does miss his family — his parents, who now live on Todt Hill, and older sister Nicole, an attorney and part-time boxing judge — and friends on the Island, but is comforted by his parents’ visits and the arrival of fiancée Lana Guzik, a Brooklyn girl, who joined him in Alameda, California.
He laments having missed the last six Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation dinners, which honors his grandfather, is run by his dad, brings celebrities to Staten Island, and raises thousands for worthy causes.
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And in those rare times the job gets him down, Atlas has a good fall- back plan.
“I think to myself that I’m not as smart as the other guys; that I never played football on this level,” Atlas said. “But I’m lucky to have the relationship I have with my father. He can motivate anybody.”
He also laments missing his sister’s law school graduation and friends’ weddings in order to chase his dream. “I’ve sacrificed so much. I have to make it.”
Make what, exactly? Well, there are 32 NFL football general managers in the world.
Atlas wants to be one of them.
Joe LoVerde has been coaching youth sports on Staten Island for nearly 40 years. He’s also a longtime newspaper editor and sportswriter.