None of these characterizations came as a real surprise to the coaches who had Rossovich at Southern Cal. They often speak of him.
"Ah, old Timbo," said John McKay, the USC head coach, not long ago, shaking his head and smiling knowingly.
"A big puppy dog," said Assistant Coach Craig Fertig, shaking his head and smiling.
"A big boy, an intelligent boy, but above all, a mean boy," said McKay fondly.
"A very high threshold of pain," said Assistant Coach Marv Goux.
Goux said he had recruited Rossovich and had fallen in love with the Rossovich family, which lived a mile from the Stanford campus in Palo Alto. He said there were two other brothers and two sisters, and the parents were "the sweetest, straightest people you'd ever want to meet." Tim's grandfather on his mother's side had come over from Italy as a boy of 13 on the boat by himself. His father was a first-generation American success story: up from nothing to his own business, a fish and poultry market; he had also made profitable investments. His parents told Goux that Tim had been a very easy boy to raise, with only a few enlivening incidents, such as the time, at 10, he went through the windshield of a car and landed in the back seat and the day he rode his bicycle off the 12th row of the bleachers at the high school stadium. Goux said he became Tim's father confessor and kept the Rossoviches abreast of Tim's visits to the dean's office.
"Timbo actually was a very good student," said Goux. "He graduated with his class or a semester after. And he never, never cut corners on the football field. He was a leader. His senior year for us was a great year for him. Against Notre Dame he was fantastic. He blocked three passes at the line of scrimmage, forced a fumble on our three-yard line."
"But off the field, a big puppy dog," said Fertig. "You see a picture of a group up to something and there he is in the background, that great face gazing over the heads of the others."
Goux said he would never forget the scene in the Student Union Building when Tim had to appear before a student-faculty discipline committee to explain some of his actions. "There he sat, in the middle of this panel of guys in horn-rimmed glasses, them waving their fingers at him and him very contrite, very apologetic, promising to behave."
Fertig said they knew Rossovich was no ordinary anomaly when as a freshman he put dents in all the lockers by ramming them with his head.