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From Bills Intern to Chargers GM: Tom Telesco Details NFL Journey

Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp 1st Day on Saturday July 28, 2018. (Chargers/Mike Nowak) 

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General Manager Tom Telesco was Tuesday’s guest on the second episode of the Backstage: Chargers Podcast presented by Toyota.

Telesco, who returns to his hometown of Buffalo this weekend, discussed his unique path to the position he holds today with the Chargers. Among the topics: starting his NFL career as a Bills intern in 1991, playing wide receiver at John Carroll University, learning under Hall of Fame General Manager Bill Polian at the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, and more.

Highlights from the conversation are below:

On his first NFL job as a Bills intern

“I had never had any thoughts of actually working in the NFL, so for me it was just a chance to learn more about the game – learn more about being a wide receiver. I got so lucky that at that time they had Andre Reed, who’s a Hall of Famer. They had James Lofton, who’s a Hall of Famer. Steve Tasker, who I think should be a Hall of Famer as a special teamer. … And their receiver coach was Charlie Joiner, so I had an enormous amount of people to learn from: how to run routes, how to recognize coverage, how to set up your routes – all the stuff that I thought that I needed to succeed at the Division III level I can learn from these guys, and that’s really why I did it for the first couple summers.” 

When he thought about becoming a GM

“I never thought about being a GM honestly ‘til maybe, I don’t know, three years, four years before I got the Charger job. Never thought of it. When I first got to the Panthers, I was worried about just holding onto the job I had. So, just doing the job the best that I could – contribute the best that I could. I never, ever worried about getting promoted, ‘Hey, what can I do next?’ I really – it had never, just never entered my mind. It was almost like survival at that point. I was just trying to learn as much as I could, help as much as I could.”

Lessons from Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian

“Probably, it’s just the people skills of the job and the time-management part of the job, but probably mostly the people skills of talking with coaches, talking with players, talking with your scouts, and just getting a feel and a pulse for what’s going on all the time – and then trying to fit all the pieces together. Bill delegated a ton of work to a lot of people when I was with the Colts, and to some of us at an age that we probably hadn’t earned it yet, but he trusted people.”

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