It’s about 4 p.m. on Monday, the most coveted time in local sports talk radio.
From downtown office suites, to barbershops and car radios, fans are tuning in to hear the latest analyses from the weekend’s top sports stories.
On this particular day, Rocky Boiman is filling in for Mo Egger’s afternoon show on EPSN Radio 1530.
The former football player is pontificating about a potential rule change that would strictly enforce taunting in the league. With words like “sissifying” and “wussifying,” Boiman’s opinion is unequivocal.
“The more rules we look at, the more in danger we become of losing the game we love,” he says. “Now let’s take some calls.”
It doesn’t take long for one listener to make a correlation.
“Typical west-side Republican” are the caller’s immediate words before starting on his own diatribe. It’s a statement Boiman wouldn’t argue against.
“I was definitely raised with a more conservative background, and I’m proud of it,” Boiman said during an hour-long interview with Cincy Magazine at a conference room in the Green Township Administrative Complex. “The harder you work, the more you should be able to keep.”
At 34 years old and four years removed from the NFL, Boiman is only eight pounds lighter than his playing weight. He’s still 6 feet 4 inches and 230 pounds, but he claims to have “shrunk” since his defensive days. With tree trunk arms and shoulders shaped like an oversized refrigerator, you can’t help but wonder what he looked like as a linebacker. Add his fluorescent-like red hair and rigid jawbones, and he’s easily mistaken for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
“Happens everyday of my life,” he says.
Before resigning as a Green Township trustee in March, Boiman’s star in the Republican Party was rising. In November, he was the township’s top vote getter, a noteworthy accomplishment for the third largest township in Ohio. He was a reoccurring pundit on 700 WLW and ESPN 1530, while providing radio commentary for college and professional football airwaves.
In late January, he announced his resignation from office, citing his son Beau, (born Dec. 25, 2013) and emerging broadcast opportunities. It’s not a full exit from the public stage, however. Considering where his new opportunities may lead, his face, name and voice won’t fade from the public spotlight anytime soon. He’s left politics for now, but the door’s been left wide open for a return.
“To be honest, a career in broadcasting media just increases exposure. Again, that’s not why I’m doing [it] but I think it’s a result,” he says. “If the right people call for me, [a return to politics] is very much a possibility and something I would strongly consider and love to do.”
Football to Politics
In a profession where outstanding performance equals more money, and excuses for missed tackles result in unemployment, professional football meshes with many Republican ideologies.
“I think football in general—and the business of football—is more aligned with conservative-minded thinking,” Boiman says. “It’s a true meritocracy. No excuses, no explanations. Get it done or not.”
The party’s message has attracted several high profile players into the ranks. Jack Kemp played 13 years as a quarterback, including seven with the Buffalo Bills, before taking office as a Republican congressman from New York. In 1998, presidential candidate Bob Dole tapped Kemp as his vice presidential running mate. Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent was an Oklahoma congressman from 1994-2002, and Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann (a former sports broadcaster as well) made a failed bid as the GOP governor of Pennsylvania in 2006.
“The left side of the aisle is all encompassing,” says Boiman. “[The right side] is more about competition, like football…Every day you’re competing against that guy to be better, pure and simple. You’re trying to compete against him, and yourself to be the best you can be.”
From an early age, Rocky Boiman showed athletic promise and his father, Mike Boiman, wasn’t going to let him waste it.
“My dad was never out to be my friend, he was there to be my dad” says Boiman. While friends were off riding roller coasters at Kings Island, Rocky’s father, a retired Green Township maintenance supervisor, had his son at the track running sprints. It wasn’t fun for the adolescent, but his father’s push brought results. As a larger-than-average defensive back at St. Xavier High School, he received scholarship offers from several high profile schools, including his beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
At Notre Dame, his toughness and fearless play earned him a spot on special teams as a true freshman, before becoming a captain his senior year. After graduating with a degree in pre-professional psychology, Boiman was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL draft. He played four seasons for the Titans, before signing with the Indianapolis Colts, where he played in every game and earned a Super Bowl ring.
In 2008, during the midst of the presidential election, he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. While he always sided with Republican causes, he never actively got involved. That year, he decided to take an active political role and started LEAD, a political action committee that supported young future leaders. Boiman and LEAD helped U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot and Sen. Rob Portman on reelection campaigns.
“It was a turbulent time and I felt called and inspired,” says Boiman, whose last official involvement in politics came during a failed bid for class president at St. Xavier.
For a white guy, playing on a defensive unit dominated by players supporting the first African-American presidential candidate, his Republican Party message was met with some rebuffed head shaking.
“I would try and tell the younger guys, ‘You see why half your paycheck is going away, you don’t recognize that, you don’t care?’ ” he says. “I was never embarrassed about it and I was very strong in my belief.”
After Boiman finished out his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2009-2010 season, he returned home to Green Township. During Chabot’s 2010 campaign to retake his seat, Boiman co-chaired a campaign committee of young professionals. However, Chabot’s relationship with Boiman originates with football and Rocky’s father. Both were La Salle High School graduates playing on the same football team. Rocky’s football notoriety brought the campaign a level of awareness it might not have had otherwise.
“There’s great interest and enthusiasm when someone like him wants to get involved and support their community,” says Chabot.
After State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg resigned over drunk driving charges in 2011, Boiman interviewed for the seat, but it went to Lou Terhar instead.
Appointment for office came later that year when Tracy Winkler left the Green Township Board of Trustees.
He brought attention, but Boiman’s political expertise was quickly tested. When the federal government forced 32 public housing units in the township, Boiman was forced into an uncomfortable position. It included a scene of screaming protesters harassing his wife Kelli as she tried to pull into their driveway.
“These are difficult issues because they deal with safety and security of the community, infused with racial overtones,” says Bill Seitz, a member of the Ohio Senate since 2007. “You’re kind of walking on egg shells when you’re dealing with a controversy like this.”
As a former Cincinnati School Board member, state representative and Green Township trustee, Seitz understands the challenges from such issues, but he gave Rocky “high marks” for his performance.
While steering through politics, Boiman pushed his broadcast career. He worked for free, doing the Bengals post-game shows, and called cable access games for his high school alma mater. Around that time, he attended an NFL broadcast crash course with roughly 25 former players and was selected to go to London for a studio gig. His ability to articulate the game took him from announcing high school football games one week, to speaking about professional football on the international stage the next.
For the last three years, he’s traveled to London working as a studio analyst. He’s also called college games for WestwoodOne Radio Networks, as well as NFL games and the Super Bowl for BBC Radio. It’s a freelance gig, but the elevated profile has also lead to reoccurring appearances on 700WLW and ESPN 1530, talking about politics and sports, respectively.
Where to Next
Boiman says his biggest political mentor has been Alex Triantafilou, Hamilton County Republican Party chairman. His advice and tutelage has fostered Rocky’s growth and maturation in the GOP.
At any party event where Triantafilou has to speak, he’ll introduce Boiman as being “the only one in the room with a Super Bowl ring.”
Triantafilou wants to continue to use Boiman to push the party’s message.
“Having an NFL guy like that certainly helps the branding of the party,” says Triantafilou. “Rocky is not finished with the GOP and he’s not finished with politics either.”
Both Triantafilou and Seitz believe Boiman’s athletic career, and ability to connect with locals, makes him an asset in the party.
How he’ll continue to serve the party remains to be seen. Triantafilou says Boiman may chair local policy committees, but they haven’t discussed specifics. His future participation will reveal a lot about a potential career in politics.
“I’m going to stay very involved in the community,” says Boiman. “Do I see myself getting back in politics and running for a higher seat? Yes I do.”