The Sal Alosi You Don't KnowJuly 13, 2015
Last month, on a regular offseason day with regular offseason expectations, UCLA sent out a press release announcing that Sean "Diddy" Combs, the father of UCLA defensive back Justin Combs, used a kettlebell as a weapon in the team's training facility.
The alleged incident at the Bruins' facility occurred because Diddy was concerned about the treatment of his son. A tape of the encounter supposedly exists, but it has not been released. Not yet, at least. Details, as a result, are limited.
The hip-hop mogul gobbled up the headlines, but a significant piece of the incident that had been missing soon came into focus. TMZ Sports reported UCLA strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi—a man known for an infamous tripping incident back in 2010—was on the receiving end of the kettlebell.
With speculation circling, the Los Angeles Times reported that Combs would not be charged with a felony. From a legal standpoint, that softened the blow mightily. His son has not announced plans to transfer either.
Combs' representative, Nathalie Moar, told the Associated Press that he was acting out of self-defense. UCLA had no comment when contacted by Bleacher Report on July 7. As for Alosi, he is again a story. As a result, questions regarding the strength and conditioning coach—a profession not known for creating noise, at least outside of the weight room—have bubbled to the surface.
Is Sal Alosi a problem? Is he a victim of bad timing? What is behind the man who has a knack for finding himself in unenviable situations?
Long before he stuck out his left leg and altered his professional career with a single gesture, and even before he was allegedly involved in an altercation with a rapper who also pushes upscale vodka, Alosi was fresh out of college, just a kid from Long Island consumed by the allure of football, weightlifting and 20-inch rims.
He was a kid, at least in spirit. He loved his body and his car. He was hungry to get his professional coaching career churning, although he trained as if his playing career was still in front of him. And yes, like most kids adapting to real-world gravity, Alosi grabbed as many side jobs as his schedule would allow.
An unbelievable ascent to the NFL followed. He jumped from Hofstra to the New York Jets in a matter of years, and madness followed closely behind.
In recent years, Alosi has managed to achieve something few strength and conditioning coaches at any level ever have: Despite doing his work behind the scenes, he's made national headlines. Twice. His latest alleged incident reads more like a slow news day at the Onion.
"The guy just can't stay out of the headlines," NFL veteran Nolan Carroll told Bleacher Report. "I had a feeling it would always be pinned back to me. I guess we are kind of pinned at the hip for life."
While he may not be a household name in the NFL, Carroll has held down an NFL roster spot for five years. He was also on the wrong end of the trip heard 'round the world.
Now a member of the Eagles, Carroll broke into the league with the Miami Dolphins. On December 12, 2010, Carroll went tumbling to the ground after Alosi—then with the New York Jets—subtly tripped the rookie as he crossed the sideline.
Whether he was acting on an order, on his own or out of reflex will likely remain a mystery. It didn't matter at the time. Alosi "resigned" a month later.
Carroll's history with Alosi is unique to say the least, and their connection is indeed lifelong. As a result of the past, Carroll has kept up with him—casually and from a distance, of course—as they've embarked on divergent journeys.
"I've heard some stories, and they're not all good," Carroll said. "I've heard the guy just gets under your skin, from multiple players—at the Jets or coming up in college and even now at UCLA. I've heard he just comes off a certain way."
But in terms of residual anger, Carroll doesn't hold a grudge. They may never celebrate life over a barbecue, but he didn't sound like a man still grinding away at his ax.
Hours after he fell, with people already whispering that he should take legal action, Carroll hobbled onto the team charter back to Miami, wanting no part of it. As he made his way back home, his phone rang. It was Alosi.
"He called me right when I was getting on the plane going back to Miami. He apologized and said he didn't mean to do it," Carroll said. "He told me that he really didn't know what he was thinking, and that he felt bad and ashamed. I don't really think his intention was to hurt me. I don't really know the guy so I don't really know, but I couldn't imagine somebody willing try to hurt a player."
The connection between the two hit a deep slumber in recent years. Carroll has enjoyed a nice run in the NFL. In March of last year, he signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Eagles. Alosi, after a cup of coffee at Bryant University to rebuild his reputation, was hired by UCLA in 2012 as a strength and conditioning coach.
On June 22, Alosi's name surfaced again in the strangest way imaginable.
Wait, a kettlebell? And Diddy? And the guy from the Jets?
While the situation has defused, that hasn't stopped speculation from ensuing. Alosi, nearly five years removed from the trip and currently coaching at the college level on the opposite end of the map, has managed to generate headlines for reasons he’d rather not. And one of his friends and former clients from a different time in his life is not the least bit surprised.
"When it happened, I heard it was a UCLA coach," Drew Bernstein, who has known Alosi since 1999, told Bleacher Report. "I said at the time that I bet Sal had something to do with this. He has that bouncer mentality."
Bernstein knew Alosi long before anyone knew his name. Before he left for Rollins College to play lacrosse at the Division II level, Bernstein worked out with Alosi and his brother Pete, who worked on the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff last season.
Living near the Hofstra campus, Bernstein, then in grade school, sparked a friendship with the former Hofstra linebacker that stretched well into high school and beyond. After leading the team in tackles in 2000, Alosi joined the Hofstra football team as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. It was there that he met a young man looking for some physical guidance.
"We were looking to work out more, and he was looking for some side money, so he kind of became my trainer," Bernstein said. "It was pretty casual, but we kept the relationship and got friendly."
The two became close. While it started in the gym, they became friends. Through this friendship, Bernstein witnessed Alosi's temper on occasion. Most of the time, it was warranted. It's part of the profession.
"Sal had very little patience. When he gave you instructions, you wanted to follow them," Bernstein said. "He also had that Long Island sense of humor. He's brash. He's sarcastic. He's straightforward. He'll tell you when you're out of shape or bringing a s--t effort."
Bernstein trained with Alosi between four and five years. As Bernstein grew closer to his own college decision, Alosi graduated to the Jets—a rise that both surprised and pleased his soon-to-be-former client.
Once Sal moved to New York, Pete Alosi took over. Even while Bernstein took weight-room cues from another Alosi, however, his relationship with Sal continued.
During the Jets training camp at Hofstra, Sal would secure Bernstein tickets to practice. On off days, the two would rehash old times and work out at the facility. Even during the season, the two would text one another and stay in touch. It wasn't just Bernstein looking for NFL nuggets; Alosi would reach out after Bernstein's bad games and offer encouragement. He'd check in randomly just to say hello.
"Growing up, especially with my brother [a Bleacher Report employee] being in college, he was like a big brother to me," Bernstein said. "Even when he was with the Jets, he was always keeping up with me to see how I was doing. I have nothing but great things to say about Sal. Just making the time for me more than anything meant a lot."
Bernstein texted his friend when the 2010 tripping occurred. He has his own theories as to what (and who) caused Alosi stuck out his leg, but it didn't really matter at the time. Bernstein wanted to make sure his friend was doing all right.
When news surfaced out of UCLA, he checked in again. Although it's been a few years since Alosi and Bernstein last talked, he again has his own thoughts on what took place.
"I don't think Sal is one to really back away from a fight," Bernstein said. "But I think he also knows the lines that he can't cross."
Those lines, at least at the moment, are somewhat blurred. TMZ Sports recently reported that Alosi got into a fistfight with Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis in 2010.
In reference to this latest incident, TMZ, through sources, also reported that Alosi "bullied" Combs' son over the course of three years, which ultimately played a part in the incident bubbling over.
The line for coaches to walk in this sport at this level is delicate. They are paid to push young men past a point of comfort by any means necessary. As a result, conflict is not necessarily unusual. In many ways, it's encouraged. It's a sign that a message is being delivered. It's up to this group to find a way to get that message across.
But there is always a line.
Alosi's character is being scrutinized again. People are trying to identify where that line is. Unlike his first brush with unexpected and unwanted fame, there is no video to determine whether this line was crossed—at least not yet. All that exists is noise—and, of course, a kettlebell.
At the very least, however, the young man who leaned on him for far more than a training regimen going back to grade school still has nothing but positive things to say about the person everyone else is trying to understand.
"I think everyone has their Sal stories," Bernstein, now 28, said. "I'll bet there are a ton of people who are just like me, who Sal has reached out to at some point. He's always been someone to help out younger people and really stay involved. He's someone you gravitate toward."
Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.