MIAMI — Brian Gaine believes in the value of being able to recognize potential.
In 1990, the coaching staff at the University of Maine saw that Gaine, a tight end from Pearl River, N.Y., had the skill and later would achieve the size to be a productive Division I football player.
These days, Gaine’s professional reputation rides on on his ability to find players whose talent and mental makeup will enable them to compete at the game’s highest level — the National Football League.
Building off the determination and perseverance learned from his parents and coaching mentors along the way, Gaine has worked his way up through the ranks in the NFL.
Gaine, a longtime scout, was recently promoted to assistant general manager of the Miami Dolphins.
“I’ve been very fortunate at a young age in this business to be surrounded by some great people who have had a great impact in my life and have given me an opportunity to prove myself,” said Gaine, who is enjoying some vacation time before the Dolphins intensify their preseason preparations.
The 39-year-old Gaine lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with his wife, Tricia, and children, Kelsey, 9, Ryan, 5, and Connor, 3.
“I get to be a dad and be around the kids on a daily basis,” Gaine said of his time off. “It’s a chance to let them know I’m around. That’s the challenge of the job is balancing the personal and the professional.”
Gaine, who graduated from the University of Maine in 1995 with a degree in public administration, is entering his 15th NFL season.
As a player, he spent a year each on practice squads with the New York Jets and New York Giants, then in 1998 was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. The next year, he hooked on with the Jets’ scouting department.
Gaine worked there five years before doing a two-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys. He was hired by Miami as its assistant director of player personnel in 2008 and was promoted to director last year before getting the assistant GM appointment in June.
“We’re trying to be first class in all that we do, try to create a positive influence,” said Gaine, who works directly with Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland. “We’re optimistic and encouraged about the future and we’re really excited about coach [Joe] Philbin and his staff.”
Gaine’s rise to front-office prominence in the NFL has been a long, gradual process.
He is the youngest of five brothers born to Irish immigrants Jim and Alice Gaine. His brothers include John, a firefighter in Queens; James, a retired New York City police officer; Patrick, a Bronx firefighter; and Brendan, a businessman in St. Louis who was an assistant football coach at UMaine in 1993.
“We’re a blue-collar family and some of the lessons learned were hard-knocks lessons,” Brian Gaine said. “None [influenced me] more than my dad, watching and learning what it was to work hard. Nothing worth having comes easy and with hard work and dedication, you can achieve a lot of great things in life.”
Gaine was a standout tight end at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. There, he showed promise as a 6-foot-4 200-pounder.
However, he also played basketball and explained his split commitment may have slowed his physical maturation. UMaine, then coached by Kirk Ferentz, believed he had what it took to succeed at the next level.
“The first program that offered me a scholarship was the University of Maine,” Gaine said. “I was happy and willing to accept that offer, because I felt like the program was a good fit for me and how they utilized the tight end in the offense.”
With the help of UMaine’s strength and conditioning coaches, Gaine eventually built himself up to 250 pounds. He was the Black Bears’ rookie of the year in 1992 and finished an injury-shortened career with 74 catches for 719 yards.
Both are UMaine records for a tight end and still stand.
Gaine said he learned a lot of football in Orono, specifically how to handle the physical and emotional rigors of the game and preparing for each week’s opponent.
“I’ve always embraced the grind of football, getting to Saturday or now, Sunday,” he said. “There was a process that took place to get there.”
Beyond the game, what Gaine took from his UMaine experience was the importance of relationships with his teammates, coaches and friends.
The Orono campus provided a remote but unique venue where team members worked hard and competed in the hope of winning on Saturday afternoons.
“Nothing’s accomplished in football until a group of young men come together for a common cause,” Gaine said. “I think you learn a lot about sacrifice and commitment.”
He credited Ferentz, and then Cosgrove, for fostering an atmosphere where those attributes were attained. He said the program continues to produce young men with football talent and character.
“It had such a positive and exceptional influence on me, how it’s shaped my career and whatever level of success that I’ve had,” Gaine said. “You have to work for what you earn. Nothing’s going to be handed to you.”
Gaine said his experiences kept him focused and motivated to pursue a career in scouting and player development. He has continued to master his craft, identifying talented players who will fit Miami’s present and future needs on the football field.
Gaine is quick to point out he has received a lot of help along the way.
One of his mentors included former New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, who from 2008-2010 was the executive vice president of football operations for the Dolphins.
Other front-office gurus who have aided Gaine’s development include longtime Pittsburgh Steelers personnel head Dick Haley and Ireland.
“I’ve been surrounded by and learned from a lot of great people at all the places I’ve been,” Gaine said. “I listened more than I spoke in those environments, but they all shaped my career to a degree in my football philosophies.”
He said scouting requires a lot of travel and tremendous personal sacrifice in being away from his family. However, Gaine maintains a passion for evaluating players in the hope of making Miami an AFC power.
“I’ve really never asked for anything in football other than an opportunity,” he said. “Once given an opportunity, my hope is I’ve been able to prove myself every step of the way and earn whatever I’ve gotten in this profession.“