Commentary

Dream becomes reality for Michael Rose

Originally Published: September 29, 2011
By Damon Sayles | ESPN Recruiting

Michael Rose scored his first touchdown of his varsity career last week. Some say that in addition to being considered one of the best linebackers in the country, he doesn't make for a bad fullback.

Don't expect Rose to agree. As a matter of fact, expect Rose to be the last person to fully endorse the concept.

"If anyone came around and offered me as a fullback," he said with a laugh, "I'd be the first one to tell them that's probably not a good idea. You really don't want to do that."

He then added: "I'm a linebacker."

There's no doubt that Rose has established himself as the consummate linebacker. The 6-foot, 225-pound, four-star Nebraska commit from Rockhurst, Mo., has worked hard to be considered among the elite in his position, and he is a leader on a team that his risen to No. 34 in the latest Fab 50 national rankings.

To Rose, a linebacker is being "the quarterback of the defense." It's a position that should be played with pride and humility. Thursday afternoon, Rose's hard work was rewarded with a white jersey for the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game, which will be played Jan. 5 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and televised on ESPN.

"I still remember when I got picked. I actually had to call and ask if they sent the letter to the right guy," Rose said. "It's a great honor, something that I can share with my family and teammates and something that I can tell my kids when I'm older."

The younger days

As Rose spoke to onlookers during Thursday's jersey presentation, he thanked those who have been his biggest supporters. Among those in attendance was his father, also named Michael. Rose's father (Michael Rose Jr.), who openly calls his son (Michael Rose III) his "favorite athlete of all time," played linebacker at Division II Northwest Missouri State, and helped the school win two of its three national titles in 1998 and 1999.

He was fortunate to participate in NFL tryouts with the Cowboys and Jaguars and in the Arena League. When he didn't make cuts, he put aside his professional dreams to focus on being a father to a son who loved the game as much as he did.

"We had Michael when I was 15, so I was still playing high school football when he was a baby," Rose Jr. said. "There were some promising opportunities out there, but I knew I would miss time with my family. You have all the aspirations in the world for your kid, especially when he wants to follow in your footsteps. I think he's actually surpassed my footsteps. His college is taken care of, and his grades are good. I'm a fan of his."

Rose Jr. reminisced about the days when his son was a youngster. Young Michael was a 7-year-old with a mean streak. He also had a savvy for the game that couldn't be taught.

"When you play little league, there can be a lot of chaos and not a lot of order," Rose Jr. said. "You can tell Michael wanted that order. Sometimes, he'd get upset with teammates because they acted like they didn't know what they were doing. He had a real good concept of the game. A kid at that age shouldn't know that much about the game."

Rose Jr. added that one of Michael's first words -- believe it or not -- was "touchdown." The two would watch the Chiefs play, and when they scored, Michael would raise his hands simulating a referee signaling a touchdown.

Following those before him

Being selected for the Under Armour game, to Rose, meant following the footsteps of great athletes who went on to pursue their dreams in the NFL. Rose remembers watching guys like Julio Jones and thinking how much of a dream it would be to wear the jersey.

That dream officially became reality Thursday.

"I look at the guys who played in it, and I just realize how much of a blessing it is," Rose said. "You go to all these camps and talk to kids who look real good but don't have any scholarship offers. Then, you just realize you're an ordinary guy with blessings from God. I try to be a steward for those blessings."

Rose continued: "To get a chance to play at the next level to provide for my family, that runs in my mind. To have this opportunity to play in the game is mind-blowing. I'll get to build relationships, and the experience itself is worth it."

And as Rose steps on the field, expect his biggest fan to be right there watching.

"It's emotional, because I'm watching my boy turn into a man," his father said. "Getting this honor means he's the best of the best in regards to what he does on the football field."

Damon Sayles covers recruiting in the Midlands for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at dsaylesespn@gmail.com.