Iowa State’s Mike Rose talks about how he succeeded on and off the field during his whirlwind freshman season
Randy Peterson, email@example.com
AMES, Ia. — He walked along in high school at this time a year ago, enjoying every last moment hanging out daily with lifelong friends.
The Brecksville-Broadview prom was just around the corner. Graduation would follow, and then Mike Rose would essentially be on his own, moving from his Ohio home to Ames, where he would start new and everlasting relationships, attend college classes …
Oh, and play a stout middle linebacker for Iowa State’s football team.
To say Mike Rose’s last 12 months or so have been a head-spinning whirlwind would be one gigantic understatement. But he made it. He succeeded.
He earned multiple freshman all-American honors. He was a major factor behind one of the Cyclones’ best seasons ever.
And now, he’s going through the grind that is his first spring practice.
“It was crazy how quickly everything happened,” Rose said recently. “I was in high school at this time last year. That’s crazy.”
Crazy, indeed, the success he had. But that’s just part of his still-growing resume. He’s got new stairs to climb, new stuff to accomplish, new roles to master.
And this first spring practice thing to get through.
“At first, it was a little weird. I was nervous for spring ball,” he said. “I’d never done it before.”
He started all 13 games during the 8-5 season that included a school-record six Big 12 Conference wins. His 75 tackles ranked third nationally among Power Five freshmen. His nine tackles for loss placed second.
He recovered a fumble for a touchdown against Kansas State. He had seven tackles in the Alamo Bowl. He was the first Cyclones true freshman to start a season-opening game since 2006.
And he did it without those 15 practices that coaches say they can’t live without. But what’s he doing for an encore, besides refining his craft and besides becoming a leader on the defense?
The plan is for the 240-pounder to add special teams to all the good stuff he did in 2018.
“Hopefully, we can do more things with him,” linebackers coach Tyson Veidt said. “He can be a guy that moves into some special teams, too. We didn’t use Mike at all on special teams last season. We’re doing that now. He can be a valuable guy there. He can make plays in that aspect, too. We’re looking to expand all the things that he is doing.”
That was the plan all along, with a huge dose of patience.
You can’t expect a guy that just got to campus to play linebacker to succeed academically, do all the after-practice study that big-time college sports demands — and play multiple roles on a major-college team, too, can you?
“He’s an engineering guy, and has some tough classes, obviously,” Veidt said. “He’s a young guy. We were trying not to overwhelm him.”
He certainly wasn’t overwhelmed on the field. He led the Cyclones with 11 tackles against Iowa in his first collegiate start. He had seven stops against TCU. He had a sack and eight tackles against Baylor.
“If you want to put in the work, you can do it,” Rose said. “Being an engineering major is a lot, but with all the resources we have here — they make it doable.”
A 13-game starter, Rose leads the most experienced and deepest position group of the defense. He’s flanked by veteran Marcel Spears on one side, and experienced backup players O’Rien Vance and Jake Hummel on the other.
Will McDonald moved from defensive line to a linebacker role. Jatairis Grant is likely moving to linebacker from defensive back.
“Our (linebacker) room is crowded, and I’m liking it,” Spears said.
It’s crowded with talent.
“This will be a fascinating group to watch,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “We’ve got guys that have a lot of ability.”
Like the guy who was picking out prom clothes at this time last year.
“Crazy,” Rose said shaking his head. “I came in here last summer, just trying to prove that I deserved to be here.”
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register