Josh Rosen is not your typical teenager. He is of a different breed—a star-studded prospect who's received an immense amount of hype.
Nicknamed by some as the “Chosen Rosen,” the 6'4" true freshman will get his chance to prove his worth this season as UCLA’s new starting quarterback.
His accolades as a high school star were incredibly impressive. Named the No. 1 pro-style QB in the 247Sports composite rankings, Rosen was the recipient of the 2014 Glenn Davis Award as the Los Angeles Times' high school football player of the year.
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Now his sights are set on becoming the next great freshman quarterback to top the headlines in the college football world, and many believe he has all the tools to be the next big thing.
“He’s probably one of the best football players that I’ve ever coached,” St. John Bosco head football coach Jason Negro told Bleacher Report. “He was the entire package. Not only was he gifted in so many different areas athletically, but the mental approach to the game was far superior than any kid that I’ve ever worked with.”
Rosen’s gridiron talents transfer off the field as well.
“He’s a really good kid, scholar student, and he was a leader on and off campus,” St. John Bosco athletic director Monty McDermott told Bleacher Report.
McDermott is used to stellar talent walking through the hallways on campus. St. John Bosco historically has had a good football program. The Southern California high school has produced 21 Division I football players over the last three years, eight alone coming from the 2014 recruiting class. Four of their football lettermen started in the Pac-12 during the 2014 season, according to McDermott.
However, it’s Rosen who has garnered the most notoriety.
Fresno State was the first to offer him a scholarship when he was just a freshman in high school, and several more offers ensued as he continued to improve. By the time he was a junior, Rosen’s top choices were Michigan, Cal and UCLA.
When the quarterback announced his decision, he laid three hats on the table, and all of them donned the UCLA logo.
It was an emphatic commitment to the Bruins, one that sent shock waves throughout college football. UCLA’s future would be set, for Rosen was labeled as the next great quarterback.
In fact, Rosen is one of the most heralded UCLA football recruits ever. The Bruins lead all Division I programs with 112 team national championships, but football is one of their least triumphant sports, having only produced one national championship when they split the title with Ohio State in 1954.
Despite UCLA’s recent football success, the school is still looking for its first conference championship since 1998.
The Bruin faithful are hoping Rosen is the one to change all of that, and it begins with the 2015 season.
“I just think it speaks volumes to the expectations Josh has upon him going to UCLA,” Negro explained. “I think that anytime you have that much notoriety coming out of high school going into college. UCLA has a lot of big expectations for him. I think he’s the right guy to try to deliver on some of those promises.”
The 18-year-old is wise beyond his years, and his decision to enroll early in January is evidence of that. However, it only intensified the hype for Rosen, and upon enrollment he was even greeted with a congratulatory tweet from fellow Bruin and NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.
Enrolling early was a key factor in Rosen earning the starting job. Learning the ropes in spring practice gave him the chance to improve his game well before the season would start, but adjusting to college life wasn’t easy.
While most high school seniors were getting ready for prom, grad night and senior trips, Rosen was heading down Bruin Walk trying to find his next class. He admitted that it took him about two weeks to get acclimated to college life.
“You get back to your room at 6 [p.m.] at night and you gotta figure out something to do and you realize that you’re not with all your friends in your neighborhood,” Rosen said. “You gotta fill time and kind of time manage. That’s basically the main thing I learned here is time management."
"To homework, to film, to meetings, to everything, you have to make your own schedule. You gotta be on your schedule. You’re not sort of trapped at school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. You gotta find your way to classes, you gotta find times to eat and get out on the field,” Rosen said.
Those time-management skills will be tested even further this fall, as Rosen handles the role that comes with being the starting quarterback at a high-level program.
And following in the footsteps of Brett Hundley won’t make things any easier.
Hundley, a 2015 fifth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers, raised the bar for UCLA quarterbacks. The position went through a spell of mediocrity between Aikman’s days in Westwood in the late '80s and Hundley’s stint.
He didn’t miss a start in three seasons for the Bruins, throwing for 9,966 yards, rushing for 1,747 yards and setting a school-record with 75 touchdown passes. Perhaps most important to L.A. football fans, he left UCLA with three straight victories over crosstown rival USC.
And Rosen is smart enough to realize how much of an asset Hundley can be.
“It’s a complete open line of communication,” Rosen said of Hundley. “He’s been an incredible help to me. He has no obligation to come back and to give us any of his knowledge or show any kind of thing to UCLA. He has no obligation to; he just wants to. Because he’s an incredible guy. He’s helped me out a ton. And I can only hope to follow in his footsteps.”
Rosen’s expectations at UCLA far exceed what Hundley went through, but the mature freshman doesn’t let all the hype fill his head.
“Coach [Jim] Mora is phenomenal and has ingrained in us to tune out the noise and everything that goes on about UCLA football. The only thing that we really care about is what actually happens within UCLA football,” he said about managing expectations.
The buzz surrounding Rosen suggests, however, that he’s the real deal. Which is why Mora had to temper that hype in a recent practice, calling out the young quarterback to the media.
Rosen was struggling, and Mora let him know. According to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Mora shouted, “Go back to Bosco and beat some more [bad] teams. You can’t hit an open receiver downfield with no defense.”
He then turned to the media members present and said, “Tell your readers that is why he has not been named the starter.”
It was tough love, and perhaps just the spark Rosen needed to push him to be better. After all, here we are a week later and Mora has named him the starter.
Earlier this summer, Mora said he wouldn’t name a starter until the team faces Virginia at the Rose Bowl on September 5, but Rosen’s fall camp performance put him in firm position to win the job.
Mora admitted that he has never started a true freshman during his head coaching career. Despite that, the Bruins head coach is impressed with what he sees from his young quarterback.
“Josh is very intelligent. He’s one of those kids where the games comes to him more easily than some. He understands concepts, he can conceptualize. Certain performers go out on the field and things kind of slow down for them and they see things better or more quickly than others. And I think he’s one of those guys,” Mora said on Rosen.
UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is equally impressed by Rosen’s quarterback skills thus far.
“I’m excited about him. The one thing you want to see from that position is if the kid can see the big picture. Can a kid have wide vision? And then know where to narrow his vision to. And that’s probably the thing, you know besides the physical attributes,” Mazzone explained.
“You know a lot of those guys can throw footballs. But that to me separates from the quarterback position. He gets the big picture. ‘All right this is what I got. This is what I need to do. This is where I need to go.’”
Yet, Mazzone admitted that he’s never started a true freshman quarterback, either.
It will be a new experience for all, but Rosen has all the potential to deliver on the hype.
That said, the freshman knows that his play on the field will determine if he’ll be the starter for the entire season or not.
“The one thing I learned in life that every coach, mentor has told me is control what you can control. I gotta come out here and try to complete every pass, and make the right read every single time, and lift as much weight that I possibly can in the weight room, get in good physical shape, get as good grades as I possibly can and try to present myself in a positive way to everyone,” Rosen said.
A mature response for a teenager, and just another reason why the “Chosen Rosen” name fits so well.
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.