By John Goralski
It’s been almost a year since Justin Rose wandered the halls of Southington High School between periods. It’s been two seasons since he led the gridiron defenders with 99 tackles and four sacks, but the former Knight seemed comfortable to return to his old stomping grounds on Monday, March 17.
The recent graduate returned to his alma mater to share the next chapter in his football career. Rose led Avon Old Farms on the gridiron last fall during a prep school season, but he asked to return to his old school to sign a national letter of intent for Central CT State University this fall, and his former coach jumped at the chance.
Once a Knight, always a Knight.
“This was a great opportunity for us,” said Blue Knight football coach Mike Drury. “Guys leave our program, but they don’t leave the family and brotherhood that we have. Any time a former player reaches out for anything, we’re going to try to support him as much as we possibly can. That’s what we try to do because I think that’s what we’re here for.”
In fact, Rose credits his former coach for helping him to achieve his goals. It was a call from Drury that actually started the recruiting process with Central, and it wasn’t long until Rose directed his full attention to the New Britain college.
Sacred Heart University and Fordham University showed interest in the former Knight. Merrimack College, Bryant College, Coastal Carolina University, and Towson University all wooed the 200 pound linebacker, but Rose decided to set his sights on the Blue Devils when Drury introduced him to incoming coach Pete Rossomando.
“They weren’t even a school on my agenda at first, but Coach Drury contacted me and told me that Coach Rossomando wanted to talk to me. I talked to him. We set up a visit, and I decided after that,” said Rose. “It will be good to play so close to home. I’ll still be able to come back and watch my brother play. I can come back and see family. That was another factor in choosing Central.”
Rose’s journey to the division I ranks began just two years ago when he decided to debut with the Knights as a senior. Rose was already an accomplished varsity athlete in hockey and baseball, but he quickly earned a spot at the center of Southington’s defense. With just one year of football on his resume, Rose decided to play a year at the prep school level.
Drury said that it was a great decision. Rose led the Avon team in tackles last fall, but he broke out as a multi-faceted defender in the Winged Beaver defense. Rose developed into a multi-faceted defender, earning a reputation as a player that can defend against both the run and the pass. That’s what grabbed the attention of Central coaches.
“He’s just a natural talent with natural instincts,” said Drury. “He can pressure you and be a great blitzer on the edge or the interior. He can be a run stopper on the inside, but he can also cover great. He had a couple of interceptions for us, but he had seven or eight at Avon. He led the team in interceptions as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and that’s pretty good. He has a lot of range and very good size and athleticism. He’s a great player.”
For Rose, Central offered him the perfect opportunity to stay close to home and pursue a career in athletic training.
“That was a big factor because I know that Central has a very good athletic program. The trainers from here went there, and one trainer from Avon went there as well,” he said. “This definitely prepared me. I knew that I wanted to play college football after my senior year here because I had a good time playing it. Football’s the type of game that betters you not only as a player but as a man as well. I like that about the game, and I want to continue onto college.”
Drury said that he expects Rose to challenge for a position this fall as a freshman.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.