SI Vault
Douglas S. Looney
December 05, 1988
Each fall 300,000 young men across the U.S. suit up for their final year of high school football. Of those seniors, about 3,000 receive scholarships to play football at a Division I-A college. Identifying the best among these athletes isn't an exact science. Example: Alabama's senior linebacker Derrick Thomas, an All-America this year, generated yawns from recruiters when he came out of South Miami High in 1985.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 05, 1988

Whatever Happened To The Class '85?

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

No matter that playing the offensive line is considered about as glamorous as yard work. Says Rose, "Pass blocking is very hard to do. So I took the move as a compliment."

It was this positive attitude that helped make Rose a starter in every game during his freshman season; he is the only rookie to claim that distinction at Alabama since the freshman eligibility rule was reestablished in 1972. He has started every game since, except for two at the end of his sophomore year when he had an injury to his left knee.

No episode more clearly demonstrates Rose's good attitude than one that occurred last spring. After practice one day, Curry said that Rose hadn't had a very good day—and neither had most of the other players, for that matter. Curry gave the Tide the next day off. Rose went bass fishing at Lake Tuscaloosa, but he got to brooding about Curry's criticism. He couldn't stand it. He cut short his fishing trip, drove back to the coach's office, walked in and said, "I'm sorry I disappointed you. What can I do to improve?"

That's why offensive line coach Mac McWhorter says, "Rose excels because of the kind of person he is. There are lots of others faster, quicker, stronger. But it's very important to him to do the best he can do. If this country was ever invaded, I'd find Rose and jump in a foxhole with him."

All of which may or may not add up to an NFL career for Rose. Says Curry, "Larry will be in somebody's NFL camp next year, and he'll make it awful hard on them to let him go." McWhorter agrees: "He'll bite you, claw you, scratch you, whatever it takes to block you. And he'll have a great future—in something. Life is important to Larry."

Rose comes by his taciturnity and work ethic naturally. He was raised on a 250-acre farm 10 miles from Gadsden. Every morning one of his chores was to water and feed the horses, and he never overslept. "It was my responsibility," he says. On graduation day, while the rest of his high school class was leaving for a trip to Florida, Rose was baling hay. As he says, "I always had good work habits." Fun for Rose was—and is—"riding horses through the woods."

When Rose sighs and leans his head back, it's easy to see his mind drifting back to the farm and the whippoorwills and the slow, sweet life. And it's on the farm that he intends to spend his life, unless there is an NFL interruption. He's already married to the former Karen Nix and has two daughters, aged two years and six months, and when asked if he's happy, he says, "Yes, sir."

Curry laughs when conversations with Rose are recounted. "He reminds me a lot of one of my teammates on the Colts, Glenn Ressler," says Curry. "He was utterly quiet. We thought he was a statue until we saw he was breathing." Make no mistake, Rose is an exquisite example of a living, breathing college player, all show and no blow, which is an all too rare combination.

"A lot of people had big expectations for me," says Brian Davis. "They had dreams for me. I think everybody was living in a fantasy." Apparently so. Davis, a running back at Washington (Pa.) High and Parade magazine's high school Offensive Player of the Year, was supposed to step right into the lineup at Pitt—the lucky school that signed him—and become the new Tony Dorsett.

It was not to be. Davis's college career foundered when he couldn't handle the burdens of academia. Says Davis, "My problem was basically credits. I didn't have enough." Even more basically, the problem was that Davis was never a student and never pretended to be.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7