WVU’s 2015 recruiting class brought in Kevin White and Rasual Douglas, both now in the NFL. They were not your typical high school recruits, White from Lackawana Community College and Douglas from Nassau Community College. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen was taking a different route from his predecessors at WVU. Junior College was Holgorsen’s new pipeline. Last year during training camp Holgorsen acknowledged:
“We don’t get many high school kids from West Virginia, probably zero to two a year, so we’ve got to go everywhere, and part of what has enabled us to be able to have a lot of success is to get some good transfers.”
After a strong 10-3 start to the Holgorsen era in 2011, the Mountaineers produced a few mediocre years from 2012-2014. It was evident Holgorsen was going to have to find his own recruiting pipeline. Then in 2015, Holgorsen not only found his pipeline, but his niche in recruiting at the JUCO ranks.
Since, Holgorsen has plucked Ka’Raun and Kyzir White, Justin Crawford, Skyler Howard, David Sills V, Elijah Battle, and Hakeem Bailey from the Junior College ranks. All have played and been major contributors during their time at WVU, but one Junior College transfer is a tad different from the rest.
Defensive Lineman Ezekiel Rose has become a fan favorite in Morgantown. Rose was a transfer from East Mississippi Community College in 2017. If EMCC does not ring a bell or you have not been on Netflix in the last year, EMCC is A.K.A “Last Chance U.” EMCC over the last five years has become a place for football players to redeem not only their careers, but personal images as well. Which is what most JUCO’s are used for in general, but EMCC has become a national JUCO powerhouse.
Rose on the other hand had no image to repair, just talent that needed to be witnessed. After being a utility player in high school and not being able to focus on one position, Rose’s talents led him to Scooba, Mississippi. Rose was not featured on Last Chance U as much as players like QB John Franklin III and RB D.J. Law, but still gets all of the questions. Immediately I was curious to know if the questions ever get old, Rose humbly said, “I honestly don’t mind. Some of them are annoying, mostly because they are inappropriate but I honestly don’t mind.”
Of course everyone wants to know about Coach Buddy Stephens and what players and other coaches were like off camera, and Rose embraces it all because from his perspective “I know that other players that were there with me have more questions to answer than I do.”
After racking up 35 tackles and 6.5 sacks in his last season at EMCC, Rose had caught the attention of WVU and Committed to play in Morgantown for the remainder of his college career.
Going into the 2017 season as a backup, Rose did not have the mentality to take someone’s spot, but he did not have the mindset to ride the bench either. Rose kept it simple:
“I honestly just did what I was told, I tried to play my best game every time I stepped on the field and it turned into me evolving into the player I am today.”
Athletes are competitive and usually want to be on the field as much as possible. Rose embraced his role behind then starter Adam Shuler, and flourished. After Shuler battled through injuries most of the season, Rose stepped up in every opportunity he was given. Whether it be his sack against Texas Tech and Baylor or his interception and forced fumble against Kansas State, Rose’s patience and discipline eventually paid off. After playing in all 13 games and starting in three, Rose proved to be a reliable and disruptive force for WVU.
Rose will admit that his patience did not develop overnight, but slow and steady throughout his entire life. “Coming from a big family with six sisters and one brother gave me a personality that you can only get from having six sisters(laughs)…But it helped me have patience for the younger less experienced players.“
This patience and discipline led Rose to being awarded “Mr. Unselfish” by the Mountaineer coaching staff. Rose’s family values has also taught him to “Take the good with the bad. It also made me a more humble guy.”
Even fellow teammates recognized Rose’s hard work and willingness to go above and beyond. Junior DL Reese Donahue told reporters toward the end of last season “Not only has he come in and prepared his body, prepared his mind, handled school, played on Division 1 level in front of the 65,000 people but he’s also standing out.”
Rose’s humbleness and patience is refreshing, throughout the school year you can casually find Rose around campus socializing or dancing just being “Zeke,” and you can quickly forget he is the 6-2 276 pound defensive lineman, but that does not mean Rose forgets.
When I asked Rose about the upcoming season, he was quick to respond and give his input, “I like the leadership roles we have going on at the moment and I like how we are working together as a unit trying to pull things together.” A little cliche, but throughout my time talking to rose he answered that with confidence and conviction leading you to believe there is something special brewing in Morgantown.
Adam Rittenberg of ESPN pinned Rose as one of College Football’s breakout stars for the 2018 season. With this much anticipation and a humble attitude, you can expect Rose to emerge not only as a breakout star, but a leader for this Mountaineer team with high expectations.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS