By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
You’ll pardon West Virginia University defensive end Kyle Rose if he believes he has something to prove.
He is, after all, from the heart of Ohio, Centerville’s gift to West Virginia.
Centerville is a suburb of Dayton, a city that exists in the shadows of a pair of big league cities in Cincinnati and Columbus. It is surrounded not only by the NFL and major league baseball, but some pretty good college football in Ohio State, Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio, to say nothing of Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State and how many midwestern universities?
The competition for players is so strong there that when WVU goes after players they are more from the eastern side of the state in Steubenville and Cleveland and the like.
The schools that normally take players from Rose’s area didn’t really want him, however, which sent him looking elsewhere.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked this week if he felt snubbed. “I’ve had a chip on my shoulder every time I stepped into college football. Being an undersized, not very fast, medium athleticism, white kid from Ohio, I think the odds were against me a little bit. I had to fight and do my part to get a spot to play here for West Virginia and play for the Mountaineers.”
In truth, there is a lesson in Kyle Rose’s story. Being less athletic, undersized and not as fast may actually have turned him into a better player than he might have been.
“I think having a tenacity and a hunger to get on the field and being always driven is what I am all about,” he said.
It made him a perfect fit for West Virginia, which tries to get off to a 3-1 start as it plays its border rivalry game with Maryland at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.
“It’s also been what West Virginia has been about. They haven’t really gotten the big, big recruits. They have taken the 2-star and 3-star recruits and made them into 5-star players,” he said.
There is forever a history of this. Most schools wanted Major Harris as a defensive back until WVU told him they’d take him as a quarterback. Maryland offered Steve Slaton a scholarship, then withdrew it. LSU originally recruited Pat White but he came to WVU because they would let him quarterback.
Steve Dunlap was an assistant coach involved in much of this, and he had Ohio when Rose was being recruited.
“The opportunity presented itself, and Coach Dunlap said, ‘Hey, you want to go to a good school, have big-time competition and have people who love you, you can come here,’” Rose said. “He didn’t lie.”
Indeed, Rose was sold right from the start.
“It was everything. It was the school, the people, the students, the hospitality. Just everything, the way they treated my family and welcomed them with open arms. I felt like I’d already gone here for three years and was going into my senior year the first time I walked on campus,” he said.
Rose had a luxury he wouldn’t have been afforded elsewhere, and that was time.
“I was small, 235 pounds, when Dunlap recruited me,” he said.
But he developed into what Dunlap expected and now is starting as a redshirt sophomore and proving a lot of people wrong, but he’s not taking any bows.
“I have to stay humble,” he said. “This is my first year of making the plays I need to make. Last year as a redshirt freshman I was behind Jorge Wright. Last year was a learning experience playing in the Big 12. We played against a lot of quality opponents.
“This year it comes to me being strong enough and having a sense about the game that I’m getting to make some plays. I guess that question will be answered down the road when I’m making the plays I should make.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.