Athlete of the Week: Neil Rose `02
It was one small step for Neil Rose, but it was one giant leap for Crimson football.
With the score knotted at 21-21 in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game against Princeton, Harvard's junior quarterback was faced with fourth-and-6 from the Tigers' 35-yard line. As soon as the ball was snapped, two Princeton linebackers penetrated the backfield and barreled towards Rose.
Most quarterbacks would have been caught flat-footed and obliterated by the unblocked defensemen. Others would have tried in vain to scramble from the inevitable collision.
Rose, however, fearlessly took a step towards the impending doom and delivered a touchdown pass to senior tight end Chris Stakich for the go-ahead score and a turning point in Harvard's season.
On the strength of Rose's clutch pocket passing, the Crimson was able to knock off the Tigers and move into a tie for first place in the Ivy League.
Playing in front of his father and other relatives for the first time in at least three years, the Hawaii native threw for 292 yards on 25-for-36 passing and finished the day with two touchdowns. More important than Rose's prolific production though, was his steady leadership and poise throughout the contest.
"Neil really takes charge on the field," said sophomore wide receiver Carl Morris. "It's good for the whole team to see confidence in the quarterback."
However, Rose's confidence and calm demeanor are only half of the recipe of his success in his first season as the Crimson's starting quarterback.
While many of students spent the summer travelling or relaxing at home, Rose was on campus learning plays and focusing on the intricacies of running an offense.
This attention to detail and strong work ethic has reaped huge dividends this season. If Rose continues his impressive pace, he is projected to break the single-season records for passing yards, total offense, completions, attempts, and total plays. He is also the only Crimson quarterback to have three 300-yard passing performances.
When asked about his startling success in his inaugural campaign, Rose humbly deflects the credit.
"I think my success is just a reflection of the team," Rose said. "We have an amazing offensive line and great receivers. They make my job easier."
While some of the credit should rightly go to the offensive line anchored by captain Mike Clare and the strong receiving corps of Morris, Dan Farley, Kyle Cremarosa and Sean Meeker, Rose is unmistakably the centerpiece and driving force behind Harvard's offensive renaissance.
Despite his initial command of the offense, the Crimson offense can only get better as Rose still has another year and a half for continued development and refinement.
"The offense has been a big part of our success (this season)," Morris said. "If Neil continues to develop, we'll have a good shot at the title."
If Rose remains healthy and continues working as hard as he always does, then records will invariably fall and perhaps an Ivy Championship will be won.
Like another heroic Neil before him, not even the sky is a limit.