Before he was dropping dimes all over the field at UCLA and installing a hot tub in his dorm room, Josh Rosen was a tennis prodigy. The SoCal native was nationally ranked in middle school. He had sponsorship deals from several apparel and equipment companies. Were it not for a shoulder injury that kept him off the tennis court for a span of eight months, Rosen might be playing at Roland Garros at this very moment.
Alas, Rosen’s injury and subsequent rehab made him question his love for the sport, and when he arrived at Bellflower High School, he’d become a full-time quarterback. Still, some of the lessons Rosen took with him from his days holding a racquet translated seamlessly into his success as a quarterback, especially when it comes to his footwork in the pocket and his reaction time.
“In tennis, I had very slow feet. I had big shoes and I was always the tallest kid there, always behind the curve on that,” Rosen told STACK at Steve Clarkson’s QB Retreat in San Diego. “But then I switched to football and everyone said I had incredible feet and was super ahead of the curve. So I think tennis kind of ingrained it in me, to always be light on your feet and be ready to have all your fast twitch muscles ready to go at the same time.”
Another shoulder injury severely limited Rosen during his sophomore season. He appeared in just six games before having to undergo season-ending surgery. After he led UCLA to an 8-4 record as a freshman, the Bruins struggled without him last season, going 4-8. Now fully healthy, Rosen is poised for a huge junior year as he tries to solidify himself as the top QB going into the 2018 NFL Draft. Once again, he’ll rely on his tennis background to guide him.
“[In tennis], you don’t really think about what shot you’re going to hit; you’ve done it so many times that you just kind of react. So you’re turning thoughts into reactions, which is what you’re trying to do on the [football] field,” Rosen said. “You get a new play, or you’re scouting a defense. You’re trying to turn full thoughts and progressions into reactions so you’re not thinking about it on the field. In tennis, when you’re coming to the net, you really have only 20 to 25 feet to react to the ball, and it’s coming at you pretty fast. It wires you a little bit differently.”
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