The Education of Josh Rosen

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WESTWOOD, Calif. – Around the time quarterback Josh Rosen fired a perfect spiral through a narrow window in the defense during the first of UCLA’s fall training camp sessions, I realized @OldTakesExposed had great fodder for its account.

See, back in the winter of 2015, when the then-5-star recruit Rosen arrived on UCLA campus, I said on my man Roger Lodge’s radio show that it wouldn’t surprise me if Asiantii Woulard won the starting job three-year leader Brett Hundley occupied.

Oops.

Woulard transferred to USF. All Josh Rosen did as a true freshman was set UCLA’s program record for pass attempts without an interception.

I made an error Rosen was like any true freshman, many of whom (including Hundley) need the seasoning of a redshirt campaign to be ready for the rigors for the job.

In my defense, I am not the only one still learning.

Josh Rosen made the on-field part of his job look easy. He passed for 23 touchdowns and 3,669 yards, helping UCLA to the doorstep of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The talented Rosen can make strides in his play to both push the Bruins to that ultimate goal of a conference championship, and fulfill the expectations that preceded him coming out of St. John Bosco. But in the months since his first college campaign ended, the education of Josh Rosen’s focused largely away from the field.

UCLA may not have the reputation of being the “Hollywood” team in the same vein as rival USC, but the Bruins have attracted their share of TMZ headlines recently between the retirement of Snoop Dogg’s son, Cordell Broadus, and Diddy’s kettle bell incident.

Meanwhile, no one is a bigger star on the Bruin roster — or in the Los Angeles college football scene altogether — than Rosen.

He appeared on Instagram, soaking it up with a rival school coed in a personal hot tub. He golfed on a Donald Trump-owned course with an explicit message for the Republican Party presidential candidate.

Entertaining as such antics might be, they prompted UCLA head coach Jim Mora to ask the question of Rosen this spring: “Do you want to be Johnny Manziel, or do you want to be Tom Brady?”

No one captured the imagination of college football fans — or headlines from TMZ — quite like the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Manziel. But after a whirlwind tenure at Texas A&M marked as much by his off-field behavior as his play off of it, a litany of personal problems forced Manziel out of the NFL.

“He wants to help me realize my dreams,” Rosen said of his interpretation of Mora’s comments. More importantly, that’s Rosen’s takeaway from one-on-one interactions with his coach.

“Mature” and “development” are the words Josh Rosen uses to describe his focus away from the game — a game he said feels more comfortable after a year starting to his credit.

That doesn’t mean hiding his personality, or his beliefs. This summer, he took aim at the NCAA in response to UCLA signing a record apparel deal with Under Armour.

On the message for Trump, however, Rosen stressed that he hasn’t altered his thinking, but recognizes his stardom necessitates a different tone.

“I understand that I’m a role model to kids,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things I have to be able do, understand how to convey my message gently but effectively.

“That’s what college is about, finding who you are,” he added.

We all err. My freezing cold take on the UCLA quarterback situation a little more than a year ago stands as testament to that. How we learn from our mistakes dictates our future.

Josh Rosen’s education from any missteps he may have made will set the course for him, this season at UCLA and into the NFL.