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UCLA’s Quarterback Josh Rosen Wants To Be A Robin Hood, And Is A Fat Target For Critics

Having an individual opinion means putting a bullseye on your back

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-Kansas State vs UCLA Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Rosen is used to being the one pegging bullseyes. The Robin Hood of spiraling footballs has one of the strongest and most accurate arms in the college game. It is exciting to watch him drop back, plant his feet, and loose an arrow. He makes ridiculously difficult throws look easy; the football seems to jump out of his hand on a tight trajectory. He has excellent feet in the pocket, great physical size, and a knack for making magic happen. He is what they call a Big Time Pro Prospect.

Rosen has things to work on, but who amongst us in our early twenties didn't? He can be erratic and sometimes makes mistakes under extreme duress. But he is a tough kid, and in horse-racing the notes in the racing form would call him a gamer. He is ready to run when the stakes are high.

And he has shown he is more than just the marksman side of Robin Hood.

Rosen—the “Chosen Rosen” to his disciples—has positioned himself as the champion of the NCAA’s large underclass, calling for a pilfering of the treasure rooms of the rich to give a greater share of the heaped-up bounty to the poor.

Rosen’s criticism of the NCAA over his three seasons are amongst the best in class. But acting that way, which in the minds of critics boils down to a single word: ungrateful, draws a dreaded Red Flag from the gatekeepers at the big-money professional level.

Rosen, in a whisper campaign full of ominous language, is a potential personality risk. Maybe a selfish guy, a “team cancer.”

But there is a problem with the blowback Rosen gets for speaking his mind about the NCAA, everything he has said is accurate.

Back in May, when the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) signed a $280 million dollar deal—the richest in college sports history—with the apparel company Under Armour, Rosen said there is too much money in play for college sports to be called an amateur endeavor. How can the players generating revenue worth that much, on the apparel side alone, leaving off the television contracts worth far more, be appraised at a college scholarship and little more?

He is right, players are not earning their full value according to market prices. The NCAA operates far more like the Soviet Red Army than American Laissez Faire Capitalism—for the players that is, not the stake holders, they are getting rich.

“We’re not going to say ‘slave labor,’ but it’s almost like indentured servitude,” Rosen told USA Today. “I’m going to be OK. I want to fight for those who won’t be OK. I see it every day with these kids who are underprivileged.”

“I get called on the phone — I don’t want to say who. [The person said], ‘Do you have any idea what we’re doing for you?'” Rosen said.

“OK, then take .1 percent of that money and give to the families who are on food stamps on our team.”

One of Rosen’s strongest selling points, in terms of the arguments he makes, is that he matriculated from a wealthy, connected family. He is a disinterested party and does not need football, he plays for the love of the game.

It is unjust, but many minority voices trying to raise the same issues as Rosen learn quickly to shut up. They need football more than football needs them, having realized their opinions on economic inequality are not to be part of the package. Rosen is going out on a limb for them, and the dug-in forces of the cartel are firing back.

What else has Rosen said? He repeated an argument, in his own words, infamously made by Cardale Jones at Ohio State when Jones Tweeted he went to Columbus to play football, not school.

Rosen’s exact quote was this: “Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs.”

According to the article, published by Jake Novak at CNBC, Rosen’s comments were backed up by documented labor statistics. A regional director from the National Labor Relations Board is quoted in the piece scoffing at the idea football players could spend as much time as they do practicing and studying—football, not their college lecture circuit—and still have enough hours left to commit to a full-time education.

A few find a way, but many who are back-doored through college admissions standards just to get eligible are incapable of keeping up even if they tried. They are brought to school to play football, period.

And most recently, as Rosen dealt with the emotional blow of being forced by a lingering concussion to sit out what may be his last game at UCLA, he asked mad-dog fans of the world not to reflexively savage kids who sit out bowl games to protect their future earning power despite being physically healthy.

“A lot of people bash them, but some of them have to realize that some of these guys have families,” Rosen said during the press conference. “Some of these guys have kids. Some of these guys really have to support the people around them. Some of them may be put in unfortunate circumstances where they can’t afford to be in school another year.”

This kind of message is putrid to dyed-in-the-wool college football fans. Many of these super fans claim they would die gloriously for their team’s colors if they were talented enough to play, no payment needed. And certain scouts, general managers, and coaches love to ask guys who sit as healthy scratches: How much do these players care about the game?

Well, how much? Enough to protect a body that might be worth an amount of money commensurate with supporting an extended family for multiple generations. But if they cannot play because of injury, they will not earn those paychecks. And one thing we know about football: A career can end on any given snap, pardon the pun.

Scouts often anonymously attack players for taking this position, questioning their combat heart. NFL teams love a kid who loves the game. Is he willing to lose his life on the football field? They seem to be able to find guys who are willing.

A scout named Benjamin Allbright recently started knocking down Rosen and getting into it with UCLA fans on Twitter. It is hard to say exactly what Allbright objected to, but it seemed to be kind of a general contrarian opinion mixed in with a little trolling.

He called Rosen something like the fourth or fifth best quarterback in college football (most big-name analysts have him ranked a clear-cut first), and said he was a day-two-caliber player. Which, while definitely meant to be an insult, is motivation for some. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of his generation and was drafted in the sixth round.

It is hard to know exactly what Allbright said, because he either deleted the Tweets or Twitter’s search function has broken down. If anyone has those screenshots send them to your boy.

But you never know where the slings and arrows are going to come from with Rosen.

A few days ago shots were fired by someone claiming to be his eighth grade coach, who happens also to be a well-known conservative radio personality named John Ziegler. Ziegler is one of the militiamen of conservative white guys on AM radio who bleat about illegal immigration and the decline of the United States. They are kings of the Angry Jungle that is talk radio and love extolling the virtues of “tough guys.” John Wayne’s characters are the real people in their world. Ziegler was one of the many composite personalities the great Phil Hendrie flayed with satire when they shared a station at KFI. If you want to get to know Ziegler, listen to Hendrie.

In his Tweet, Ziegler said Rosen either was a “wuss” or had some serious underlying physical problem UCLA was hiding. The ugly part of Ziegler’s post was his claim that no-one could tell Rosen had suffered a concussion a month earlier.

That is definitely not true. Rosen—who was returning from an earlier concussion with a brain more vulnerable to recurring trauma—had his head whiplashed into the turf after being knocked over backwards, one of the surest ways to re-concuss yourself.

The borderline-crisis in the NFL with brain injuries is headed for a long-term court battle as more-and-more retired players start losing their minds in their forties and fifties. A brain injury is the last thing to mess around with, and Rosen had wanted to play, anyway. He warmed up with the team but doctors said no. Ziegler called him a wuss.

But for Josh Rosen, maybe when you are this good, people just won’t leave you alone. The smart money on Rosen is that he finds the best way to handle it and ends up being the change he wants to see in the world.