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A Rose like none other

BELLAIRE – He was the Green Pied Piper.

No one could attract people to St. John Central like Mike Rose. The most successful football coach in school history was a lightning rod for migration to the Fighting Irish Nation.

Rose served as St. John Central head football coach for just three seasons (1997-99). He bled Green, however, for all 56 years of his life…a life that ended sadly and all too soon. He was laid to rest Monday.

Rose guided the Fighting Irish grid program to unparalleled heights.

Despite not taking over until Aug. 1 in 1997, he led the Green gridders to an 8-2 record that fall. He followed that with another 8-2 campaign with the Irish just missing out on a state playoff berth.

The best was yet to come.

Rose directed his alma mater to a 9-1 regular season in 1999, bowing only to unbeaten and Nate Walker-led Toronto. The Irish gained their first and still-only OHSAA playoff football berth, bowing to Danville, in the initial post-season game ever played at Nelson Field.

Rose left St. John’s after that golden season to fulfill his teaching obligations to the Martins Ferry School District, where he served as an assistant football coach.

For those outside the Fighting Irish world, Mike will be remembered as a great football coach. For those who truly knew Mike and called him a friend — a countless number — they will remember him much more for the man than coach.

Mike and I were good friends. I was fortunate in that regard.

I was also fortunate to be able to coach his daughter, Marissa, in basketball. She led the Lady Irish to some 70 wins and an OVAC title while scoring 1,638 points and earning all-Ohio honors.

In these days of dysfunction when it comes to parents and their children in sports, Mike was the ideal dad in that respect…100 percent supportive of the coaches.

Mike was passionate, loyal and motivating. He personified leadership. He could get his players to do things they never imagined possible.

To know Mike, was to love Mike.

Following are thoughts from some of the people who knew Mike well:

MATT NARDO (Starter on 1999 SJC playoff team and current college coach) – He would say to us after practice that “Today is the worst we will ever be” and as a young kid you didn’t realize at first what he was teaching you. He was telling us that we will be better tomorrow and to never be satisfied. Twenty years later, I still use that expression with my players and probably always will. After every game, we went to the steps in front of St. John’s as a team, and he would remind us that no matter what this is where it always comes back to. Moments like that are what made playing at St. John’s special. We were taught to keep our priorities aligned and Coach Rose never let us forget that. As a sophomore, we were at a 7-on-7 scrimmage. On one play I was running a corner route, Coach didn’t like the way I ran it, and asked me what route I was supposed to run. I answered him saying that I was running a corner. He said well run there (meaning that I ran my route too flat), but I thought he wanted me to physically run there to show him I knew where I was going. Without question, I turned and started running to the corner. I heard him start laughing and he said, “Matthew that’s why you’re going to play for me one day.” Coach loved his players and he loved St. John’s, and we loved him, too.

DAVE BRUNEY (Martins Ferry HOF Coach) – First thing about Mike was his passion for the game and his compassion for the kids he coached. Mike was able to communicate with kids in the classroom. He did marvelous for us as a history teacher. The kids gravitated to him. My three kids loved him. Mike was a nuts and bolts guy on fundamentals. It didn’t matter who he was coaching, it was always the same with him. He had that type of charisma that he didn’t have to say a word but the kids knew he cared about them.

KENNY HOWELL (2-time all-Ohio gridder for Rose at SJC) – I was fortunate to call him my coach from Jr. Irish through my senior year. My teammates and I thought the world of Coach Rose, and we would’ve moved mountains for him if that’s what was asked of us. He coached with an infectious passion for life and the game of football. He made men out of his players both on and off the playing field. The lessons learned from Coach Rose have followed me into my adulthood to be shared with my children. Coach Rose can be described in two words: PASSION & HEART. I am proud to be able to call him Coach and am grateful for the experience of playing for him. He is the epitome of IRISH PRIDE!

ROCKY SWIFT (3-year OL starter from 1997-99) – Coach Rose can be defined by one word – motivator. From seventh grade through my senior year he was my class’s coach except for our freshman year. “He is all we knew as a football coach, and there isn’t anyone of us that isn’t a better man from his leadership.”

TOM SLIVA (former coaching associate, friend and St. Clairsville baseball coach) – Coach Rose was one of the most passionate and energetic coaches that I have had the privilege to work with. Mike was a very hard worker that built great relationships with his staff and his players. Coach Rose’s players would do anything for him. His teams were always well prepared and gave their best effort. Mike was a great friend who I was fortunate to go on a lot of hunting and fishing trips with. We always had a great time and I always enjoyed whatever we were doing. Mike was the kind of guy that was always fun to be around and you would want to be a part of anything that he was doing. Mike was passionate in everything that he did on and off the field. I personally am going to miss Mike as he was a very close friend. I am so glad that I got to be a part of his life and spend time with him. I learned so much from him, not only in the field of coaching but about life and how to do things with passion and energy. When I think of Mike Rose in the future, it will bring a smile to my face remembering all of the good times and all of the things I have learned.

KIM APPOLLONI (classmate, friend, former SJC and MF hoops coach) – Mike realized that coaching is about relationships. He cared about his athletes as people first. Because of that, Mike had a tremendous amount of passion and intensity. He made people believe they were better than they actually were so they accomplished more than expected.

SCOTT BOEHM (SJC classmate and valedictorian, Notre Dame grad, U.S. Defense Department official) – If you met Mike once, you never forgot him. If you knew him, you loved him. Mike never minced words, he told you exactly what he was thinking. True leaders are not concerned with being liked. And Mike had leadership in spades. He had infectious enthusiasm. I would follow him to hell and back. That’s what made him such an outstanding coach and teacher. He didn’t care about anything except his students, players and where they were all going as a group. He would have been an outstanding army general.

DIRK DECOY (Teammate, friend and OVAC executive director) – “Rosey” was a motivator, a fierce competitor, a strategist. He had an uncanny way of building up your confidence in only one discussion, no matter if you were a lifelong friend or a person he had just met. He was welcoming, he was funny, he was a tough guy. When his words be came raspy and he lowered his voice but increased the volume to just under that of a shout, you knew you had crossed the line with him and he was going to tell you about it. He covered both ends of the spectrum: he could be as nice as he was tough, as welcoming as he was territorial, as giving as he was protective. Everybody wanted to be Rosey’s friend, and he obliged. Many of our conversations turned into coaching sessions, usually him coaching me, a little bit about sports, but mostly about life. Everything you did once, he had already done three times and he had three different stories that he could tell about. He was that guy that would give somebody a nickname and it would stick, forever. He could make fun of himself just as easily as he could make fun of you, but always in a joking way that would get laughs. He had time for everybody, to talk, to coach, to instill his wisdom. He had a special place in his heart for the kids he taught and coached. He loved the Ohio Valley, its sports, its people and especially St. John Central Fighting Irish.

BUBBA’S BITS

WHEELING PARK junior Mia Sunseri has verbally committed to Pitt on a swimming scholarship. The Patriot junior swam her way to a YMCA national championship earlier this year at the University of Maryland. Mia claimed the gold medal in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:35.15, beating out the next closest competitor by more than a second (2:36.36). She also came in second in the 100 breaststroke (1:13.81), third in the 400 IM (4:59.56) and sixth in the 200 IM (2:23.01) in the nationals. Her dad and coach, Tony, was also a swimmer at Pitt.

JACK COOK turned in a sparkling effort in defeat last week. The University of Dayton sophomore quarterback completed 19-of-27 passes for 219 yards and three TDS in a 35-31 loss to Duquesne. Cook is the son of Scott and Jen Cook. Scott was a standout hoopster for Shadyside High (1988 grad) while Jen is a St. Clairsville native.

EDDIE BUTCH from St. Clairsville scored a hole-in-one on the No. 4 hole at Bec-Wood Hills Golf Course on Sept. 9. He used a 7-wood on the 180-yard par 3. Witnessing the ace were Charlie Day and Mark Meager, both of Glencoe, as well as Todd Koegler of Wheeling.

IT WAS an off-week for WVU football but our two OVAC offensive linemen were in the news. Union Local’s Colton McKivitz was tabbed by head coach Neal Brown as the team’s offensive MVP so far. Meadowbrook’s Josh Sills, meanwhile, saw his season come to an end due to shoulder surgery.

THE STEELERS made a nice acquisition picking up tight end Nick Vannett from the Seahawks for a fifth-round draft pick. The former Ohio State tight end played at Westerville Central for Bellaire coaching icon John Magistro. Steeler rookie RB Benny Snell Jr. also played for Magistro at Westerville Central. Should the Steelers lose Monday to the Bengals, the season is over for the Black & Gold.

TOM O’CONNELL of Wheeling pocketed a hole-in-one on Sept. 8 on the No. 16 hole at Bec-Wood Hills Golf Course. He used a 9-iron on the 145-yard par 3. The ace was witnessed by Ted Bouyoucas of Weirton and Donnie Wasseman and Momo Smith, both of Wheeling.

OUR PRAYERS and condolences go out to the family of Todd Kinder. Todd was a three-sport great for Bellaire High in the mid-1980s. He went on to a fine football career as wide receiver for Kent State. Todd was 52.

WHEELING PARK’S Elijah Bell snared nine passes for 101 yards in North Carolina A&T’s 37-0 win over Delaware State Thursday night. Bell now has 172 career receptions, tied for most in school annals. Last week, Bell set the school record with career 2,347 yards.

JADE RIEBOLD was inducted into the Eastern Illinois University Hall of Fame this weekend. The Olentangy Liberty High grad was a four-time D1 All-American pole vaulter who competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials. She is the daughter of Martins Ferry natives Rick Riebold and the former Vicki Winters. She is the granddaughter of Bob and Virginia Winters and the late Robert and Maxine Riebold.

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