PHOENIX – Josh Rosen walked off the baseball-turned-football field at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix late Tuesday night in his dark gray sweatpants amid a throng of teammates. The season was officially over. The UCLA Bruins, led by another quarterback, lost the Cactus Bowl to Kansas State 35-17 while Rosen watched from the sideline as caution beat out craving.
As he descended down a handful of steps into the dugout along the first-base line, Rosen waved to a few young fans who yelled for his attention. He then disappeared into the depths of the stadium and into the biggest decision of his life.
Rosen soon will decide whether he’ll enter the 2018 NFL draft or stay at UCLA for his senior season. He’ll weigh his options. Take into consideration all the factors. Sit down with his parents. Then make up his mind.
“I think everybody could use another year of college,” said UCLA interim head coach Jedd Fisch, who has seven years of NFL coaching experience on his résumé. “But, yeah, I think that he has the ability to go out there and throw any ball to anybody he wants. He’s got incredible accuracy and he’s incredibly talented, and I’m sure if he wants to move on, he’s able to do that.
“And if he wants to come back, he’ll help this team.”
One factor playing into Rosen’s decision will be the Bruins’ next coach.
Chip Kelly was hired a month ago to replace Jim Mora, whom UCLA fired on Nov. 19. Kelly has yet to take over the program, letting Fisch finish the season. But with the season over, the Bruins are Kelly’s ... and Rosen will take that into consideration.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Rosen said. “It affects it positively, negatively. You take all circumstances into account and that’s one of them.”
Should he decide to come out as a junior, Rosen probably will be among the first three quarterbacks picked, somewhere among the top five in late April’s NFL draft. And don’t think Rosen hasn’t been paying attention to those mock drafts. He has kept a close eye on them, and on those who make them.
“I think it’s OK to take guesses,” Rosen said Saturday, flexing his well-known opinion. “That’s their job. If they’re putting together a draft board, they’re trying to figure out who’s where and who’s what. As long as they don’t overstep and say someone has or someone hasn’t when they haven’t. Go for it. Take guesses, but don’t say that your sources say you’re 100 percent right when you’re wrong.”
But seeing his name at the or near the top of those imagined draft boards means something to the economics major.
“It’s special,” Rosen said. “I remember growing up and you watched Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, all these guys. I remember watching the Reggie Bush draft. Bummed he didn’t go No. 1. I remember watching all those drafts growing up and it’s surreal. It’s cool.
“This year or next it’ll be a fun experience, and I'm
excited to see dreams manifest themselves into reality.”
However, if Rosen declares himself eligible for the draft, he may have some control over his realistic destiny.
Rosen responded to a question on Saturday about whether he feels strongly about playing for certain teams with a coy “kind of.”
“I think the teams know more than I do in the sense of where I’d best fit,” he said. “I might be a bit of a unique personality, so hopefully they can pick me a part and if a team really feels that I’m their guy, hopefully they’ll go and get me.
“I’d rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team.”
Rosen wasn’t given a chance Tuesday to put any more on tape to let those teams picking in the first round figure him out for themselves. Fisch said UCLA’s doctors wouldn’t let Rosen play, despite Rosen's going through the full complement of warm-ups in his complete uniform.
“I want to be clear on this: Josh wanted to play,” Fisch said. “Josh was unable to play because of the fact that he had two concussions within a four-week span in November, and our physicians didn’t feel comfortable putting him out there and putting him at risk for a possibility of a third concussion.”
Rosen already has talked with some of UCLA’s greats about making the life-altering decision. Troy Aikman. Brett Hundley. Pat Cowen. They told him he won’t remember the wins or the losses. He’ll remember his teammates, the good times, the bad times, the ugly times. Now he’ll go to his Southern California home and sit down with his parents to have a “real conversation” about his future.
“Yeah,” Fisch said, “he’s NFL ready.”