SDSU finds another diamond in the rough with freshman middle linebacker

By HANNAH NEIMAN Sports Reporter

What do Zach Zenner, Nate Wolters and Christian Rozeboom all have in common?

All three are obviously talented, but more so, they are all dedicated to being the best. According to Head Football Coach John Stiegelmeier, these three are young men who have made a choice to maximize both their opportunities and their abilities.

“Nate Wolters shot a thousand balls a day. Zach Zenner took every opportunity for 12 months, for five years to be as good as he could. Zach Zenner made himself an NFL player,” Stiegelmeier said. “Christian [Rozeboom], early in his career, is doing the same thing. He’s taking care of his body, he hasn’t let college change him. He’s got a lot of gifts and he’s maximizing them.”

For the last decade, SDSU has proven to have a knack for finding diamonds in the rough. Like Zenner and Wolters, Rozeboom came to SDSU with little fanfare, but quickly made his presence known during his first year in a Jackrabbit uniform.

After a strong spring season, the Jackrabbit coaching staff decided to start Rozeboom, who was tasked with replacing four-year starter and middle linebacker T.J. Lally. 

“Christian is really in the same exact role that T.J. was as a freshman,” said linebackers coach Jimmy Rogers . “You know, T.J. had two, three guys around him that really knew what was going on so it made it easier to play the position. It’s the same thing now for Christian, he’s got Dallas [Brown] and [Jesse] Bobbit next to him, and they just help him out and it allows him to think less because they’re constantly communicating to him.”

Between the help from the upperclassmen and Rozeboom’s natural athletic ability, the redshirt freshman has developed into the Jackrabbits’ defensive leader on the field. 

“He’s had a great impact in a lot of ways,” Stiegelmeier said. “Number one, he’s really young for what we’re asking of him, and he’s responded. He’s accepted it and we keep giving him more. He lines up the defense, he leads the defense, and not only does that, he leads them in production, also. He has had a phenomenal year as a leader, a player and a difference maker.”

Though he tends to leave the vocal leadership role up to fellow linebacker and senior Jesse Bobbit, Rozeboom has recognized that it is up to him to lead by example, despite being an underclassman.

“Just being the middle linebacker you have to be a leader,” Rozeboom said. “I have to be a leader already. I’m not so much the vocal leader, that’s kind of Bobbit’s job. I’m just trying to be that example of working hard and doing the right thing both on and off the field.”

Rozeboom currently leads the team with 98 tackles and two forced fumbles, and shares the team lead with a pair of interceptions. The Sioux Center, Iowa, native has been honored twice this season as the Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Week, and was recently named to the initial watch list for the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Year award.

“He’s a freak, athletically. He’s one of the best we’ve had here,” Rogers said. “He does an awesome job and he cares a ton. At the end of nights, he’ll text me and ask me ‘Did I do this right?’ and I haven’t gotten that ever from someone, especially from a young guy.”

Stiegelmeier expects Rozeboom to continue to work hard and grow as both a leader and a player, and feels that the linebacker’s future at SDSU is bright.

“To me, the sky’s the limit,” Stiegelmeier said. “He’s very dedicated, academically and athletically. I expect him to have a great career here.”