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Former tennis prodigy winds up as No. 1 high school QB

Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press
UCLA recruit Josh Rosen is considered one of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- If you find yourself flipping on a tennis match between some of the world's top players, chances are you're bound to eventually hear the commentators discuss what is wrong with the state of the sport in the United States.

It's been a decade since an American man won a Grand Slam event and only one is currently ranked in the top 50 in the world. Many point to the fact that the country's best athletes are playing football or basketball, and thus there's a talent drain that starts off in youth.

Perhaps no better example is Bellflower (Calif.) quarterback Josh Rosen. He was once a rising Southern California tennis star, getting sponsored by multiple companies and travelling around the country to play in tournaments. A shoulder injury ended up keeping him off the court for an extended period of time, and the lull provided the impetus he needed to stick to football full-time.

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Maybe it cost the country a future star on the tennis circuit, but it ended up working out quite nicely for the sport of football, considering Rosen is considered by most to be the top high school signal-caller in the nation.

"I was rehabbing for a long time and realized at that time it kind of wasn't a sport I really loved," Rosen told CFB 24/7 at The Opening. "I had to get surgery or quit the sport and after eight months of rehab going back and forth, I didn't know if I loved the game as much as I did before.

"I ended up moving to football full-time and it's worked out pretty well."

Especially for UCLA, where the St. John Bosco High product committed earlier this year.

Rosen has been one of the top quarterbacks at the prestigious Elite 11 competition this week and might be the most polished player to come out of the Los Angeles area at the position since Matt Barkley. Rosen did play a little tennis for his high school in the past year but has not pursued things on a consistent basis on the court.

Still, he gives credit to the high-intensity sport to helping everything from his fitness to his footwork to his mental preparation that he needs playing quarterback.


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"I came from a game where everybody was 5-foot-8 and had amazing feet. I was 6-foot-2 at the time with size 14 shoes and was clunking around out there. Apparently now I have these amazing feet after getting criticized every day for that in tennis," he joked. "Also having a short-term memory. You play maybe four times as many points in a match than you do plays in football, so you have to have a short-term memory."

The five-star recruit has not been feeling much pressure coming into the all-star event held at Nike's headquarters. Rosen has shown off a strong arm and impressed observers and coaches alike with his ability to spin the football. Add in the fact that he might be the most relaxed quarterback on the campus just outside Portland and it's easy to understand why recruiting services have him ranked so highly.

Rosen picked the Bruins in late March and might just be the crown-jewel recruit for Jim Mora during his time at UCLA. He's become close friends with current starter Brett Hundley and has talked or texted the star quarterback often in the months since he said he was going to Westwood for college. He might even have let on what Hundley is planning to do after the 2014 season by hinting that he'll be entering the 2015 NFL Draft.

"There are so many reasons I picked UCLA, there were a bunch of little factors that added up to make it the school," said Rosen. "From the (starting) spot being open to being a U.C. school so all my credits will transfer and I can graduate by my junior year and start an MBA by my a senior year hopefully, if that all works out and I stay for all four."

Rosen noted how much his commitment to UCLA was due to the presence of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and his son Taylor, who coaches quarterbacks for the team. While he might be more of a classic drop-back passer compared to somebody like the dual-threat player Hundley is, Rosen is still dead-set on the local college being the program for him because of how the coaching staff has said they will adapt the offense to fit his strengths.

"People who say I don't fit in UCLA's offense I don't understand," the rising senior remarked. "They definitely didn't do a background check on the Mazzone's being at Arizona State with a 6-foot-8 Brock Osweiller. The spread offense is very, very adjustable and it's basically a pro-style from the gun, so I run all the same plays but maybe formatted differently."

Rosen seems to be a different kind of quarterback and, from his top-flight mental aptitude to his highly regarded physical tools throwing the ball, that's good news for the future of UCLA, even if football is his second-best sport.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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