By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
Sure, Daron Rose is built to be a lineman, but it's his smarts and aggression that make opponents take notice.
TAMPA - Daron Rose is one of the most imposing and dominating offensive linemen in Florida. He's a likely all-state pick and a top 100 national recruit.
While in pads, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Jefferson standout certainly plays the part.
He's big. He's strong. He's nasty. But when Rose's helmet is removed, out pops a baby-faced teen who wears glasses, is a self-described "nerd" and plans to become an attorney.
"I've got the build, but from the neck up I don't look like your average player," Rose said. "I'm just now starting to have facial hair. It's crazy. People see me around school and some of them don't even realize I play until there's a pep rally."
Opponents certainly know him. To say the least.
"What we like is that he was just as good at run blocking as he was as a pass blocker," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. "He wasn't just a big kid. He really has the whole package, and he has a burning desire. You can tell he really wants to improve his game."
Apparently, college scouts are equally impressed. As of Thursday, Rose, a 2004 Times' all-county pick, had scholarship offers from about 60 major programs.
His list of favorites includes Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, South Carolina, South Florida and Tennessee. Rose receives a handful of calls from college coaches daily and the text messaging from them "never stops." The recruiting site Rivals.com rates him as the country's 37th-best prospect.
"He's game ready to go right now," Rivals' Jeremy Patterson said before the season. "You don't find many guys who are seniors in high school like that."
Rose learned the game from his father, Curtis Rose, a local youth coach, and has developed under Jefferson coach Mike Simmonds, a former NFL lineman.
He played youth football a few years, but at times was deemed too big to compete. He arrived at Jefferson as a 6-1, 230-pound freshman and was good enough to make varsity. Rose grew to 6-4, 260 within a year and was starting the next fall.
"Offensive linemen might have to be the smartest guys on the field," Rose said. "You have to read certain tendencies of the defense. You've got to use brains and brawn."
He has plenty of both.
From his spot at left tackle, Rose possesses uncanny footwork and is strong enough to overpower many opponents. In the classroom, he's a solid student who plans to go the pre-law route in college.
As for being baby-faced?
"Well, no one wants to be seen as the baby when you're young, but I'm used to it now," Rose said. "I've pretty much looked the same since I was little."