With the 2018 NFL Draft around the corner, one running back is flying under the radar of NFL and fantasy GMs alike. Most people haven’t even heard of New Mexico State’s Larry Rose III. You won’t find him in the rookie running back rankings on mainstream fantasy websites. There is a chance he might not get drafted, but if he does, it won’t be until the end of the draft. He’s the sneakiest of all sleepers. His advanced stats, metrics and analytics NFL Draft prospect profile proves he has the pedigree, production and athleticism that savvy dynasty owners seek, even if he isn’t one of the “sexy” names atop everyone’s big board.
While speaking with Larry Rose III recently about his early life, college career and NFL dreams, it quickly became apparent that not only is he a great running back, but also an impressive human being. Rose’s story echoes Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken. For his entire football career, Rose III has taken the road less traveled. There have been many bumps along the way, but they taught him to be a better running back and a better man. He might be the most misunderstood and unappreciated running back in this year’s draft. His story needs to be known and his name needs to be recognized.
Growing up, high school & getting into college
Larry Rose III was born in Waco, Texas and moved to Freestone county in the 2nd grade. He eventually ended up in Fairfield in the 7th grade, after his father accepted a position as pastor in a church. Both his mother, Yvonne Rose, and his father, Larry Rose Jr., are ministers. He also has an older sister, Barvion Wyatt-Rose that makes up their family of four. Even though his parents divorced during his sophomore year of college, the family remains extremely close, supportive and loving. This has helped Larry Rose III become the man he is today. His running back idol growing up was LaDainian Tomlison:
“LaDainian Tomlison is from Waco,” Rose explains. “I attended a lot of his camps when he came back to Waco. I played running back at a young age. When I was growing up he was the most dominant in the running back position. I always tried to model my game after LT [and] always liked the way he ran and how he carried himself as a person.”
In high school, Rose played basketball, football, and was also part of the track team. As a football player, he played both the running back and defensive back positions at Fairfield High School. His rushing production was insane. In his senior year alone, he ran for 2,924 yards on only 237 carries, averaging a gaudy 12.3 yards per carry and scoring 49 touchdowns. He also had nine receptions for 114 yards and another three touchdowns. The team had a 15-1 record and went to the state finals. Despite his monster production, Rose III did not get many college suitors. Baylor was interested but never pulled the trigger on him. The only three colleges that wanted to sign him were Abilene Christian, Sam Houston and Texas State. Abilene Christian and Sam Houston are FCS schools in the Southland Conference. Texas State was the only FBS program to offer him a scholarship, but they were only interested in Rose as a cornerback.
Check out Larry Rose on PlayerProfiler’s Dynasty Rookie Rankings:
This caused the high school phenom to doubt himself. That all changed two weeks before the college signing deadline. Rose played extremely well during the state championship game, which resulted in an 11th-hour offer from New Mexico State. Prior to that game, Rose had resigned himself to the fact that he was going to play for Abilene Christian. Since the New Mexico State offer was so late, he initially didn’t want to go there.
“I remember talking to my mom, and my mom told me to give them a chance,” Rose says. “Let’s go take that visit and see what they’re talking about. It was all crazy how it all went down. All the way up until two weeks before signing day, I started to believe I wasn’t good enough to play Division 1-A ball. But then I got a phone call, took a visit, and got offered, and instantly fell in love with the place. And that’s how I ended up at New Mexico State.”
Rose had good production from day one. When asked about being the number one guy from the beginning, Rose said “It was a fast turnaround. I went to school out there and got into camp. One thing Coach Doug Martin told me he was going to give me a chance. And that’s what he did. He gave me the chance of a lifetime. I just took it and ran with it and from that point on never looked back till this day.” He had a big year, collecting a total of 1,274 all-purpose yards, ranking as the fourth best running back in the Sun Belt Conference.
In his sophomore year, Rose III took his game to another level. He led the conference with 1,651 rushing yards and had 14 touchdowns on 240 attempts and was named Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year. When asked what was different in his second year, he responded:
“My sophomore year we got a new running back coach, Matt Christian. And he really taught me the game of football as far as understanding defenses. It caused me to take my game to another level. I not only had the God-given ability but also had the knowledge of the game. Understanding the game of football. He told me he wasn’t going to try to over coach me just let me play football. But he was going to teach me the game. Matt Christian played quarterback here in New Mexico State. He taught me the game not from the aspect of a running back, but from the aspect of being a quarterback. I learned the game of football as if I were a quarterback and that made things that much easier when it came down to having the ball in my hands and making plays.”
Rose III entered his junior year thinking if he could have a similar season, then he was going to enter the NFL draft early. However, things did not go to plan. Two weeks before the first game, Rose III was at training camp and felt an excruciating pain in his abdomen while doing jumping jacks. He found out later he had a sports hernia. This set him back as he missed the first three games of the season. Doctors told him he couldn’t exercise. He came back in game four against Troy, but due to his lack of conditioning, he ended up tweaking his hamstring. He played the remainder of the season but saw his numbers go down. His statistics are still good considering he only played nine games that year.
If he had played the entire season he still would have eclipsed well over 1,000 yards rushing. Rose III decided that it was in his best interest to go back and play in his final year of college to try and post numbers reminiscent of his sophomore season. To this day he remains optimistic about his disappointing year admitting “I am thankful because it helped make me the player I am today.” Ironically, Rose III’s worst season on paper was his best according to Pro Football Focus. He was ranked ahead of Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice as the highest-graded returning running back in all of college.
Rose III had a very different year as a senior because the team had a different approach:
“I was on the field for 471 pass plays this year. This past season we were looking to throw the ball more because we had a lot more weapons on the field than we did for my first three years. We had receivers like Jaleel Scott. Tyler Rogers played really well. Therefore it was hard to run the ball the lot. I only got about 180 carries but my receiving yards went up considerably. The team needed me in a different aspect this year.”
Compared to his first two seasons, Rose III’s rushing stats were down but he blossomed as a pass catcher. He had 55 receptions for 522 yards, and still ended up with 1,452 all-purpose yards. This was definitely his second best year, but since he didn’t get 1,000 yards on the ground, he was not invited to any senior bowls and eventually was snubbed at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. It seemed to be another bump in the road for Rose III. Similar to high school, Rose III was not appreciated for his body of work. So how does Larry Rose III compare to other potential later-round running backs around his size who also played four years in college?
Based on production alone, Rose ranks up there with the best. Justin Jackson was far and away the most productive running back, however, his efficiency is also the worst. Chase Edmonds and Ito Smith are the only other two running backs who had more all-purpose yards than Rose III. However, if Rose played the same number of games as Smith, he would have more than Smith. Smith was even more productive than Saquon Barkley in college. Chase Edmonds had more total yards but unlike Rose III, he played in an inferior division. Therefore, it is easy to plead a case for Rose III as being the second most productive running back next to Jackson, but at the same time being much more efficient. People are talking about Jackson, Smith and Edmonds. However, no one is advocating Larry Rose III. This is not only surprising, but downright disappointing.
He was surprised he did not go to any senior bowl or participate in the combine. He admits that “after everything I’ve done, I still got some people that think that I am not who I am. It’s just hard to understand but at the same time it wasn’t new to me. I’ve always had to take the path least traveled.” Rose III still kept a positive, open mind when his Pro Day came. He personifies maturity by poignantly professing “I was always told to control what you can control. I couldn’t control not getting a senior bowl invite. I couldn’t control not getting invited to the combine, but one thing I could control was running fast and jumping high at my pro day.
Although Rose III isn’t an elite athlete, he is above average in most metrics. At his Pro Day, he ran a 4.47 40-Yard Dash which puts him in the 86th-percentile. His 121.4 Burst Score places him in the 67th-percentile. His best comparable player is Ronnie Hillman, who happened to be drafted in the early third round back in 2012.
When asked who he would like to model his game after, the first person Rose III chose was Chris Thompson. This is interesting because both have similar builds and have similar athletic profiles. They ran an identical 4.47 40-Yard Dash. Rose III has more burst, but Thompson is stronger. The main difference between the two is their dominance in college. Rose III had a 32.6% College Dominator (72nd-percentile) compared to Thompson’s 13.6% College Dominator (14th-percentile). Rose III also cited Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey as players who impress him. Although he is smaller than both, he believes he “can bring the same thing to the game that those guys do”.
Apart from the sports related hernia that sidelined Larry Rose III in his junior year, he only missed two other games in college, one in his freshman year and the other in his senior year. Both were a result of a sprained MCL, so he comes into the NFL without being a huge injury risk.
When asked how he would describe himself as a player, Rose III chose the words elusive, hard-nosed, and playmaking. He added “just because I am a smaller back I don’t play like a smaller back. I can run between the tackles. I can get a first down on third and three. I am not afraid of contact. When I step on the field you’ve got to know where I am at all times. If you don’t I can hurt you.” When asked if he felt worried that NFL teams are reluctant to give a smaller back like him enough touches and if the NFL had a weight bias, he replied positively:
“No. At first I felt that way. But none of the coaches I’ve talked to during the draft process have commented on my weight or size. They recognize a ball player when they see a ball player. It doesn’t matter what size you are as long as you are durable. At this level it isn’t how big or small you are it is about what you bring to the table.”
To sum up Larry Rose III as a person, he used the words, natural born leader, humble and hard-working, admitting that those three things make up who he is on and off the field. He has found himself as a natural born leader his whole life with “people wanting to be around me on and off the field. People have always looked up to me on and off the field.” His humility comes from his faith. He admits he is “a religious guy. My Grandpa was a pastor. My dad is a pastor. My uncle is a pastor. My mother’s a minister. My religious side is very strong giving me humility. I learned at a very young age to be a humble guy.” Finally, hard-working describes everything Rose III does. He has had to work harder to get to where he is today.
Rose III thinks he will get drafted. But if he doesn’t he believes someone will give him the opportunity in free agency. And right now he isn’t very worried. During his Pro Day he met with about seven different teams which included the Titans, the Raiders, the Cardinals, the Patriots, and the Chargers. The Patriots and Chargers could be a good fit for Larry to be used initially as a third down back, with the desire to be used more. When he was asked what kind of running back he sees himself as in the NFL, he replied:
“Going into it, I see myself as a playmaker and a role-player, as a guy who’s going to go in and whatever role you give me I am going to master it and make the most of it. Once I solidify myself as the guy who can be trustworthy and be put on the field in any situation, from there I feel my role will increase, eventually becoming a starter in the NFL which is my long-term goal. If they need me to line up out wide to make a play I’ll make a play. If they need me in the backfield to make a play, I’ll make a play. I just hope to get on a team that allows me to excel.”
Rose III just wants the chance. He wants the opportunity to show that all of his production in high school and in college has been justly rewarded. He knows his road to the NFL hasn’t been an easy one, but feels he wouldn’t want it any other way. He believes things happen for a reason and what is meant for him is going to come to pass. He’s as humble as he is confident. He is positive as he is realistic. He can be philosophical but is also pragmatic. He is as polite and respectful as he is determined and relentless. And after talking to him, it is impossible not to like him and root for him. He is a remarkable young man that deserves his shot.
It is puzzling how Rose III was such a prolific running back in high school in Texas of all places, only to get one Division 1-A offer to play running back. And thankfully he took it. It is also strange that Rose III was more productive over four years than Rashaad Penny and far more efficient than Kerryon Johnson, but remains an apparition. It is appalling how people talk about John Kelly‘s landing spot, when Rose III had more all-purpose yards in his sophomore season than Kelly did in his entire three years at college combined. Think about that. Mark Walton, who is often discussed in the football community, was far less productive, far less efficient, and far less athletic than Rose III and it’s not even close. And what about Kalen Ballage? Bo Scarborough? What have they done? While all those players are expecting to go in the mid-rounds of the draft, Rose is just hoping to get drafted. And like high school, he is hoping for that one offer on draft day. Although the NFL is a cruel and unjust place, Rose III remains calm and optimistic, believing that “the people who need to know who I am, know who I am.” For his sake, I hope he’s right.
Larry Rose III summed it up best when he told me “at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you get there but what you do when you get there.” Yes, Rose III took the road less traveled and for him that has made all the difference. Let’s just hope there is a team that meets him along the way and gives him the chance to do what he does best and that’s playing football.