- Travis L. Brown, ESPNDallas.com
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DALLAS -- Nick Rose knew so little about the sport of football just over two years ago, he couldn’t define a hash mark.
Yet in two years time, the Highland Park senior is in the running to be the next starting kicker at the University of Texas.
Wednesday, Rose gave his commitment to the Longhorns during the school’s national signing day ceremony inside Highlander Stadium.
Rose grew up a soccer player in Copperas Cove. When he moved with his family to Highland Park before his junior year, Rose thought he’d try football, which became a vehicle to college athletics.
“I was just trying to meet people and I figured I could kick a football well, so I walked out on the field and didn’t know what to do – didn’t even know what a hash mark was or any of that,” Rose said. “Time went on and the coaches liked how I could kick. My first kickoff went out of the end zone and I realized I had a knack for kickoffs. I don’t know how or why.”
Technically, Rose did not sign a letter of intent, as was the procedure of most recruits across the country Wednesday. He made a public commitment to follow a plan Texas laid out for Rose, beginning as a preferred walk-on for the Longhorns.
Rose will have his tuition paid for by the football team throughout a summer semester, which will cover fall two-a-days in Austin, but he will assume walk-on status for his first season, which means his family will cover tuition.
Rose’s next step in preseason practices will be to earn a starting job and a scholarship to carry him throughout the remainder of his eligibility.
Competing for the same positions will be Coppell's Nick Jordan, who faxed his signature Wednesday to accept a scholarship from the Longhorns.
“Texas has a kicker that they have all the confidence in the world in,” Rose said of Jordan. “They came up here to scout another player and ended up noticing my kickoffs and from there everything took off, and I can’t be grateful enough how everything happened.”
Rose and Jordan have kicked together in offseason kicking contests, and that familiarity and friendship is as important to Rose as the competition he will face for playing time.
Preliminary indications from the Texas coaching staff, relayed to Rose, are favoring Rose as a starting kickoff specialist and punter and Jordan as the starting place kicker.
Rose spent his senior year booting kickoffs consistently out of the back of the end zone for the Scots, impressing Highland Park coach Randy Allen from the moment he set foot on the school’s campus and eventually sparking the same interest of Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.
“Nick Rose has lots of potential,” Allen said. “He’s the best kickoff guy I’ve ever coached. I know he’s going to compete for that starting position at Texas.”
Rose was key in securing Highland Park’s District 10-4A title this season, drilling a game-winning extra point in overtime to give the Scots a 31-30 victory over Rockwall-Heath, clinching the district No. 1 seed.
“I was just thinking keep my head down and follow through,” Rose said after the game. “Stick with my basics and hopefully it would go in. My heart was going crazy before I kicked it and then it was all relief that I could pull my team through.”
Trying to earn a starting job and a scholarship puts extraordinary pressure on a freshman kicker, but high-pressure situations are nothing new to Rose.
“I’ll be good for Nick to have competition, but I can’t imagine anyone kicking it further than he does on kickoffs,” Allen said.