AMES — Linebacker Mike Rose made an immediate impact when he started his first game for Iowa State against Iowa in 2018.
The then-true freshman middle linebacker recorded 11 tackles against the Hawkeyes and hasn’t slowed down since.
When Iowa State travels to Lawrence, Kan., to play Kansas on Saturday, Rose will be at sam linebacker — his second year playing on the outside. That familiarity with the position has allowed the game to finally slow down for him.
“I would just say that I’m more confident in myself and being more comfortable on the field,” Rose said. “Freshman year I came in and was an 18-year-old who was just running around out there. Last year I got moved to sam and that was different. My first two years it felt like it was all going a million miles per hour.
“I feel like this is the first time in my career it’s slowed down for me. Being confident and the game being way more slowed down than it was — those are the biggest things.”
His teammates have noticed.
“Since his freshman year you’re like, ‘Man, this kid’s special,’” safety Greg Eisworth said. “He shows flashes of potential in everything and he’s one of those guys that you ask them to do something and he’ll figure out how to do it eventually. I think that’s what you’re starting to see with him at that sam linebacker position. He’s figuring it out.
“He was used to being in the box and now he’s a bigger linebacker — 240, 250 pounds or whatever. ... He’s going to find a way to do it and I think that’s what we’re starting to see is him figuring it out.”
It’s apparent the game has slowed down for Rose by looking at his stats.
The junior leads Iowa State with 40 tackles. He also has 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a half sack.
The biggest difference is he can now see the play develop as it’s happening.
“Seeing routes is a big thing, understanding why teams are running certain concepts and what they want to get open,” Rose said. “And being in the box — having two years under my belt of being in the box — you know there is only a certain amount of things you’re going to get.”
The two interceptions Rose has might embody the game slowing down for him more than anything. Both interceptions were tips where he had to track the ball after the deflection and make difficult plays.
“I think the biggest thing is you’ve got to have great players and when you look at who has created those turnovers, I think it’s those really good players playing at a really high level,” Coach Matt Campbell said. “Obviously the play from last week with Greg having the ability to tip the ball and Mike Rose’s effort to make a huge play, which you’ve seen now — that’s the second time that’s occurred this year.”
For Rose, his formula for success is simple.
“Running to the ball,” Rose said. “If there’s a ball on the ground, there’s a better chance you’ll get it the more defenders that are there — or tipped passes. Turnovers are effort plays.”
That effort manifests itself in all parts of Rose’s game, not just in the turnovers.
“Obviously the plays that he makes in the TCU game and obviously at Oklahoma State, but I see so much more (than) that,” Campbell said. “I see the consistency that he’s tackled with. How he’s run sideline to sideline. The physicality that he’s played with. He’s played really, really special football so far this year.
“So, (A), really proud of him and (B), obviously those plays that we’re talking about are big plays and he’s been a big-time player for us all year.”