Ezekiel Rose: Flourishing in Faith

Defensive lineman Ezekiel Rose has been a dominant presence for the Nashville Kats this season. Rose’s journey in football has had peaks and valleys, and his path to success in the AFL has been filled with life lessons along the way.

Rising in the Spotlight

When Ezekiel Rose started with East Mississippi Community College Lions, his experience was anything but an ordinary tale of JuCo beginnings. Over the course of his two years with the program, cameras followed Rose and his teammates for the popular Netflix series Last Chance U.

Rose said the docuseries was “good exposure and […] a learning curve.”

“It helped me grow up and see there’s two sides of the game: the football side and the business side. If you do the right things, good things happen.”

In the spotlight, opportunity called. After his standout season with the Lions, Rose was offered a full scholarship to West Virginia University in 2017 and made an immediate impact by leading the Mountaineers in sacks.

But beyond football, life at West Virginia pushed Rose towards personal growth in his ambitions off the field.

“West Virginia was a spot I needed to go. Football wise, it was a step faster, and I always want to see something that helps me get better, but it was a culture shock. It was really motivating,” Rose said.

After excelling in West Virginia by proving his football talent, character (Rose was named WVU’s Mr. Unselfish by the Mountaineers coaching staff in 2017), and academic ability (Rose was also named Academic All-Big 12 Second Team in 2018), he was invited to rookie training camps with the NFL for both the Ravens and the Saints. His stint, however, was cut short after a pulled hamstring sent him home.

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Journey Through Faith

Emotionally, Rose was at an all-time low. Despite his preparations, he was denied his chance in the NFL due to factors outside of his control. Following his hamstring injury, his bad luck spiraled. While he received an opportunity to play in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Rose tore his ACL in his first start with the team. The next nine months took a toll on him.

“I had a lot of back and forths with God—a lot. I don’t ask for much, but this is what I wanted. I got into a fight with depression. I was angry a lot, and it took time for me to talk to Him and listen to Him and for Him to show me that His plan for me was better,” he said.

Rose’s battle with rehabilitation honed his mental fortitude as he “made so much progress in a week and be doing well, but then one day, [he] wouldn’t feel right and have to start back over and ask [his] trainer what’s going on.”

The lessons Rose learned throughout that process stuck with him as a matter of faith.

“People came out and into my life at the perfect timing. Steve Trocchio and Michael Johnson Performance helped me out the whole way through. They always shot with me straight. When things got tough, they were there for me.”

Because of his knee injury, Rose missed an opportunity with the CFL due to a physical, but soon after, he received a call to sign with the Massachusetts Pirates to play in the Indoor Football League.

Following a full season with the Pirates in 2023, Rose signed for the 2024 season with the Nashville Kats.

Focus and Intentionality

Before receiving the call to play in Nashville, Rose nearly left the game of football for good.

“I was ready to hang my cleats up, start my life with me and my lady […], but I got a call from coach, and I had an opportunity to play again,” Rose said.

Thinking about his life after football, Rose had been preparing for a career in financial services in anticipation of a future with kids and a family in West Virginia.

Electing to stay in the sport, Rose, who is in the prime of his football career, is playing dominant football. However, while Rose and his teammates have played well, the team’s record has not matched their high level of play.

“It started off kind of rough—took some time getting used to each other’s personalities and play styles, but we have great guys in the locker room that will hype [each other] up,” Rose said.

Despite a great locker room culture and having the talent to match, the team was losing games. After the Kats dropped their second game to the Albany Firebirds, Coach Dean Cokinos spoke his mind about the state of a talented but losing football team: the time for the learning curve was over.

“It comes down to us being intentional about what we do […] We’ve got a whole bunch of grown men, and we can be molded into who we want to be. After that game, we went from a team with flashlight focus to laser beam focus. Everyone bought in,” Rose said.

In the last month, the Kats have looked the part of a championship contender, defeating the Billings Outlaws in their final game of the regular season and the Orlando Predators in the first round of the playoffs.

Rose and the Kats have set their focus on their rematch with the Outlaws.

“They’re a hard-working team—very, very coachable, and they do the little things. The only way to beat that is to bring more talent and also do the little things,” Rose said.

Rose and the Kats take on the Outlaws in Billings, Montana, on July 13 at 10 PM EST.

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