Miami Hurricanes third baseman and short-lived quarterback David Thompson offered sage advice for high school senior Malik Rosier, who will play football for coach Al Golden in the fall of 2014 and baseball for coach Jim Morris in the spring of ’15.
“Bust your butt in both sports,” advised Thompson, “and stay healthy.”
Thompson, eager to begin his sophomore baseball season Friday in UM’s home opener against Maine, did the former but not the latter, which took him out of football for good last June after undergoing his second right-shoulder surgery in a one-year span.
“It’s real tough to play both, especially with all the football film work you have to do in college,” said Thompson, 20, who has yet to meet Rosier, 18. “It was a dream of mine to play football here, to play quarterback here. There was no part of me that wanted to stop playing football. But sometimes God’s plans are a little different than ours.”
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Rosier’s two-sport dreams are still intact.
“Tell those guys I say hello and I’m ready to go practice with them,” the Mobile Faith Academy sports star said during a phone interview this week with the Miami Herald. “They have a really good team.”
Although Rosier still breaks down football film with his offensive coordinator, he also is preparing to make the transition from catcher to outfielder at Faith Academy to preserve his knees for the Hurricanes and provide a broader stage for his exceptional athleticism and speed.
Thompson, who was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 38th round in 2012, let his already documented baseball talent shine last season as a freshman, despite playing with considerable pain. Thompson’s previously repaired torn labrum developed excess scar tissue and then slightly tore again, but the 6-2, 207-pound Miami Westminster alum still excelled during UM’s disappointing 37-25 season. He hit .286, the team’s second-highest batting average, and led the Canes with 46 RBI.
A second-team Perfect Game freshman All-American, Thompson was the only power hitter — he slugged .462 — on a team that was woefully inadequate at the plate (.258) and in scoring runs (4.4 a game) for a stellar pitching staff.
“David would have never quit football if he hadn’t gotten hurt,” Morris said. “The only reason he quit football is because he had his second surgery. If you can’t throw a football, you can’t play quarterback.”
Rosier, who has a nearly identical 6-2, 210-pound frame to Thompson’s, also grew up, like Thompson, loving the Hurricanes — even though he grew up in Alabama.
In the shotgun his past two years (after two years under center) as the quarterback for the spread offense of Faith Academy (3-7 in 2013), Rosier completed 132 of 240 passes for 1,852 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, with eight interceptions. His agility, strength and speed — he was timed at 4.46 and 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Mississippi State and Miami summer football camps — helped him in adding 1,301 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on 129 carries, a 10-yards-per-carry average.
He never fumbled.
Rosier, a three-star recruit by most services, signed his UM football scholarship papers last Wednesday. And just like Thompson, he took only one official football visit — to UM — while he was being recruited.
“His family was, ‘If you know Miami is where you’re going, we don’t think it’s very respectful to the University of Miami to visit somewhere else,’” Faith Academy football coach Rusty Mason said.
Said Rosier: “Once I committed, I knew I was going there. I couldn’t wait to sign the papers and be a Miami Hurricane.”
Miami was where it began and ended for Rosier, an outgoing, confident, talkative young man who said he knew since he “was a kid, born and raised a Miami fan,” that Coral Gables was his dream destination.
What baffled him was how he’d ever choose between football and baseball.
“My parents were like, ‘When you get to college, you’re going to have to choose one,’ and that was a big blow to me,” Rosier said. “I thought, ‘Man, which one do I choose?’”
Fortunately for Rosier and Hurricanes fans, football coach Al Golden will allow him to do both.
“It’s Al Golden’s call,” Morris said. “He’s on football scholarship, but he’s been very good in allowing kids who want to play both. His rule is kind of, ‘OK, he can play baseball,’ but he doesn’t want him over here sitting on the bench.”
Morris said Golden wanted Thompson “contributing, or else he wanted him working on football — and that’s very fair.”
In baseball, Rosier hit .424 as a junior with two home runs and 29 RBI. He increased his bench press from 230 pounds as a junior to 300 as a senior, Faith Academy baseball coach Matt Seymour said.
“He’s got power, speed, size and can hit the ball over the fence,” Seymour said. “He also has a big-time arm.”
The last UM quarterback to also play baseball was pitcher T.J. Prunty, who quit football after his redshirt freshman season in 2000 to concentrate on baseball. He was drafted in the 21st round in 2002 by the Minnesota Twins but never made it to the majors.
The most famous quarterback-baseball player UM will face this season is Florida State Seminoles Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, whom Morris called “probably their best pitcher, best hitter — and, of course, best football player.”
Rosier lived his first three years in Tallahassee before he moved with his family to Mobile. His father, Ela Rosier, played center field at Pensacola Junior College and still lives there.
“Trust me,” Rosier said, “he’s not a Florida State fan. He’s a diehard Hurricane.”
Rosier won’t say what sport he loves most, or even which he plays better, just that during football season he’ll be “strictly football” and during baseball he’ll be “strictly baseball.”
“I’m a sports fanatic and am in love with football and baseball,” he said. “I think my future will be really good. To play for the school you always loved and watched as a kid is something that happens once in a lifetime. I’m just honored to have been given this chance.”
As for Thompson, he is thrilled to get going in 2014, despite missing his football buddies. Last season, while recuperating from surgery, he was still at every practice and film session and sat in the stands “with the injured guys” for home games.
“I’m still close with guys on the football team,” said Thompson, whose freshman roommate was offensive lineman Taylor Gadbois and whose current roomie is opening-night starting pitcher Chris Diaz. “When it was football season, I used to love football more.
“But baseball is my better sport, and it’s baseball season. Now I love baseball more.”