Eli Rosier will be back where he belongs Saturday, where he feels most at home. He will be at a football game cheering for his son.
His son happens to be the starting quarterback for the unbeaten, No. 3-ranked Miami Hurricanes, but to the father, he is the boy he has been watching play since the days Malik’s helmet and pads weighed almost as much as he did.
“Been to every one of his games in person, pee-wee to college,” Mr. Rosier told the Herald on Friday. “Until last week.”
He had a decent excuse for missing his first game.
A stroke one week earlier had almost killed him. The Dad not there, and the reason why, was the burden on Malik’s mind and heart as he piloted the Canes’ 41-8 rout of Notre Dame in the biggest game of his life and UM’s biggest game in years.
Eli Rosier, too weak to make the trip, watched that game on TV from his home in Tallahassee.
“When I couldn’t make the Notre Dame game, that’s the most emotional I’ve been,” he said in a lengthy phone conversation. “I just wanted somebody there for Malik when he walked out those gates after the game. But I was so weak I couldn’t even take a car ride.”
The ease of the win thrilled him — made him happy as a lifelong Canes fan, and also grateful from a medical vantage. In a phone call after the game, “I joked with Malik, ‘Good thing ya’ll didn’t stress me out. If the game was close it might have given me another stroke.’ ”
Mr. Rosier calls himself “lucky and blessed” to be able to joke like that. A doctor told him, “It’s a miracle you’re standing.”
On Saturday the father will be back where he belongs, watching his son play football, as Miami plays Virginia in its next-to-last game of the regular season and final one at Hard Rock Stadium. His wife will be at the wheel for the 6 1/2-hour drive.
Two days later, on Monday, he will be back in Tallahassee undergoing surgery to close a hole in a valve near his heart, the condition that caused his recent stroke and would put him at risk for another.
(Quick aside: Eli Rosier’s real first name is “Ela,” which also is Malik’s actual given name. But the father goes by Eli, just as the son goes by his middle name, because, said the father, “It was just so hard growing up having to explain the name Ela to everybody.”)
Mr. Rosier, who is 43, might have suffered his stroke in Miami while watching UM’s Nov. 4 game against Virginia Tech. He had been shown on TV, and later got calls and texts from friends and relatives who saw him and thought his face looked different and that he looked not well.
He felt fine the next day, but he collapsed at his home that Monday and was hospitalized. He lost almost all feeling on the left side of his body. It was the beginning of Notre Dame Week. Malik got the news that day from his mom but did not tell his coaches.
“I know the coaches have so much to worry about with Notre Dame that I didn’t want to burden them with my problems as well,” Malik told ESPN.com. “It’s one of those things that really changes how you look at life. My life was 8-0 as a quarterback, everything was going fine, and then you get that news and you realize [football] is not everything. I could have woken up Monday morning and lost my dad.”
Said his father: “I didn’t want to tell him. Didn’t want to worry him because I wanted them to beat Notre Dame so bad.”
Rosier admitted he felt “out of sorts” and was “forgetting stuff and unable to concentrate” in the buildup to the Notre Dame game. He would throw a touchdown pass and run for another score in the game despite the personal distraction.
It was Malik’s mom, Dana Hudson (his parents both have remarried), who informed UM coaches what had happened to the quarterback’s father.
Mr. Rosier now estimates he has regained about 80 percent of his feeling and strength. He is a former high school athlete who works as a fiber optic splicer and a man who is otherwise in good physical shape. Doctors assured him there was no real risk in him attending Saturday’s game.
Watching his son play football and being there in person to do it — that constitutes back to normal for the father. And it is important to him for a very personal reason.
“I met my own father when I was 26 years old,” Mr. Rosier said. “Not having a dad there drove me to make sure I didn’t miss nothing with Malik. I wanted to make sure he can lean on me and count on me because I didn’t have that.”
Until this season the father drove or flew to attend Malik’s games, not certain he would ever leave the bench. The redshirt junior started only one game before this season. He has paid his dues. The payback? Malik has the Canes in contention to win the school’s first national championship since 2001.
“But I didn’t bank on football. I banked on him being a smart kid and living life after sports,” Rosier said. “Malik’s a good boy, and I counted on Mark Richt helping make him a good man.”
Malik Rosier will earn his UM degree and be a college graduate next month.
His father will be there.