Globe West Sports

Rose and Boston College: A perfect match

Acton native uses fifth year to pursue soccer, MBA

Acton’s Steve Rose, practicing with the Boston College soccer team last week, is excited about playing close enough for family and friends to attend his games after four years at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Acton’s Steve Rose, practicing with the Boston College soccer team last week, is excited about playing close enough for family and friends to attend his games after four years at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Phil Perry
Globe Correspondent / August 28, 2011

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NEWTON - Steve Rose sat in the student-athlete lounge at Boston College’s Conte Forum, and shrugged his shoulders. Fresh off another practice session, he wondered aloud how he arrived here, as the new quarterback in the midfield for the men’s soccer team.

Rose had been at the Heights years ago, as an All-State, All-New England high school recruit from Acton-Boxborough Regional, but the fit wasn’t right. Four years later, things had changed. He graduated from Seton Hall in New Jersey with a year of soccer-playing eligibility left, and he knew BC was the only place for him.

It fit his every criterion. He wanted to test himself in the NCAA’s premier soccer conference for one of its most promising teams. The Atlantic Coast Conference and top-25 ranked BC were perfect.

He wanted to work toward a master’s degree in business administration from one of the best programs in the country. BC’s Carroll Graduate School of Management had it.

He wanted to go home. He wanted to be closer to his friends, his family in Acton and the city he always considered his own. They were all just minutes down the road.

“With all those things coming together,’’ Rose said, “it was a no-brainer to want to come here.’’

The prospect of adding Rose, a superior playmaker who had been a three-year captain at Seton Hall, a Big East school, fell out of the blue and into the lap of BC coach Ed Kelly.

For Rose, there was no other choice. He missed most of his junior season with a broken sesamoid bone in his foot. He was granted a medical redshirt and eligibility to play a fifth season, and he wanted to do it at BC. He didn’t contact any coaches other than Kelly.

But did Kelly want him?

“I loved the kid,’’ said Kelly, and his squad happened to have a hole at midfield. “But I didn’t know he had another year, and I didn’t know he was interested in BC. We just got lucky. It was a match made in heaven.’’

Rose is a coach’s delight, the type of player who receives praise not for his flashiness or, at 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds, his physical dominance, but for his soccer brain. He thinks ahead and controls the action on the field with technical skill.

He can score; he was second at Seton Hall in goals and points last season even though he missed six games with an ankle injury, and played six others with so much tape on his ankle he likened it to a cast. But his real talent is being the catalyst that transitions his team from defense to offense, connecting the dots from the back four to the attacking front.

They are the skills he showed as a four-year varsity player at Acton-Boxborough, refined by the rigors of Big East competition.

“He was the guy pulling the strings,’’ said Acton-Boxborough coach David Baumritter, who coached with Rose at a Boston College-hosted youth camp this summer. “He’s always been so efficient in his touches and his movement. But since he left A-B he’s really developed the ability to make that killer pass, the one that springs a teammate for a goal.’’

Eager to show his new teammates that he could play - and that they could trust him - Rose graduated from Seton Hall early with a degree in finance. He arrived at BC in January and spent his days with the soccer team, his nights in the classroom, working toward his MBA.

Rose quickly made an impression. He eventually earned a key role, and was scheduled in the starting lineup for the Eagles’ season-opener Friday against George Mason.

“I wanted to work as hard as I can to prove myself,’’ Rose said. “Other guys are already here. The coach already has their mind made up about them. I’m coming in with a clean slate, so every practice was like a tryout for me at first.’’

Any pressure Rose felt, he quickly overcame as his teammates embraced him.

“I always find that people take to you very easily when you can play,’’ Kelly said with a laugh. “That’s not hard to do. And he’s a nice guy. For some reason there’s a correlation between how nice he is and how good he is.’’

He’s good enough that he could turn pro after this season. Rose has five years to finish his MBA and hopes to pursue a pro career while putting his master’s work on hold.

He got a taste of that life this summer when he spent three weeks in Sweden, training with professional teams to get himself on the radar of the European circuit. It was a success in more ways than one. European teams will cross the Atlantic later this fall to scout Rose and others during the ACC’s postseason tournament. He also had a chance to taste real Swedish meatballs and learned a little of the native tongue. Fittingly, his favorite Swedish word means “thank you.’’

“Tack,’’ said the smiling guy for whom everything seems to be falling into place.

He continues to appreciate his new situation and his health, and he hopes he can help the Eagles advance deep into the NCAA tournament. That he might be able to do that at home, in front of family and friends, is a thrill. At Seton Hall, he never played closer to Boston than Providence College.

“I’m incredibly excited,’’ Rose said. “My family is going to be able to come to a lot of games. A lot of my friends who’ve graduated at this point have jobs in the Boston area; I’ll be able to see them and they’ll be able to come to some of my games. It’s good to be back. I love Boston. It feels good to be here.’’

Phil Perry can be reached at