Mike Rozier was drafted in the 12th round as a pitcher by the Boston Red Sox in 2004. As a 6-foot-5, 205-pound, flame throwing southpaw he would have gone much earlier in the draft had he not signed a football scholarship with North Carolina out of Henry County High School (Stockbridge, Ga.) He leveraged that position into one of the largest bonuses the Boston organization has ever paid a prospect not picked in the first round.
Five years later Rozier is 40 pounds heavier, but a variety of injuries, velocity issues and other setbacks never allowed him to rise above A level in Boston’s minor league system. He was released by the Sox in March and decided to get back into the game he gave up in 2004. He plans to enroll in school in June. Although he won’t be on scholarship his college tuition will be paid by the Red Sox as part of his original contract.
When he steps back onto the gridiron next fall it will be the first time he has suited up for a game since the fall of 2003. During that season he was the standout on a down and out team that struggled through an 0-10 campaign. In a reversal of fortune Rozier posted a 10-0 record as a pitcher the following spring and at one time was committed to play baseball for Clemson.
Scout.com’s evaluation of Rozier from way back in 2003 reports:
“Watching him throw the ball, it's obvious that he has a very live arm. He can step back and throw the ball 40-50 yards off of his back foot. In the three games that I watched, he was hesitant to unleash the ball down field because. 1) he rarely had the time to throw it deep, 2) the ball was never caught anyway. Rozier was forced to throw a lot of quick stops, seams, and skinny posts, and even those were dropped with regularity. His decision making sometimes left something to be desired, but giving Rozier the benefit of the doubt, Henry County was usually out of the game, and Rozier would try and force a ball down field late. He has very strong hands and can pump fake, cock, and reload the ball in a hurry. He puts plenty of zip on the ball, but throws a nice deep fade route as well. He is not going to beat anyone on the run, but he can pump fake a corner and throw the long ball with the best of them.”
The real question now is how quickly can Rozier adjust to SEC level football after playing five seasons of minor league baseball. In addition to having grown physically Rozier should also be more emotionally mature than most first year quarterbacks, and there’s plenty of motivation for a player with four years of eligibility.
Quincy Carter was in baseball three years before he decided to return to football and committed to Georgia in 1998. He started three seasons at quarterback before entering the NFL Draft after his junior season. However Drew Henson, who played six years of professional baseball wasn’t able to overcome the absence and make a successful transition to the NFL.
The Vols haven’t signed a quarterback since Casey Kelly in the Class of 2008 and the field of available high school prospects at that position this year isn’t as deep as it has been in recent seasons. That plus his size, arm strength and athletic ability make Rozier a prospect worth developing.
Rozier, 23, also considered South Carolina but decided to commit to Tennessee after he watched a practice last week.