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One-on-One with Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa

By Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier
Republished with permission

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Would you describe your style as The Citadel's quarterback as more like Peyton Manning or Michael Vick?

"To put my name with those two is probably inappropriate. I came up from Jacksonville, Fla., as a drop-back passer and I came up here into Red Parker's veer offense, which was a running offense. But we really adapted when people put eight or nine people up in the box to stop the run, and we threw for some yards, more than I thought we would. So it was a kind of combination of running and passing. But we didn't do much drop-back passing under Red Parker."

When Red Parker and The Citadel recruited you, did they give you a true picture of what the school would be like?

"I was telling our football recruits the other night, it was 36 years ago (this month) that I first saw The Citadel. And I have to tell you, the coaches were open and honest. And I think that's the best thing for athletes that are coming into The Citadel ... This institution is not for everyone. It's a very special place, but it will prepare you for the rest of your life."

Tell me about your best game at quarterback.

"I had a couple of good games. In my sophomore year, we played Bucknell and I did fairly well, scored three touchdowns. We usually had pretty even (.500) records, but as I recall we beat VMI all three years."

And then you got hurt.

"I started 11 games my sophomore year, but going into spring practice I tore my ACL and MCL in my knee. I had surgery in April and was ready to play in September and played some, but then a guy named Harry Lynch, a great athlete, came along and I kind of moved into the backup role."

In the movie "Top Gun", Tom Cruise's call sign was 'Maverick.' What was your call sign in the Air Force?

"As long as I was in the Air Force, I had a couple of call signs. Some people will remember me by 'Stallion.' My family is Italian, so they'd say, 'Here's the Italian Stallion.' In my later years, it was just 'J.R.' That's about as exciting as I got."

What was your favorite plane to fly and why?

"Probably the F-16. I spent most of my time in it. I was lucky. A lot of guys today just fly one airplane, stay in one plane their entire careers. I flew six or seven different planes, flew the C-130, flew helicopters. But the F-16 has a special place in my heart. I'm 6-2 with long legs, and the F-16 is a very comfortable airplane."

Did you ever have a close call?

"I was flying the A-10 as a young captain ... I lost one engine, the oil went out of the engine. I was about 150 miles from where I needed to go, and as I was climbing out the other engine started acting up. I finally got the other engine settled down and was able to land with one engine. The A-10 is a pretty safe airplane, but that day it got my attention."

How important is it for The Citadel to have competitive teams and occasionally successful and winning teams rather than just fielding teams?

"As a former player, I always believed we could win. And we had some tough games, some games against big Division I schools. But I always believed we had a chance to win. And I think when we put our young people on the field, we ought to believe that we have a chance to win. I think it's important, first of all, to have character. If you win 11 or 12 games in football and you have no character, then what is life for?"

What's the last movie you've seen?

"I don't know, I'm terrible with movies. You'd have to ask my wife, Donna."

Book you are currently reading?

"I'm reading a book on innovation. I like reading books on change, innovation, how to do things outside the box."

Finally, would you rather beat Furman or VMI?

"VMI. We are so much alike ... The rivalry with Furman is intense, but VMI, we look so much alike and draw the same kind of young people."

» One-on-One with Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa
© 2006 The Citadel, Charleston, SC 29409 USA
Phone: (843) 225-3294