TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Rosen likes a good debate.
It doesn’t matter the topic, the Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback has an opinion on it. Politics. Religion. Sports. Any of it. All of it.
While attending UCLA, Rosen, an economics major, lived with two political-science majors who were good friends with former Bruins center Scott Quessenberry. As a result, Quessenberry spent a lot of time studying at their house.
Quessenberry and his friends would often start debates while sitting in the living room. Rosen, who would be in his room, was known to come out and join in. And it didn’t take long for lines to be drawn. Sometimes it was fair, two versus two. Sometimes it wasn’t, with Rosen taking on all three by himself.
“Especially during the election season, my roommates, we would all get into it,” Rosen said. “It would get really, really heated, but it would never pass that point. It was always a lot of fun. I love debating, whether it be about anything, but I think it’s healthy. It’s like a lot to do with how to navigate life and whatnot.”
Josh Rosen’s personality was the source of many debates during the pre-draft process. Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo
Rosen’s intensity is part of what endeared him to his teammates at UCLA. His personality and outspoken nature became a topic of conversation in the lead-up to the NFL draft. But those who spent the most time with him in college described him as a “great person to be around,” “laid back” and the “ultimate competitor.”
“All that matters is winning and being the best that we can and making our team the best that they can be,” Quessenberry said. “Off the field, he’s a really good dude. He’s always there. If somebody needs to talk to him, he’s willing to listen. He always wanted to hang out with his teammates. Really, like a class act really is how I would describe him.”
Kolton Miller, the former Bruins left tackle and a first-round pick in the draft, has seen Rosen’s evolution as a person and player firsthand. He was on campus as a redshirt freshman when Rosen arrived in 2015.
Sure, Rosen came in “a little cocky,” Miller said. But Rosen matured since his freshman-year antics into the Bruins’ hardest worker.
He was “really well-respected” by his teammates, Miller said.
“He’s really well-rounded,” Miller added. “He doesn’t try to be more than what he has to be — a really good leader. I don’t really have anything negative to say about him.”
UCLA safety Adarius Pickett said Rosen’s penchant for debates showed teammates another side of him, and sometimes taught them something in the process.
“You never know when a debate will break out and it’s always interesting to listen to him go at it,” Pickett said. “It’s like he really can be a lawyer or something. He goes at it.
“It’s just funny to see because he’s usually a really laid-back guy, but when he gets into those debates [he gets animated and I’m thinking], ‘That’s Josh? He’s turning up like that?'”
Rosen fine-tuned his debating chops around the Christmas dinner table at his grandmother’s house in Philadelphia. Surrounded by his entire family — his parents, aunts, cousins and sisters, among others — it was tough to get a word in. Everyone was yelling at one another.
It became Rosen’s opportunity to showcase his budding intelligence and his understanding of what was happening around the world.
“You had to stay up to date on current events or you’re going to get roasted at the table,” Rosen said.
His parents, Charles Rosen and Liz Lippincott, preached the importance of academics while raising their children, but also the importance of forming, having and reforming opinions. Rosen grew up learning it was OK to change his mind. So when he has said things he hoped others would talk to him about — whatever the topic might be — he would engage in debate and maybe even come to agree with the other point of view.
Before Rosen left UCLA, he talked with coach Chip Kelly about having a “growth mindset” and being open to constantly growing, evolving and improving as a person.
“Anything I say in the media or whatnot, I hope people come up to me and say, ‘That was actually right and wrong,'” Rosen said.
During his introductory news conference a day after the Cardinals drafted him No. 10 overall, Rosen wasn’t shy about talking about who he is — opinionated — and his desire to stay that way. But that’s not new.
Jedd Fisch thought he and Rosen developed a good relationship fairly quickly when he was hired as UCLA’s offensive coordinator in 2017, in part because Fisch not only gave Rosen time to share his opinions but because Fisch listened.
“I liked to hear what he had to say,” Fisch said. “Everyone has opinions. Some people share them more than others. Some people … what did Aaron Burr say to Alexander Hamilton? ‘Talk less, smile more.’ I think sometimes there is some value to that. I think there is some of that process that he’s got to keep that in mind.
“But, on the same token, you’ve got to appreciate Josh for his opinions and appreciate his mindset, appreciate how he works, appreciate that those opinions are not just out of left field. They’re well thought out. I would listen to him and then, at a certain point in time, I’d be, ‘OK, it’s time to get back to football. We only have a certain amount of hours.'”
Rosen said his coaches at UCLA used to call him a “unique personality.” Nothing could be more accurate. They also stressed the importance of staying true to himself.
“That’s one of the biggest pieces of leadership advice I’ve ever gotten, is to be authentic and to be real because you have to be the same guy every day and it’s hard to be someone you’re not every day,” Rosen said.
That’s who Rosen has tried to be on the field and off. He doesn’t back down. The same poise and confidence Rosen has shown on game day translated to a debate. Quessenberry said he knew, when Rosen got to the line of scrimmage, he’d make the right decision and then make the right throw.
And when the two would get into a debate, Rosen was equally assertive.
“He’s kind of pushy,” Quessenberry said. “He kind of sticks his opinion in there. But I’m kind of the same way, so I’ll stick mine right back and there’s not a lot of leeway when we talk.
“We believe in what we believe in and it doesn’t hinder our friendship or anything.”
Rosen understands his opinions carry a certain weight. But he also has begun understanding that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and he believes that’ll help as he begins his NFL career.
“You’ve got to be humble when you know you’re wrong and you have to courageously assert yourself as correct when you are,” Rosen said. “I think a lot of the smartest people in the world, they credit their intelligence to knowing that they don’t know things, and I think that’s something that I try to take to heart.”