Statisticians can't seem to spot him. Injuries have limited his potential. His team had floundered without him.
Until this season, Mana Rosa's Oregon State football career simply hadn't been what he had in mind. Now, that is all changing.
When he picked the Beavers over Hawaii, Washington and three others as the 2008 Maui Interscholastic League Defensive Player of the Year out of Baldwin High School, Rosa appeared ready to make some noise quickly in the Pac-12. He was a three-star recruit, ranked as the nation's No. 58 prospect at defensive end by scout.com.
Oregon State’s Mana Rosa helps bring down UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin during the Beavers’ 27-20 victory over the Bruins last week
Ethan Erickson photo
‘We just have to keep moving forward. We can’t just assume that it is going to come easy.’ – Mana Rosa
Mana Rosa slaps hands with Oregon State fans after the Beavers upset then-No. 19 UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Ethan Erickson photo
After redshirting as a freshman in 2009, he missed the 2010 season with a shoulder injury. Last year he played in seven games while battling a leg injury, but had just three tackles as he bounced between defensive end and tackle spots.
"It feels awesome, finally got to get out on the field healthy, 100 percent," Rosa said via telephone after Oregon State (2-0) practiced on Monday. "I'm just working hard, trying to help my team out. I'm just trying to go forward from there and keep winning."
As Rosa's health sputtered, so did the Beavers. They were 8-5 his redshirt season, then went 5-7 before a 3-9 mark last year.
This year's team has vaulted into The Associated Press rankings at No. 18 after wins over No. 13 Wisconsin in Corvallis, Ore., and No. 19 UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Oregon State will play at Arizona (3-1) this week.
Rosa has added more than 30 pounds since high school, now checking in at 6-foot-3 and 276 pounds, and has settled into a tackle spot in the Beavers' 4-3 defense.
"We're pretty excited, we worked pretty hard in the offseason," Rosa said. "Everyone came in, extra work, did a lot of extra things so when we get on the field we can just play. We're really happy about the wins, but we just have to keep moving forward. We can't just assume that it is going to come easy."
Rosa was not listed on the participation chart for the game against the Badgers, but did play, and was not credited with a tackle in the victory over the Bruins - though he helped bring down Jonathan Franklin, the nation's leading rusher entering the game, he was not awarded a stop.
The Beavers held Franklin to 45 yards on 12 carries, and Rosa doesn't mind being the invisible man.
"Everyone on the defense as a whole is just playing great," Rosa said. "Everyone has their own assignments and they're doing them 100 percent to the best of their abilities. That is just a great part of being with this team, everyone has a role and they play that role really well.
"Hopefully, we can just keep that up and this season turns out to be a great one."
Rosa is one of eight players who cycle onto the line.
"He's been a big-time contributor up front, obviously he has been in the starting rotation," said defensive line coach Joe Seumalo, a 1984 Radford graduate who went on to play at UH. "We have 12 people, but we actually have eight starters for us on our defensive line. Mana has had a huge impact, especially being healthy. He has been really good for us. He has got a huge upside."
Rosa is one of five players from the Aloha State on the Beavers' roster - one of the others is defensive end Devon Kell, who has one tackle in two games.
"There's always a special place for them," Seumalo said. "I see myself in them, they see themselves in me, so the expectations and the standards are always high for the island kids and they know it. At the same time, they respond well."
The Beavers had their season opener against Nicholls State postponed by Hurricane Isaac, and then had a bye week after the win over Wisconsin, leaving them as one of the few teams in the nation with only two games played.
"Not getting to play that game was kind of a bummer, but the team just looked at it as extra practice for Wisconsin, getting ready for them, and I guess it showed and it helped out," Rosa said. "It was a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, but overall I think it was better for the team."
The meeting with Nicholls State has been tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 1, but that won't happen if the Beavers are in the Pac-12 title game on Nov. 30.
"It is a long season and if we can get eight guys to roll in and play at a high level, there's a good chance we will play for a long time - all the way into December and January," Seumalo said. "That is our expectation and we are going to continue to move forward that way."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com