COLLEGE PARK -- Scott Rosen has heard the snickers and the snide remarks while standing on his corner.
"Usually, they say, 'We're going to get ya, white boy,' or once they find out my name is Rosen, they go back and say they've got a little Jewish boy on the corner," said Rosen. "Years ago, when I was younger and had a temper, I used to get mad at that kind of stuff. Now I just laugh."
Rosen is a senior starting cornerback for the University of Maryland. He has been involved in a number of high-intensity collisions, as well as a lot of pushing-and-shoving matches around right end the past three years.
But Rosen, 5 feet 11, 188 pounds, won't back down. He is the son of an Irish Catholic father and a Jewish mother, both of whom, at age 15, gave their son up for adoption at birth. He was reared by Jewish parents, brought up in Northeast Philadelphia and sent to a public school that had racial tension and was surrounded by barbed wire.
"Last season, Scott Rosen played every game, and he should have only played half of those plays because of a shoulder injury," said Maryland defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Williams. "He would stick somebody, pop that shoulder out, go out for a play, then run back in again."
"I'm pretty tough on freshmen," said Williams. "The first day Scott came in as a freshman, we were timing them in the 40-yard --. I told Scott, 'Son, I brought you here because you were fast, and you better run at least a 4.6.' His eyes got real big and he ran a 4.51. Then he went off the field and threw up. Whatever you ask of him, he's going to give it to you. Simply put, he's a tough guy."
The Terps are asking a lot from Rosen again this year. Technically, the Terps have three starters back in the secondary -- Rosen, senior Mike Thomas and junior strong safety Ron Reagan. But Thomas has been switched to the other cornerback slot and Reagan had to alternate at both safety positions last year. Junior free safety Bill Inge has yet to start a game.
That leaves the Terps with a secondary that allowed nearly 199 yards passing per game last season and Rosen as the steady force.
"We're going to be all right," said Rosen, also a team captain. "Bill is a great athlete, and Ron did a real good job for us last year. Coach Williams took to Mike and I as freshmen, so we pretty much know what needs to get done. Plus, Mike has great speed. My job isn't as difficult as it seems."
Rosen always seems to have a positive attitude, a trait he inherited from his adopted parents, Al and Levern Rosen. Scott said he doesn't know his birth parents and won't try to find them. The closest he has come is through an index card left with the adoption agency.
"That really doesn't bother me much," said Rosen. "I remember knowing about my situation at an early age, and my parents have given me everything I've ever wanted: love, food, clothes, a chance to get an education. They have also done the same for my older sister, Sheryl, who is also adopted. I don't think about my past too much, except once in a while when people say, 'Well, if that's their son, how come he doesn't look like either one of them?' "
No one gets Rosen confused on or off the field. Off the field, he is a snazzy dresser with the Bugle Boy jeans, the oversized shirts and more gold chains then Deion Sanders. And don't forget the wet, slicked-back hairdo.
On the field, he's the little guy wearing No. 24 at left cornerback. He plays aggressively on running plays, but a little more controlled on passing plays. Rosen is not exceptionally fast, but there aren't a lot of receivers who blow by him. He also loves to hit.
And he's light-skinned.
"It's how they perceive things in football," said Rosen. "It's like people think only blacks can play cornerback. I laugh when they say I'm not bad for a Jewish kid. I don't want to be a Jewish cornerback or a black cornerback. I just want to be the best cornerback I can be."
At one point Rosen was a safety at Maryland, but was moved to cornerback after the first week of his freshman year.
"They had all of these guys, like James Milling and Vernon Joines, receivers who could really fly," said Rosen. "The coach asked me to move over and play cornerback. I said: 'Hell, why not? I'm not going to play, anyway.' So I moved and have been there ever since."
Rosen almost didn't make it to Maryland at all. As a senior at George Washington High School, he tore cartilage in his back while returning a punt and missed the last 4 1/2 games.
No school recruited him, and his only recruiting tool was film, but Williams said, "I couldn't tell which one was Scott."
But Williams, through friends and other coaches, heard Rosen was the most valuable player at an all-star game and an outstanding competitor. Williams made a late visit to Philadelphia in May to sign Rosen.
Rosen has started for the Terps the past three years. Broken ribs caused him to miss the last three games during the 1988 season, but he was a starter in 1989 as a sophomore. Rosen finished the year with 69 tackles, including 53 unassisted, second best on the team.
Against Penn State that season, Rosen made 12 tackles and knocked down seven passes. "He owned them when they played us in Baltimore," said Williams of the 13-13 tie. "You don't see games like that often."
Rosen struggled with the shoulder injury (clavicle resection to right shoulder) last season, but still led the defensive backs with 63 tackles, and had one interception and seven pass deflections.
Rosen, after having off-season shoulder surgery, expects a better 1991 season.
"I'm not the type of person who says I'm going to do this or going to do that," said Rosen. "Sure, I would like to play more football, possibly in the pros. But I know the statistics about people who don't make it. I have always believed in working hard and everything else will take it's course. Everything takes care of itself. That's just the way I am."
And don't forget tough.
* Dave DeBruin, starting junior left guard, suffered cartilage damage in his right knee yesterday and could be out for one to three weeks depending on further examination Monday. DeBruin could miss the season opener Sept. 7 at home against Virginia. DeBruin will be replaced by junior Kevin Arline, 6-1, 263 pounds, who played in eight games, including three starts, last season.