UMBC sophomore guard Joshua Rosario (driving with the basketball) had initially committed to a Division II school near his hometown of Miami to be closer to his father Carlos Rosario Sr., who was fighting for his life less than two years ago.
UMBC sophomore guard Joshua Rosario (driving with the basketball) had initially committed to a Division II school near his hometown of Miami to be closer to his father Carlos Rosario Sr., who was fighting for his life less than two years ago. (Ian Feldmann / UMBC Athletics)

As a member of the UMBC men’s basketball program, Joshua Rosario has had the good fortune of playing twice at America East foe UMass Lowell, which is about an hour from his father’s hometown of Worcester, Mass. And each time, the guard has entered the game to rousing applause from about 40 family members and friends bedecked in black and gold Retrievers apparel.

Rosario is grateful for the support even if it does make the 6-foot-2, 205-pound sophomore somewhat anxious.

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“Just to see all of those people there, I was nervous in the game,” he admitted Monday. “When they called my name to go in there, they started screaming. In the back of my head, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ But it was fun to hear them get loud.”

Standing proudly in the middle of that group has been Rosario’s father and the very idea of Carlos Rosario Sr. standing seemed a remote possibility nearly two years ago when the Florida Highway Patrol trooper was critically injured in a car accident.

“To be a part of my family’s lives, this is special,” Rosario Sr. said. “I was a believer before, and I never took anything for granted, and I was always appreciating every moment. But now, it’s even more so.”

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On March 17, 2017, Rosario Sr. was standing on the shoulder of a highway in Miami monitoring motorists’ speed when a driver lost control of his vehicle and slammed into the 12-year veteran and his patrol car.

According to Rosario Sr., he suffered fractures of the femur and tibia bones in both legs, the ulna in his left forearm, the C1 vertebra of his spine, and his jaw. He almost lost the pinkie finger on his right hand, required more than 20 bags of plasma, and narrowly avoided serious brain damage.

Joshua Rosario had just finished showering and was preparing breakfast when his older brother Carlos Jr., who is known by his nickname “C.J.,” informed him that their father was involved in an accident. Their uncle confirmed the news, and Joshua jumped into his car and drove to the hospital.

“I was just scared,” Joshua Rosario, 20, recalled. “I hadn’t seen my dad the night before because he was working off-duty, and I was thinking that this could be the last time I see my dad and that I wish I could tell him that I loved him and that he was the best dad ever. Me and my family, we’re really religious. So we just kept our faith throughout the process. We just had faith that somehow, some way, God would bring him back to us.”

Carlos Rosario Sr. was in a coma for 17 days and remained at a trauma center for two months. He was then moved to another hospital before being discharged in August 2017.

Rosario still has metal plates and screws in one leg, steel rods in both thighs and three plates in his jaw. He wears braces to realign his teeth and has not fully regained some nerve and muscle control on the right side of his face.

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Despite the physical toll, Rosario Sr. returned to desk duty on Nov. 13 and was back on the road two months later.

Six days after his father’s accident, Joshua Rosario announced he had committed to Division II Barry University in Miami Shores to be close to home and be near his dad. During his recovery, however, Rosario Sr., who played basketball for one season at Division III Becker College in Worcester before a torn meniscus in his knee forced him to the sideline permanently, urged his son to reconsider.

“He always wanted to play D-I, and when the opportunity showed up, he talked to us, and we talked to the coaches,” he said. “He had already committed, but he decided to change. Obviously, that was hard for us because he’s always been under our care and we’ve always supervised him, but what’s funny is, me getting hurt gave him wings. He was home with his older brother and my wife was with me in the hospital every single day. So they had to supervise each other, and they learned how to act without any parenting around them. Since he did so well, I was for him.”

C.J. Rosario said his parents’ decision to encourage his brother to go to school away from home was not easy for them, especially his father who had coached him and his brother in basketball and relied on sports to bond with his sons.

“He’s the baby of the family, and we all support him,” he said. “We were always at his games. So to have him play somewhere else where we can’t see him all the time, it’s different, but it’s a good different at the same time.”

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Joshua Rosario had drawn interest from Bryant and Northern Iowa, but settled on UMBC after meeting head coach Ryan Odom and his staff, making a visit to the campus in Catonsville, and learning that fellow Puerto Rican guard K.J. Maura was set to complete his senior year with the Retrievers.

Odom said Joshua Rosario is a living example of some important reminders in life.

“It’s a great lesson of how you never give in and you never give up,” Odom said. “Things are going to happen that are out of your control, and you have to be able to adjust and be resilient, and I think he’s certainly seen that firsthand with how his father, mother and family have dealt with that entire situation. They certainly didn’t ask to be put in that situation. He was just doing his everyday job, and life happened. … It’s a really amazing story.”

Rosario Sr. said he has attended a handful of games in person and said he wells up with pride when watching his son representing UMBC.

“Anytime I can, I try to go up there and watch him with my wife and my older son,” he said. “And even though I know he’s enjoying his life and his career, it still hurts to not see him next to me. The good thing is that all that time that we’re losing because he’s not here, it’s all for the good, and I know that God is going to give it back. So it’s all good.”

Joshua Rosario, a backup who has averaged 4.6 minutes in 13 games this winter, said his father surprises him by demonstrating his physical progress. When Joshua Rosario returned home for Christmas a couple months ago, Rosario Sr. had ditched a chair that assisted him in standing up and completed a series of pull-ups and dips in their backyard.

When Rosario Sr. expressed his desire to return to work, Joshua Rosario had his reservations.

“At first, I was kind of scared and worried because I didn’t think that my dad would be 100 percent ready to go back to work,” he said. “But I know he loves being a cop, and when he was out, he would talk about how badly he wanted to go back to work. Seeing him recover so well, it’s his decision. So I’m really happy that he’s back to work and doing what he loves to do.”

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