One of James Rosenberry’s favorite childhood memories took place at Ohio Stadium. Among the dozens of games he attended at the fabled college football venue known as “The Horseshoe” was No. 10 Ohio State’s 27-24 overtime victory over No. 15 Iowa in 2009.
Sitting with his father, Jim, in the student section was a thrill enough for Rosenberry, but getting to storm the field with thousands of fans after the Buckeyes made a game-winning field goal to send the team to its first Rose Bowl in 13 years was something that the younger Rosenberry will never forget.
At the time, he was a month shy of his 10th birthday.
“That was my first time rushing the field,” Rosenberry, now 19, recalled earlier this week.
What happened when the Rosenberrys attended a game against Maryland two years ago was also memorable — for the wrong reasons. James Rosenberry had committed earlier that fall to play for the Terps as a long snapper, so he and his dad went to the stadium dressed in the gear of his future team.
Some fans sitting nearby gave them a hard time shortly after they arrived. Even after Jim Rosenberry got them to stop razzing him and his son, they had to sit through what became a 62-14 win for the then-No. 10 Buckeyes.
“It was not a good day,” James Rosenberry said Wednesday night after practice. “I was out there supporting [the Terps]. We just had drunk guys behind us. I think we had minus-17 yards rushing. We just came off two quarterbacks going down and [Max] Bortenschlager got a concussion that day. It was bad.”
Now a redshirt freshman and Maryland’s starting long snapper, Rosenberry will return home to Columbus for Saturday’s game against No. 1 ranked Ohio State with the same sort of anticipation he had during a childhood spent rooting for the Buckeyes.
Even though the Terps will go in as 43-point underdogs while riding a four-game losing streak, Rosenberry is looking forward to getting on the field at “The Horseshoe” for pregame warm-ups as a college player, and then get a chance to compete against his former favorite team.
It comes a year after Rosenberry and his teammates, as well as fans at Maryland Stadium, nearly got to rush the field for what would have been a major upset of the then-No. 10 Buckeyes. The Terps lost, 52-51, when a two-point conversion pass in overtime failed.
“Honestly, I can’t wait to go back. It’s been a dream to play in that stadium since I was young,” he said. “I’m going to have all my friends there, my family, everyone who’s supported me up to this point. Honestly, it’ll be the pinnacle of why I wanted to do this.”
‘The Human JUGs Machine’
What’s going to make this game even more special is who will be long snapping for the Buckeyes.
Redshirt senior Liam McCullough was one of Rosenberry’s tutors shortly after he first started long snapping, going into his freshman year of high school. McCullough’s younger brother, Roen, also a redshirt freshman, is a close friend of Rosenberry’s and will likely take over the duties next season after his older brother departs.
“I just look forward to it seeing that [former OSU long snapper] Bryce Haynes was my mentor before him, then Liam took over when he came to be the starter,” Rosenberry said. “I can’t wait to face off against Liam as he is right now. The entire snapper community probably sees him as the next NFL prospect.
“It’s going to be awesome to compete against him and compare. And Roen right behind him, he’ll be there following in his brother’s footsteps. Honestly, it’s just awesome. I grew up and my path in snapping was with them every step of the way.”
Liam McCullough, one of 25 players named to the preseason watch list for the newly created Patrick Mannelly Award that honors the former longtime Chicago Bears long snapper, doesn’t look at Saturday’s game any differently than the others the Buckeyes have played this season.
“I’ve been very blessed and very fortunate to play at a school like Ohio State where we’ve had a lot of success the last five years,” McCullough said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “There have even been games where we haven’t punted in recent history. It’s good from a team point of view. At the end of the day, whatever helps us win games, that’s the main goal of a long snapper, just be that utility guy.”
Winning the Mannelly Award someday is a goal that Rosenberry aspires to, and one that former Maryland punter Wade Lees believes is possible.
It’s not just because of Rosenberry’s ability to snap the ball back around 14 yards to current Maryland punters Colton Spangler and Anthony Pecorella in the requisite 0.70 to 0.72 of a second — at approximately 39 mph — and the 7½ yards to holder Mike Shinsky on field-goal attempts in around 0.4 of a second.
Lees, who is finishing his college career as a graduate transfer at UCLA, last year dubbed Rosenberry “The Human JUGs Machine” for both his accuracy and the fact that he had an insatiable appetite for long snapping — anytime and anywhere, including in hallways of the team hotel the Friday nights before games.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Lees said, “I’ve never seen someone love snapping a ball as much as he does.”
Lees said that before he left for the West Coast last spring, he would work out with former Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik and they would use Rosenberry to snap for them.
“Even Kaare said to me that James has got huge potential and he could see him at the next level,” Lees said.
The current group of Maryland punters and kickers might have a different nickname for Rosenberry, one that would not be suitable for public domain.
“I have sort of become a nuisance to my specialist group,” said Rosenberry, who won the job at Maryland after Matt Oliveira transferred to South Carolina last spring. “It’s unnatural to snap as much as I do. I see it as a way to keep peak form. I’ve sort of had to get them to compromise on certain days when they would catch me. The important thing is I need someone who knows what my snap is supposed to feel like.”
Rosenberry discovered long snapping almost by accident. The summer before he started high school, he and his family were visiting Jim Rosenberry’s family and friends in Southern California, where he spent part of his childhood before moving to Pennsylvania.
One of Jim Rosenberry’s friends invited him and his son to a local park to throw — and snap — a football around.
“His son had gotten a scholarship to Oregon State as a long snapper,” Rosenberry said, referring to Connor Kelsey, who snapped for the Beavers from 2014 to 2017. “Jimmy had played center and snapped in junior high. He then went to a couple of camps and had some success, and I looked at him and said, ‘If you’re willing to put the time in, I’m willing to put the resources behind it.’”
The work ethic was instilled in Rosenberry by his father, who after attending Millersville (Pennsylvania) University on an ROTC scholarship, joined the Army after graduating in 1986. He became a paratrooper and engineer officer stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for 20 years before retiring from the military, doing tours during Desert Storm and also being deployed on three different occasions to Afghanistan.
“I told him, ‘Some things come natural to people, sometimes you got to work twice as hard to get the same result,' ” Jim Rosenberry said Thursday. “I told him, ‘If you know you still have more in the tank to get better, then you cheated yourself.' He’s a perfectionist.”
A three-sport athlete who played football, lacrosse and swam at Olentangy High in Columbus, the younger Rosenberry would spend hours after practicing with those teams to perfect his long snapping technique. During the winter, Rosenberry would snap from inside his family’s garage to his father waiting outside.
“Five or six days a week, I got my truck lights on, rain coming down, snow coming down,” the elder Rosenberry said. “He never missed a beat.”
It followed a period after the family had gone through a difficult few years, and ultimately a devastating event, first when James Rosenberry’s younger sister was diagnosed with cancer when she was just 4½ years old and later when Brenda Rosenberry, Jim’s wife and James’ mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Brenda Rosenberry lost her three-year battle in 2011.
Jill Rosenberry, now 16, is a two-time cancer survivor who has been cancer-free for eight years.
“The way I saw it was, the sports helped to distract [me]” recalled James Rosenberry. “I would always try to support my mom and my sister. Getting away, physical activity, to do the best I could out there to make them proud was good for me."
Rosenberry knows that his mother will be with him and his family in spirit Saturday at “The Horseshoe,” as his college career continues where his life as a college football fan began. Rosenberry, who recently was admitted to Maryland’s Robert H. Smith Business School, would like to have a pro career like his favorite long snapper, Morgan Cox of the Ravens.
They met this summer when the Maryland team went to M&T Bank Stadium for a preseason game when the Ravens played against the Green Bay Packers and their No. 1 pick, former Terp Darnell Savage Jr.
“I was comparing myself to college snappers and I was watching NFL games and I was thinking, ‘I feel I can do this,’" Rosenberry said. "Watching Morgan Cox of the Ravens, I saw him out there [during the preseason game] and I just thought, ‘This could be a great opportunity.’ With snappers, if you get in, you stay in for a long time.”