Bryson Rosser did a lot more than win football games in his six seasons at Central.
He won the hearts of many at the school and in the Fountain City community.
Rosser announced his resignation Jan. 7 and will move to Boston with his wife, Brook, who got a job at Harvard, and their dog, Luke, as the family explores career opportunities.
Central athletic director J.D. Lambert said the outpouring of support for Rosser was immediate upon the news he was leaving.
Rosser is the 5Star Preps Football Coach of the Year for a second consecutive season.
“On Wednesday (Jan. 8) during class change, there was a group of eight kids circled tight around (Rosser) talking about how much they would miss him,” Lambert said, “and when you looked closely there was not a student in the group that even knew we had a sports team. There was just a connection with him as a trusted school mentor.”
Lambert said others visited the school the day after his resignation to thank Rosser for his work, including maintenance workers he got to know, and there were numerous phone calls during the day saying how much Rosser would be missed.
Among them were several pastors and youth pastors.
Rosser leaves with a message he preached to his players, according to Lambert.
“Bryson and Brook made sure to live the life of a loving married couple with the team,” Lambert said. “He displayed to the team how you should love your wife, and there is no better example than to support her opportunity.”
Rosser told 5Star Preps he was spending two or three weeks helping Central make the transition to a new coach. Defensive coordinator Nick Craney, who’s been on Rosser’s staff all six years at Central, is serving as the interim head coach.
“Family has always been a staple of our program and continues to be at the forefront of this decision,” Rosser said. “We will continue to follow God’s plan for us in all we do. My time at Central will forever be some of the best times of our families’ lives. The accomplishments on the field were amazing in such a short time, but the impact, relationships and experiences while working with young people will last a lifetime.
“We established a programmatic culture that is built on the backbone of hard work, respect and family. Fountain City and the Central community will always feel like home for my family and I, and we are prayerful for their continued success on and off the field.”
Rosser posted a 60-22 record at Central with playoff appearances in all six seasons, capped by back-to-back Class 5A state championships in 2018-19.
The state titles brought different emotions.
“The first one was I think almost shock therapy, to say like, ‘Oh man, we just won our first state championship ever in school history,’ ” Rosser said. “To see the kids be successful and that special group go out as champions, it was like, ‘Wow, we really did it.’ The second year, I think it was more a sense of relief because obviously there’s a lot of pressure when you’re coming back as defending state champs and you’ve got a target on your backs and everybody’s trying to knock you off.”
Rosser learned about winning as a quarterback at Hackensack (N.J.) High, where he graduated in 2001.
His team won back-to-back state championships in his last two seasons, and in the process, Rosser had to beat his longtime mentor. Rosser’s father, Barry, was the defensive coordinator at Eastside High in Patterson, N.J.
The younger Rosser said it was a different situation, to say the least, when Eastside played Hackensack.
“It was absolutely wild because that’s the person that taught you everything literally sitting across the field from you trying to beat you in a game,” Bryson said. “We’re both super competitive, and I probably took it more than he did as a kid. But he said, ‘Hey, I’m trying to beat you, you’re trying to beat me. Good luck.’ He would send every blitz in his game plan and try and get to me, but my teammates made sure that I was protected and we were fortunate to win both games (against Eastside) because I don’t know if I could’ve took losing to my dad.”
Rosser wasn’t one of the highest recruits on a star-studded Hackensack team, which had more than a dozen players sign scholarships.
He had offers from New Hampshire, Bucknell, Fordham, Colgate, and Tennessee State.
One of TSU’s assistant coaches was a former coach in New Jersey who tipped Tigers head coach James Reese on Rosser.
An official visit was made.
“I went down on a visit to Nashville, and a Jersey boy going to Nashville, it was quite the trip,” Rosser said. “I enjoyed it and coach Reese and those guys made me feel real comfortable and it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Rosser was a four-year starting quarterback at TSU, although he missed some time with injuries as a freshman and senior.
After graduating from TSU in 2006, Rosser served as a graduate assistant with the Tigers for the 2006-07 seasons.
His high school coaching career started at Nashville Hillsboro under Scott Blade, where he spent one season.
When Blade was hired as Oak Ridge’s head coach, Rosser went with him for three seasons (2009-11).
In 2012, Rosser returned to his alma mater, Hackensack, as offensive coordinator and spent two seasons there.
“It was a unique situation in which anytime you have an opportunity to go back home and be a part of a program like Hackensack, especially where I was successful, was something I was always looking forward to.,” Rosser said. “I just decided to take a chance. I had taken a couple of chances in my career early on and just wanted to see what it would be like back at home. I went up there and had a great time and was able to be around my more immediate family, my mom, my dad, my sister.”
Rosser wasn’t looking to make a move from Hackensack until he got a call from former Central principal Jody Goins, asking if Rosser would be interested in an opening as the Bobcats’ head coach.
After the job interview, Rosser was hired as Central’s coach for the 2014 season.
“I took another chance, put my faith out there, trusted God, and said you know, if it’s meant to be, it will be, and here we are six years later,” Rosser said.
Before announcing his resignation at Central, Rosser had an emotional meeting with his players.
Lambert was there.
“As he said through the tears,” Lambert said, “when he told the team, ‘If you have listened, if you have learned the lessons that I have been trying to teach you, then you are ready for this next step.”
Junior outside linebacker Kalib Fortner, the 5Star Preps Defensive Player of the Year, called Rosser “a great head football coach.”
“He was really a good players’ coach,” Fortner said. “He knew how to work with the players just perfectly. He knew exactly what they were going through, no matter what it was. He always worked with them really well. Even when they had bad attitudes or had bad days, he said the right things at the right moments, especially when adversity hit. What I’m going to miss the most is really him playing scout-team quarterback. That was always super fun.”
Lambert said Rosser left a lasting impression on the school and community.
“We were blessed to have a once-in-a-lifetime friend in our lives for six years,” Lambert said. “He has made the school and the Fountain City community a better place.”