Thank you for reading Football Across Minnesota (FAM), my weekly column that tours football topics in our state from preps to pros. You can find all the previous FAM columns right here. — Chip
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Jaran Roste navigates the busy Bethel University cafeteria carrying a food tray like a taxi driver in New York City. Confident and unfazed by the bustle.
He has a football game in 24 hours. His sister arrived in town from Texas and is on her way to campus to meet him any minute. And on top of that, Roste is helping host a special dinner for Bethel parents in a few hours.
The school's starting quarterback keeps a hectic schedule.
He wouldn't dare miss his regular appointment, though. This is one of his favorite activities of the week, a chance to have lunch with students with intellectual disabilities who are enrolled in a program called BUILD that teaches independent living skills.
Roste loves his lunch and dinner dates with his good friends.
"Are you coming to the game tomorrow?" he asks, sharing a table with six students from BUILD, which stands for Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development.
Yes, of course. They love watching Roste play football and meeting him down on the field after games to celebrate wins. The students adore him.
He adores them in kind.
"They give more to me than I could ever give to them," he said. "It's not an exaggeration to say BUILD changed my life."
His relationship with those students has become a calling, so much so that Bethel officials asked Roste to step in as a full-time employee this fall when a program supervisor went on maternity leave. He jumped at the opportunity.
Roste works 60 hours a week with BUILD students, along with taking classes in his master's program and playing quarterback on a team that is 7-1 and ranked No. 14 nationally in Division III.
He is one of the MIAC's top quarterbacks, but it is his performance off the field — "transformative leadership and service" according to Bethel President Ross Allen — that makes Roste a true ambassador for his school and college football.
"Jaran is a happy-hearted tough guy," Bethel coach Steve Johnson said. "He cares about everybody and chooses joy daily."
His commitment to serving others landed Roste a spot on the Allstate Good Works Team, one of only 11 players across every football division outside of the FBS level to receive the honor.
A snapshot of his good deeds:
Through a business class program, Roste prepared tax returns free of charge for low-income families. He filed as many as five returns a night twice a week. "The goal was to give them the highest refund I possibly could," he said.
Last year he tutored middle school students who read below grade level. He volunteers at Special Olympics and Feed My Starving Children and has served as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army in his hometown of Alexandria since he was 5.
"I've realized that those things serve you as much as you serve others," Roste said.
BUILD holds a special place in his heart. Students with intellectual disabilities participate in a two-year program. They live on campus, in a dorm first year and then apartment-style housing in Year 2. There are 28 students in the program this school year.
Roste initially worked as a student and job mentor. He accompanied a student to his internship at a grocery store one semester and tutored students in their core classes.
Roste then became a housing mentor, essentially serving as a dorm resident assistant for BUILD students. He provided life skills assistance in their transition to independent living.
He graduated in the spring and planned to substitute teach this fall while pursuing his masters in K-12 education with a special education concentration.
Plans changed when a BUILD residential supervisor, which is a professional position within the university, went on maternity leave through the end of November.
Roste suddenly had a full-time job. He manages four housing mentors and an assistant residential supervisor.
His official title should be employee-student-athlete.
"My boss in the program and our coaches do a great job of balancing," he said. "If I have meetings with parents or students and I have to be 15 minutes late to practice, so be it."
He remains devoted to football. Roste began his career as a preferred walk-on with the Gophers. He committed under former coach Tracy Claeys and stayed for P.J. Fleck's first season. He was behind Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad on the depth chart and realized he needed to transfer if he had any hope of playing.
Two older sisters attended Bethel, which made Roste feel at home. A three-year starter, he led the Royals to the DIII quarterfinals as a freshman and was named second-team all-MIAC as a sophomore.
The BUILD program has given him purpose away from football.
"It's a joy to wake up and know I get to hang out and work with these students and build relationships with them," he said. "How they live their everyday life is inspiring for me."
Their interactions reveal the depth of their relationship.
Roste and his students share inside jokes. They tease each other. They know details about each other's family members. Roste posted a video of him arm wrestling a student on their group chat. They eat lunch or dinner together at least three times a week.
Roste is completely invested in their lives, their happiness and well-being. His dad, Jeff, said his son calls students in the summer just to chat.
Roste has one more season of football eligibility left, but he's undecided if he will use it. He plans to do some traveling this summer to reflect on his next step.
One thing he already knows is that he aspires to coach … soccer.
He didn't play that sport in high school but fell in love with it after watching the World Cup. Now he never misses a Man City match (even if that means waking up at 6 a.m. or watching on his phone in the locker room before his own game), and he has season tickets in the Wonderwall supporters section at Minnesota United games.
"Every game I'm screaming my head off," he said.
Whatever the next chapter in life brings, Roste intends to maintain his relationship with his friends in BUILD in some capacity.
"You see these students," Roste said, "there is just so much joy and so much passion."
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The Gophers are disproving former coach Glen Mason's observation about needing a "pair and a spare" at running back in the Big Ten. Sometimes, teams need a lot more than that.
P.J. Fleck announced Monday that Bryce Williams likely suffered a season-ending leg injury at Northwestern on Saturday. Williams joins Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts, two other Gophers running backs sidelined for the rest of the season.
That leaves freshmen Mar'Keise Irving and Ky Thomas as the primary ballcarriers, with converted linebacker Derik LeCaptain and presumably others stepping into the role of spare.
This will be a tricky situation for Fleck to navigate because the offense hasn't changed as the running back depth has taken a sizable hit, which is a testament to their success in recruiting and development but something that also comes with risk.
The Gophers average 47.5 carries per game, which ranks fifth in FBS, and only trails North Texas by percentage points if you don't include the three service academies in the discussion.
The Gophers rank fourth in time of possession — second in the nation as well if you don't include the service academies.
Credit Fleck for staying true to his philosophy, but he can't afford to lose any more running backs.
Injuries are uncontrollable, but Fleck's staff faces a delicate dance coming down the stretch. Wisconsin owns the No. 1 run defense in college football. Iowa is No. 12. Both defenses are strong, physical units.
Those will be fascinating strength vs. strength matchups. The Gophers will need a healthy Irving and Thomas in those games. Fleck has shown no inclination to alter his run-run-run approach so far, but he might need to rely on Plan B at some point.
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- Gophers offensive line plus tight ends: Yes, that's a lot of game balls, but the big guys deserve the recognition. The line has dominated the trenches in their four-game winning streak.
- Carter Callahan: Becker senior rushed for 172 yards and five touchdowns in a section playoff win over St. Cloud Apollo.
- Joe Russell: Cooper quarterback completed only 11 passes but he averaged 23 yards per completion with five touchdowns in a win over Minneapolis Southwest.
- Treay Taylor: Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop senior rushed for 309 yards on only 16 carries with touchdowns runs of 80, 80, 55 and 40 yards in a win over Lester Prairie. He added six tackles and an interception on defense.
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He said what?!
"We have to quit just hanging in games. Every game we just hang around, hang around. Let the team hang around, instead of just putting our foot on the gas and just going." Vikings receiver Adam Thielen after a 20-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
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Numbers to know
- 18: Vikings' NFL ranking in scoring offense despite having a $33 million quarterback, a dynamic running back, one young star receiver and another receiver who has been named to the Pro Bowl multiple times.
- 34: Touchdown passes by Bemidji State's Brandon Alt, setting a single-season school record. He has thrown six touchdown passes in back-to-back games.
- 3: Defensive touchdowns scored by St. Agnes High in a span of 87 seconds in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.
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The Vikings offense was in utter chaos at the end of the first half Sunday as Kirk Cousins tried to get players lined up in the right spots. They had a timeout but for whatever reason chose not to use it. They burned valuable seconds as they were trying to get close enough for a field-goal attempt and ended up taking a knee to run out the clock.
Somebody has to take charge in that moment. Cousins is a veteran quarterback making a lot of money. He should have the freedom to call a timeout in that spot. If Mike Zimmer doesn't want his quarterback to have that authority, then he needs to call the timeout instead of wasting time with chaotic game management.
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Grab your popcorn
Chaska at Mankato West, Friday, 7 p.m. Two of the best teams in Class 5A, both undefeated at 9-0, meet in the section championship. Mankato West, the No. 1-ranked team, has allowed only 33 points all season.
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An important 48 hours for …
Mike Zimmer. His team's frustration was boiling late Sunday night. And Monday brought more bad news. Danielle Hunter suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in the loss, a huge blow to the defense and pass rush. Zimmer has a lot to fix before the Vikings travel to Baltimore to face Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
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A FAM FINAL WORD
Seriously, Vikings. Cooper Rush?
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Thank you for reading Football Across Minnesota. I'll publish this each Monday night on startribune.com, timed to kickoff of "Monday Night Football." And you can also join me on Twitter during the first quarter of MNF as I chat with readers about what I wrote each week.
Chip (@chipscoggins on Twitter)