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Small Town Boy, Big City Game

Small Town Boy, Big City Game


by Norm Newell
Photography Jeremy Petrick Photography

If you compiled a list of today’s top multi-sport high-school athletes in Minnesota, Alexandria’s Jaran Roste undoubtedly ranks right up there with the best.

In a state where the Twin Cities area often boasts the majority of high-profile prepsters, Roste has garnered attention both as a football and basketball standout, carrying a small-town attitude and a big-city game.

At Alexandria Area High School, Jaran was a three-year starter at quarterback, the most recognized and pressurized position in football. When he started tackle football in fifth grade, he asked to try the quarterback position and has been the quarterback on every team he played on since. He was a natural behind center as he was bigger for his
age group and stood out from the other players.

In high school, other players caught up to him in size, but he now stands out because he has constantly studied and worked on his skills to become a top quarterback in the state. In fact, he was selected to the all-state team his senior year and was the starting quarterback and captain for the North team in the Minnesota football all-star game.

Postseason gridiron honors have been the norm for Roste since his sophomore year, when he was all-conference and all-section honorable mention. His junior year he was an all-district and all-section selection. His senior year he was all-everything: All-district, all-section, Mr. Football finalist, Minnesota all-star, and a Minnesota Vikings all-state team selection. He was also voted the Cardinals’ Most Valuable Player and was a team captain.

In his final season, he garnered this recognition partly because his team was 9-2, secured a section championship, and was a state tournament participant. However, his personal stats are impossible to ignore. He has passed for over 5,500 yards in his high school career and accounted for 90 touchdowns. He also set a state all-time record for total touchdowns in a game with nine, scoring five by passing and four by rushing, while tying the total one-game individual scoring record of 56 points. He led a high-octane offense that averaged over 44 points a game.

His postseason laurels can also be attributed to consistent work toward improving his football and quarterbacking skills. That included a quarterback camp at the University of Michigan and summer football camps each year at North Dakota State, South Dakota State and the University of Minnesota. Jaran also credits his Alexandria coaching staff, especially head coach Mike Empting for his leadership counsel.

“He has really grown into an excellent football player, expanding his knowledge of the game and leadership qualities each year he has started,” says Empting. “Because he was such a talented player, he made all of us coaches better working hard to utilize his talents and finding ways to try to make him even better every day.”

Another invaluable resource has been quarterback coach Zach Witt, who excelled as a college quarterback at Minnesota State Mankato and played professionally in Europe. Witt has given Jaran an abundance of insight into improving his quarterback skills.

The biggest recognition for Roste came just recently, when he signed with the University of Minnesota to play football. The “U” had recruited Jaran since after his sophomore year when he attended camp there, recognizing this small-town boy had a big-city game… so much that he can handle the Big Ten conference. For example, they watched him quarterback the Alexandria 7-on-7 team to victories over Minnesota’s best metro teams, claiming the top spot in the Minnesota Vikings Invitational the summer after his junior year.

“I’ve always been interested in the U of M since I was little. My dad and I would watch all their football games on the weekends and we would go to a game every year,” states Jaran. “It was kind of a dream come true that they recruited me. I know there will be stiff competition, but it’s my one chance to be part of the excitement and aura of a top-level football team playing the highest competition in the nation.”

The U of M wasn’t the only college courting Jaran. He had contacts from over fifty schools ranging Div. I to Div. III. “I have a locker full of stuff from colleges, and it got pretty busy and crazy there for a couple of years, but it was a good experience as long as you kept everything in perspective.”

Coach Empting also kept busy talking to and helping arrange workouts for college recruiters. “We called them Roste mini-camps, but they were also valuable for some of our other players to get noticed by college coaches.”

While football has been the ticket for Jaran to explore athletics beyond high school, he and his three sisters have been encouraged and supported by their parents in a multitude of sports. Jeff and Lucy Roste have two daughters older than Jaran. Jasmin starred in track and field and Jana was a college softball player. Both attend Bethel College in St. Paul. Younger sister Jacy is a high school sophomore who excels in soccer, gymnastics and track.

Jaran has always been athletic and loved sports. He comes by it naturally as his father played basketball, football and track in high school. His mom was in basketball, volleyball and track and went on to play volleyball at Concordia-St. Paul.

In youth leagues, Jaran typically had a size advantage over other kids—a trait that comes from Lucy’s side of the family— and with his natural athletic ability he excelled. Growing up, Jaran always had some kind of ball in his hand. He ended up choosing basketball, football and track in high school, but baseball was one of his first loves. In his first at-bat in his first little league game, he parked a home run over the fence. He went on to win the state competition for his 8-9 year-old age group in Minnesota’s Pitch, Hit, and Run competition. He also played soccer, and in one of his first games scored so many goals the coach took him out to give the other team a chance.

He still holds the state Junior Olympic track record for the triple jump in the 12-13 age group, where he finished fifth in the nation out of 32 competitors. He has continued track into his high school years, where he earned academic all-state as a sophomore and junior.

“Jaran primarily does track to maintain his competitiveness and to train for speed and agility. However, he’s a 20-foot long jumper, a 40-foot triple jumper. He can run under 11.7 seconds in the 100 meters on tired legs, as he also plays AAU basketball during the track season,” remarks Empting, who also coaches Jaran in track. “He’s a tremendous athlete and I believe he could do well in college track if he was inclined to.”

Helmets to Hardcourt

Jaran also played in youth basketball leagues, where he again stood out as a top player. Since his sophomore season, he has been a model of consistency, averaging 14 points, four assists and five rebounds a game. He has helped the Cardinals to winning seasons each of his varsity years, as well as an appearance in the Minnesota state rankings this winter.

Just as in football, Jaran’s youth never served as a barrier to recognition and awards in basketball. He was voted the team MVP his sophomore season and was selected all-conference after his sophomore and junior years.

Jaran’s high school athletic success has been very closely guided by the Witt brothers. The aforementioned Zach was his quarterback coach, while Forrest Witt is Alexandria’s head basketball coach. Forrest, a former hardcourt standout at St. Cloud State, heaps a balanced portion of praise toward Roste.

“He’s such a well-rounded player. He does everything for us. He can score when the team needs it, he is a great passer, and he sees the floor so well,” says Forrest. “He’s an excellent defender… always leads our team in charges taken. He relishes the big moments and steps up his play in the toughest game situations.”
Jaran credits Forrest for the expert-level influence he has on his game. A long list of colleges recruited Jaran for basketball also, but that diminished when he declared his collegiate interest in football.

As if Jaran’s collection of activities wasn’t expansive enough, he still makes time for an unofficial organization known as the LBL, or “Little Boys League.” It’s related to yet another sport he enjoys… golf.

Most area golf courses have senior leagues, men’s leagues and ladies leagues. Jaran and a number of his buddies, who play every Wednesday in the summer, decided they needed a league of their own. Thus, the LBL came into existence. They always finish their golf round with wings at Angelina’s restaurant.

The Alexandria Effect

In a tight-knit community such as Alexandria, there’s a small-town America feel in the way the kids grow up. Many of them try a variety of sports, enjoy the playing fields and gymnasiums, and experience camaraderie with peers, fans, coaches, and teachers as part of their support system. It’s a community that bands together in activities, pitches in to help others out, and creates a unique unit of character and trust. The entire town’s energy goes behind one school, and they cheer for you. That’s what Alexandria is like, that’s what the Roste family is like, and that’s what Jaran Roste cherishes about the community he lives in.

When asked his favorite things about playing football, basketball or other sports, Jaran makes it obvious he has been tremendously shaped by living in Alexandria.
He has a fondness for “the family-type bond established with your fellow players and coaches, entering the competitive event surrounded by family and friends.” Roste explains how it all unfolds: “Being in the moment of the event… the ‘Friday night lights’ excitement with the fans cheering.”

It leaves one to wonder, throughout his vivid high school experience, who has been Jaran’s favorite teacher or coach? He says he can’t pick just one. “They’ve all had some type of positive influence on me.”

Those positive influences line up by the dozens when you take advantage of the wealth of school and community activities as Jaran has. Time to take a deep breath…

He attended faith-based Zion Lutheran Elementary School, where Lucy is a preschool teacher. He is now a leader in the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. He’s a member of the National Honor Society with a GPA over 3.7, is on the Student Council, and is president of the mock trial group. He plays in the pep band, is a member of the A-club, DECA and member of the math league. In the community he has volunteered at the food shelf, the hospital and is a lifelong member of 4-H.

His coaches all say that one of Jaran’s most recognizable “small-town” qualities is his social and humble nature and his relationship with kids. He always takes time after a game to stop and talk to kids and make them feel important. His parents also note they are proud of his sports accomplishments, but are most proud of his character relating to young kids, his attitude, his commitment to academics—he plans a college business degree possibly followed by law school— and how he handles himself spiritually.

Signing to play football at the University of Minnesota means it will soon be time for Jaran to take his skill set to the big city. It’s a safe bet he will retain his many small-town qualities and characteristics, bolstered by the ongoing support of the family and friends that have shaped his years in Alexandria.

Of course, this would also include members of the LBL… Word on the street is they need a referral for Minneapolis’ tastiest wings.