Trip to Michigan State Provides Familial Connection
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Colorado junior Rachel Rosen will take a minute to soak in her surroundings when the No. 19 Buffaloes take on Michigan State on Sunday (11 a.m. MT/B1G+).
Rosen had never been to Michigan before the team's trip this week, but the Hermosa Beach, Calif., native has a unique connection to the state and the Spartans in particular.
Billy Wells, Rosen's grandfather, was a star halfback for the Spartans from 1951-53. He scored 15 rushing touchdowns and still ranks 13th in Spartan history with 5.39 yards per carry. Wells scored two touchdowns, including a 62-yard punt return in the fourth quarter, of MSU's 28-20 win over UCLA in the 1954 Rose Bowl – in which he was honored as the game's MVP.
Wells would get drafted in the fifth round of the 1954 NFL draft and play with the Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and the AFL's Boston Patriots.
Unfortunately, Rosen never had a chance to meet her grandfather. Wells passed away on Dec. 25, 2001, almost exactly a month before Rosen's birth on Jan. 26.
"He passed away right before I was born," Rosen explained. "But to go there [Michigan State], I think it's going to be very special to see the campus and where he grew up and had all the success in athletics. I just think it'll bring me closer to that side of my family that I haven't really gotten to experience.
"I know my mom is so excited. Her dad obviously meant a lot to her and just seeing me have a connection to that – I think she's super excited. She wants me to check out all the facilities and try to find something about him, hopefully I can do that."
Despite not having the chance to meet, Rosen still feels a connection to her late grandfather through athletics.
"Hopefully I got some genes from him since we're both collegiate athletes," Rosen joked. "Both my mom and uncle are also athletes. They're both professional surfers, so I think that like competitiveness and athleticism, that connection, I think is what I think of the most with him.
"My mom always tells me stories of him being a funny guy. I wish I could have bet him but there's a part of me there."
The Buffs and Spartans have only met twice in previous seasons with the last being in 2018, prior to Rosen joining the Buffs. The two teams only come together on rare occasions, making Sunday's match all that more special.
"We don't get to play Michigan State always," Rosen added. "This is a huge opportunity for me to just have that connection with him. I think I'll remember that forever. I think it will be one of the things I remember the most from college sports because the connection to my family."
Rosen has been a key part of the Buffs' offensive success this season. She's already got a career-high five assists this to go with scoring CU's first goal of the season. She served up two assists in CU's 5-0 win over Omaha, sending free kicks into the box from both sides of the field.
"I got a few assists in [against Omaha] which helped my confidence," Rosen added. "I know I'm confident in my strength at set pieces and I think that can carry into my play as well. If you're confident in one thing, it kind of bleeds into everything else."