A somber moment of silence is almost certain to precede Saturday night's massively hyped Plant-Jesuit football game at Jesuit's Corral Memorial Stadium in Tampa.
Friends and colleagues of Frank Rose say those muted seconds will represent a fitting tribute to a high school coach who led unassumingly — far more by example than expletives.
Mr. Rose, Jesuit's running backs coach and a wrecking ball-sized nose guard on Leto High's first district championship team in 1991, died suddenly at his Lutz home Monday. He was 38.
"He wasn't very outspoken, he was kind of quiet," Jesuit sophomore tailback Kevin Newman said. "If he had anything to say to you, he'd pull you to the side, talk to you softly. That's how he handled his business."
Jesuit's students were informed at a Tuesday morning convocation in the school's chapel. Friends say he died of an apparent heart attack beside his swimming pool. Regan Latson, Mr. Rose's fiancee and fellow 1992 Leto graduate, said the family hasn't received an official cause of death.
The doors of the tiny gym he operated in a South Tampa office strip were locked Tuesday.
"The kids really liked him," said Jesuit head coach James Harrell, who hired Mr. Rose shortly after taking the job in 2010. "They got along with him. He was compassionate about his job, cared about the kids. It's a sad loss."
A native Pennsylvanian and unwavering Penn State fan (even amid the off-field scandal that has leveled the Nittany Lions' program), Mr. Rose had a passion for cigars and Stella Artois beer, Latson said. The consummate football junkie, his autumn weekends were reserved for prep, college and pro contests.
Among the few distractions that could pry him from the game du jour was the sight of Latson's 12-year-old daughter, Mikaylah, cheering at Skyway Park for the Colts of the Tampa Bay Youth Football League.
Latson called Mr. Rose a second dad to her daughter. Even at Colts practices, he "would never leave the cheerleaders," Latson said.
Though only 5 feet 5, Mr. Rose was listed at 220 pounds on the Falcons' 1991 roster and was "one of our strongest guys, pound for pound," then-Leto coach Alex Albert said. Behind a wing-T offense that maximized its talented backs, Leto (7-4) won five of its last six regular-season games.
"Frank Rose was the salt of the earth," said Albert, now an administrator and coach at Minerva High in Ohio.
"He was old-school stock; his dad's a veteran. He's the kind of guy who would, if you called him at 2 or 3 in the morning, Frank Rose was coming to get you. …He also had a rare sarcastic sense of humor that was always fun to be around."
Mr. Rose lettered four years at the University of Central Arkansas, according to a Jesuit news release.
After three college coaching stops, including a stint on current Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez's staff at Glenville State in West Virginia, Mr. Rose returned to his alma mater as an assistant.
About four years ago, he reconnected with Latson, whom he first met in seventh grade, scolding her for not bringing her own pen to class.
"Amazing, dedicated, loyal, loving, funny," Latson said of the man she was planning to marry (no date had been set). "He was my soulmate."
Joey Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.