Urbana athlete yearns for knowledge
URBANA – Laura Taylor's not one to tell stories out of school, but she has a pertinent one about the in-school exploits of Matt Rosenberger.
The Urbana High School principal recently visited a chemistry class where Rosenberger is one of the students.
She wanted to speak to the senior and said, "I tried to get his attention."
What Taylor witnessed during the process reinforced why she had decided to stop by the classroom. It illustrated the reasons why, some months earlier, she had nominated the three-sport athlete for the prestigious 14th annual IHSA All-State Academic team.
And, it certainly spoke volumes as to why, from among more than 400 nominees, Rosenberger was one of the select 26 chosen by the IHSA for its All-State Academic first team.
Taylor couldn't break Rosenberger's concentration on his lab project.
"He enjoys learning," Taylor said, "so I waited in the background until he was done."
What do you know?
The learning process started early for Rosenberger, who will earn a varsity letter in his sixth straight sport when the current baseball season is finished.
He recalls family trips when "Dad would randomly give me a problem, but he would make it hard so he wouldn't have to listen to me."
The elder Rosenberger, Russell, had learned his lessons. If he let his quizzical children ask the questions, they wouldn't come up with something inane like, "How long before we're there?"
Matt Rosenberger, who ranks first academically in Urbana's senior class, can chuckle now at those memories.
"I remember going to the airport one time and asking, 'How do planes work?' " he said.
Education always has been a priority for the Rosenbergers. Russell and his wife, Janet, are UI graduates as is their eldest son, Adam, who graduated second in his high school class from Urbana.
The parents learned years ago that their children were eager for knowledge.
"We spent a lot of time, when they were little, doing math problems and they had an aptitude for it," Russell Rosenberger said.
The problems weren't always complex, as he recalled.
"It would be something like, 'If we're going 30 mph, in 15 minutes, how far will we have gone?' " Russell Rosenberger said.
Besides hearing the answer, the parents usually would hear something else, whether it was from Matt or Adam.
"They'd say, 'Give me another problem,' " Russell Rosenberger said.
One of the boys' biggest gifts, he said, is the ability to not need to be pushed to achieve excellence.
"We've never been ones to say, 'Make sure you get your stuff done,' " he said. "They do it on their own. Neither of them had to spend an extreme amount of time working on anything.
"Once they get started on something, they don't get distracted."
Matt Rosenberger said his brother set a good example for him to follow.
"I saw what he did and knew I was probably capable of the same," Matt Rosenberger said. "It was almost like it was expected, but I didn't feel any pressure."
Making the grade
Matt Rosenberger, who scored a 33 on his ACT, plans to follow in his brother's footsteps and major in mechanical engineering at the UI. Adam went on to work for Toyota in the Engineers In Training program, but Matt is unsure of his long-range goals.
He said there is no secret formula for faring well academically.
"I pay attention in class and try to ask a lot of questions," he said, "and I enjoy doing homework sometimes."
Athletics are more of a diversion for Rosenberger, who follows the fall golf season with basketball in the winter and then his favorite sport, baseball.
"When you go to practice, you can get all the stuff out of your mind that you have going on," he said. "It's a change of pace and winds me down."
That sports is not an all-consuming venture for the teenager is something administrators in Urbana have noticed.
"He has an understanding of where it should fit and that while athletics are extremely important, they are not an end-all," Taylor said. "He has a very mature understanding of the role sports can play in one's life.
"They are a good way to keep yourself fit and enjoy high school life."
Rosenberger was aware he had been nominated for the IHSA award, but he didn't know how much consideration he would be given.
"I didn't do that well in any of my sports," he said, "so I wasn't sure."
In basketball, he was the fifth-leading scorer as a senior on a 13-14 team (averaging 3.3 points a game). He made 10 three-pointers, which was also fifth on the team.
This spring in baseball, he is batting .296 for a 4-5 team and leads the Tigers with eight stolen bases. He also has pitched 7< 1/3> innings and leads the team with 11 strikeouts.
He said the unexpected nature of the award makes it even more satisfying.
"It's exciting to have an all-something honor; it's nice to get recognized for something," he said.
A leading figure
Rosenberger is one of the captains on the baseball team and, for two seasons, has been the No. 2 hitter in coach Steve Waller's batting order.
The coach calls Rosenberger an exemplary role model.
"His effort is what you want out of one of your kids," Waller said. "It definitely carries over onto other players. The kids respect him in multiple ways.
"He is a terrific kid both on and off the field. He's a very likable kid and has a good personality. He's someone that other kids look up to both in baseball and academics."
Preston Williams, Urbana's deputy superintendent, said Rosenberger's commitment and success in his various endeavors is a reflection of his upbringing.
"The young man should be commended for his effort to participate in three sports and maintain such a high GPA," Williams said, "and his mom and dad should be given some kudos for raising such a tremendous young man.
"Probably what we've seen is a lot more of our women athletes participate in three sports than a lot of our male athletes. He could certainly be a model for young men to emulate, especially the academic side of it.
"He takes academics very seriously and has done a fantastic job as a representative of Urbana High School and Urbana athletics. We know he will do great things into the future."
For his part, Rosenberger is thankful.
"I thank God that I had such good parents that brought me up so well," he said. "My parents have always encouraged me and tell me to do the best I can. They make it feel like if I don't succeed, it's OK, but if I do succeed, it's good."
With Matt Rosenberger, it's all good.
Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette's prep sports coordinator. He writes a weekly column on high school athletics throughout the school year. You can reach him at 217-351-5235 or via e-mail at email@example.com.