Parkview senior Justis Rosser is a multi-threat weapon for the Panthers’ offense. (Staff photo: Ben Beitzel)
LILBURN — It started in eighth grade.
Suddenly, Justis Rosser looked around him and his competition through the Gwinnett Football League and into middle school football were all his size. Or bigger.
“I started to realize I wasn’t going to be the biggest guy,” the 5-foot-9 Rosser said. “People started shooting past me. I just started to work out, thinking, if they are going to beat me height-wise, I have to come up with something to even the playing field. I started lifting a lot of weights.”
Strength, mixed with his speed, allowed him to keep playing.
Rosser started his high school years at GAC, but saw little action as a young player with standout Kyle Scales on the roster. Like his brother before him, he transferred to Parkview. Bryce Rosser played for the Panthers and coach Cecil Flowe and the younger Rosser jumped at the chance to follow his brother.
After all, it was his brother who started him playing football.
“I used to go to all of his games. I loved watching him play,” Rosser said. “I decided if he was that good, I might have a chance at it. I tried baseball, but it wasn’t really my thing.”
But then came another hurdle.
Unlike Class AA GAC, this was Class AAAAAA. More players, especially in Gwinnett, typically mean rosters filled with more talent at more places.
“The physicality is a lot different from AA to AAAAAA. The kids are bigger and faster. I had to adjust quick or be left behind,” Rosser said. “I talked to my brother about it. He told me about how the strength was going to be, how fast they were going to be. I just got used to it over the summer workouts, just practicing.”
The practicing, and continued weight work, paid off. He found his way into the Panthers’ starting backfield, validation of his belief and effort.
“For me finding a way to getting a starting spot, that meant a lot,” Rosser said.
Overlooked early in the season because of teammate Chris Carson’s ability, the quick and versatile Rosser began seeing more and more carries. He ended the season with 743 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, an apt compliment to the 1,000-yard rusher Carson.
“I just loved playing in the backfield with Chris Carson,” Rosser said. “At the beginning of the season (last year) we relied on Chris Carson a lot, but by the middle of the season they started relying on me more.”
And he learned about winning. As a junior, he helped lead a resurgent Parkview team to a win over then top-ranked Grayson and to a deep playoff run.
“It was big (last year),” Rosser said. “I feel like we came out with a will to win. We had a little swagger in our walk.”
This year he’s no secret and Parkview, despite its early offensive struggles, tries to find any way to get Rosser the ball. He lines up at quarterback or receiver and takes plenty of handoffs. He knows he’s the focus of defenses and like his size or jumping up classifications, he’s ready to adjust.
“I enjoyed playing and learning and I have enjoyed stepping up and taking the role of the leading running back on offense,” he said. “I don’t mind (the pressure).”