Swedish native fills key role for GVSU defense

GVL / Emily Frye      
Junior DT Nose Guard Mark Rosenquist during practice on Oct. 13th.

GVL / Emily Frye Junior DT Nose Guard Mark Rosenquist during practice on Oct. 13th.

Adam Knorr

For a brief time as a child, Mark Rosenquist was the picture of Nordic sports, playing hockey on a frozen lake in the small town of Knivsta, Sweden.

Hockey only stuck for one year. Rosenquist was destined for something else.

The 21-year-old got into football, and his journey has taken him from Europe to Texas, Illinois, California and, for the time being, Michigan.

A 6-foot-3, 300 pound nose guard, Rosenquist has filled a crucial role as a plug in the middle of the Grand Valley State defense. His duties are mainly as a run stopper and a point man – relied upon to gum up the middle of the line, draw attention from opposing offensive linemen and contribute to stopping the run.

Born to a Filipino mother and a Swedish father, Rosenquist got into football in his preteen years, playing for club teams. Although Swedes are often tall in stature, few are able to tip the scales as Rosenquist does.

Even fewer get into football. Still fewer are athletic enough to add footwork and speed to their size. As a result, Rosenquist turned some heads on the Swedish gridiron.

“I was in pretty good shape and I pushed people around,” Rosenquist said. “I had coaches come up to me telling me, ‘You got to be a little bit softer against those people.’

“When I started off it was like the peewee football level and I was still twice as big as the other kids.”

Rosenquist didn’t take the advice of those telling him to ease up. He continued to push, slam and force his way into higher and higher levels of football. Rosenquist qualified to compete for the Swedish national team in the Junior European Championships in 2010, where his squad finished in third place.

The third-place finish qualified the Swedish team to compete in the Junior World Championships, hosted in Austin, Texas. From there, Rosenquist’s American football career blossomed.

A Facebook message from Lake Forest Academy coach Ted Stewart got things rolling. He explained that LFA was near Chicago, and mentioned that the high school already had a couple Canadian players on the roster.

A month later, Rosenquist was on a plane to northwest Illinois. Though primarily an offensive lineman in Sweden, he switched to defensive lineman for his only American high school season, in which he earned First Team All-Region 6A honors.

From there, it was on to Butte Community College in California for two years. After he exhausted his time there, GVSU came calling, and Rosenquist answered.

“We saw the tape, (it) was pretty impressive and we had him come out on a visit and watched him work out and spent some time with him,” said GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell. “The plan was for him to be here earlier but he had to do some things academically in order for him to get in here and that didn’t happen until the start of fall camp.”

Rosenquist’s tardy arrival on campus put him at an early disadvantage. He was behind on conditioning and learning GVSU’s schemes, but talent, work ethic and the need for a nose guard has slotted him into the Laker rotation with consistency.

Through six games, the junior has two starts and has recorded six tackles. His playing time is situational, and is mostly used in run scenarios. When the Lakers want to rush the passer, Rosenquist will swap out for De’Ondre Hogan or Keane Belcher – both stronger pass rushers.

“Mark has been doing a great job of coming in and doing what’s asked of him and being a physical presence inside,” said defensive line coach E.J. Whitlow. “He’s a big kid, he’s very strong, very aggressive and physical.”

Physicality, for Rosenquist, is the hallmark of who he is as a football player. Who he is as a person, however, goes back to his roots. Born in Sweden’s capital of Stockholm, Rosenquist has found a way to carry his home country with him everywhere he goes.

Tattooed on the right side of his chest is the “Tre Kronor” or, “Three Crowns,” the national emblem of Sweden, which features three crowns arranged in a triangle.

“My Swedish pride is definitely something special,” Rosenquist said. “I’m one of the few that plays American football that is over playing at the college football level. I have a lot of supporters back home – a lot of the coaches that I used to look up to now look up to me.”

With his imposing build, it’s hard not to look up at Rosenquist. Most fans, however, get the chance to look down on him from the stands, where he fixes to be plugging up the middle of the GVSU line through the 2016 season, 4,138 miles from home.