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Jaran Roste’s growth felt on and off the field in the Bethel community

Alexandria's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns finds a passion for helping those with intellectual disabilities through Bethel's BUILD program while his numbers as a three-year starting quarterback for the Royals continue to pile up.

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Alexandria native Jaran Roste splits two defenders on a run for Bethel University during this past fall season. Roste helped lead the Royals to the Division III playoffs in 2021 and was a semifinalist for the Gagliardi Trophy given to the most outstanding Division III football player in the country based on athletic excellence, academics and community service. Photo by Carl Schmuland / Bethel Athletics

Alexandria native Jaran Roste was early in his tenure as a student-athlete at Bethel University in St. Paul when he was serving as a mentor in a class through the school’s BUILD program.

The BUILD program is a two-year comprehensive transition program at Bethel for students with intellectual disabilities that helps them prepare to live an independent lifestyle after school. Roste did not know at the time how close to his heart this would become in his life, but others could see it. He remembers one of the professionals in the program asking him if he was studying special education when she saw him interacting with students in the class.

No, he wasn’t. “You’ll work in special education one day,” she responded.

“I didn’t really understand what she meant, but I think I just connect with the students,” Roste said. “I see them as peers. They’re students who have the opportunity to go to Bethel the same as me. I think I learn more from them than I learn from anyone else…It’s just the way they choose to live and the amount of joy they have in everyday life. I think that’s lost in a lot of people’s lives today. I know it can be for mine, so seeing how they live their life and trying to emulate that is what drew my interest in working with students with intellectual disabilities.”

For Roste, the BUILD program and his work with students and others with disabilities through organizations like Special Olympics has become more important to him than his long list of accomplishments on the football field.

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Roste was Alexandria’s starting quarterback from 2014-2016. He holds Alexandria career records for passing yards (5,111) and touchdown passes (51). His 88 total rushing and passing touchdowns are 41 more than Alexandria’s second all-time leader in Carter Steffensmeier.

Roste went to the University of Minnesota to play football out of high school but transferred from the Gophers in 2018 after one year. He quickly made an impact at the Division III level with Bethel where he has posted a 26-7 record as a starting quarterback in three seasons. All seven of those losses have come to ranked opponents.

Roste led the Royals to an 8-3 record this past fall by throwing for 2,631 yards and 21 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions with a 65.47 completion percentage. He also ran for 455 yards and 13 touchdowns on 103 carries.

“I would consider this the best season I’ve had playing football,” Roste said. “If you look at the numbers, but also just how I felt on the field with the group of guys. I’ve never been in that spot to lead a team since really high school that senior year. Everything kind of lined up where I had a great season and the team played outstanding.”

Bethel played eighth-ranked Central College on Nov. 20 in the NCAA Division III playoffs and lost 61-35. Roste threw for 353 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions that day, along with rushing for 65 yards and two more touchdowns.

An up-tempo Central College offense was led by Division III player of the year Blaine Hawkins. The senior quarterback threw for 7 touchdowns in the playoff game against the Royals.

Roste was a semifinalist for the Gagliardi Trophy that Hawkins won in December that goes to the most outstanding NCAA Division III football player. It’s an honor that not only recognizes excellence in athletics, but also academics and community service.

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Alexandria native Jaran Roste scrambles during a game in the 2021 season for Bethel University. Roste led the Royals to an 8-3 record this past fall by throwing for 2,631 yards and 21 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions with a 65.47 completion percentage. He also ran for 455 yards and 13 touchdowns on 103 carries. Roste recently accepted a full-time job within the BUILD program at Bethel, and as of Dec. 28 was still deciding on whether or not to return to football for the 2022 season with one year of eligibility left. Photo by Carl Schmuland / Bethel Athletics

It was the latest in a long list of off-the-field recognition that Roste received this past season after more than 500 hours of community service during his time at Bethel. In September, he was one of just 22 football players across all divisions of the college game to be named to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team.

“For me, that’s what it’s all about is the impact we can have as student athletes off the field,” Roste said. “What happens on the field takes care of itself if you put the work in. Off the field, we can make such a difference. It’s cool to be recognized for that, but just because you’re recognized on the Good Works Team doesn’t mean you stop doing good works.”

Roste called his move to Bethel and his three-plus years at the school and in the football program everything he could have imagined and more. His selection to the Good Works Team was the ninth straight season that a player from Bethel has been chosen for that honor.

“I had that example set in my first year at Bethel,” Roste said. “It’s one of those things where it’s expected in our program, but guys just do it. They want to be servant leaders just like Jesus Christ was, and that’s kind of what our program emulates.

“Our coach always says, ‘What kind of man do you want to be? What kind of father, husband do you want to be?’ That’s the stuff that matters. The person who showed up four years ago on Bethel’s campus, I’m a different guy now for the better.”

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Jaran Roste

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That is why Roste is excited for an opportunity to stay at Bethel. After working in an interim position with the BUILD program in the fall, he recently accepted a full-time position within the program. Roste will do some teaching while also being in charge of finding the students internship opportunities with local businesses in the Twin Cities area.

It’s a 40-hour a week position, meaning Roste has a big decision to make with football. He graduated with a degree in the spring of 2021 and took graduate classes this past fall while playing. Roste still has one year of athletic eligibility remaining.

The question is whether or not he thinks he can fully commit to another full year of training for the upcoming season while holding a full-time job.

“So can I do four 6 a.m. lifts a week and then work a 40-hour work week and be all in throughout the spring and the summer? That’s what I’ve been thinking about, but you only get to play football once,” Roste said. “After I’m done, I’m done…I’d probably say I’m leaning toward coming back, but I keep saying January and January is coming pretty quick now. I’ll have to make a decision soon.”

Roste called football a vehicle to becoming the person he wanted to be in college. The results on the field have stood out, but it’s how the game has helped shape him off the field that would make it hard to give up with an opportunity to come back for one more year.

“Football took me to Bethel,” Roste said. “Football surrounded me with a group of guys in high school and college that I love. I’ll be in guys’ weddings that I played football with, and just building those relationships are what matters. It’s put me in the position I am today, and I can’t think of a better position than where I’m at right now.”

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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