Underdog wrestles numerous obstacles to pursue his purpose


Kari Redfield

“If not for teachers, especially my physical education teachers, I wouldn’t be here. They made me feel like a superstar. They helped me to believe in myself,” says Roman Rozell (BAE ’20), a student at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College working toward his teaching degree in physical education.

Rozell grew up in poverty with divorced parents, started a family at 18, went into the U.S. Army and saw intense combat in Iraq that included coming under attack by more than a dozen improvised explosive devices. He then succeeded through the grueling U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret training, during which he  was electrocuted during a field exercise.

Today Rozell is a family man, a year away from becoming a professional teacher, former Green Beret, combat hero, and 34-year-old ASU Wrestling team walk-on. 

Roman Rozell

Rozell credits his senior year of high school sweetheart and wife of 15 years, Alisha, his six kids, his religious faith, the work ethic and time management skills he learned in the service, ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center, his MLFTC teachers and the MLFTC Student Services team with helping him to succeed.

“I never planned on walking onto the wrestling team, but I did. So, when it happened, my advisor, Bridget Daniels, continued to help me and help me work with the NCAA, my instructors, and my student teaching placement to allow me to stay on track to graduate on time,” Rozell says.

A family feel inside a large university

Rozell chose ASU after retiring from the service. He was delighted to find such a family feel at MLFTC, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and the wrestling team.

The center and the Tillmans, in particular, have embraced him, Rozell says. “I get a lot of support from the center, with anything, from taking care of my GI Bill to offering support and encouragement. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center staff members have been fans, helping with some of my needs because of my large family, and coming to wrestling meets. Even before I became a wrestler, they treated me as someone special. They do that with all vets at ASU.”

At MLFTC, professors know students’ names, and students work on team cohorts — starting and graduating with the same fellow students and working together in a supportive environment to develop the skills and knowledge to succeed as professionals.

Of MLFTC, Rozell says, “Everybody, from Student Services to faculty to fellow students, is incredibly supportive, and we all have the same goal in the end: to graduate and become successful teachers. The professors have been flexible if I have family issues and with wrestling. They know about my life and my huge family."

Academic Success Coordinator Daniels says, “We provide all these types of services to all MLFTC students, and Roman uses them, which we appreciate. He has a monthly check-in with me, in addition to coming to me if he has any issues, to make sure that he is doing everything right to graduate on time because he knows time is money. He can’t start providing for his family the way he wants to until he completes his education. We want all of our students to take advantage of the proactive help we provide. We have so many resources to help students finish and graduate.”

A passion for physical activity

Rozell decided on physical education as his concentration because he has always been an athlete, even when he was overweight as a kid, he says. That’s when he developed his love for wrestling.

“Wrestling at the time I was in middle school didn’t cost money to participate in, like Little League and Parks and Recreation,” he explains.

He adds: “Phys ed was always a good escape from life in general. PE is an even playing ground. You don’t have to be the most athletic. There is a game or sport for everyone.”

His goal is to bring that sense of inclusion, accomplishment and love for movement to the kids he teaches, so that they always can turn to those good habits for life.

A big part of that is his education at MLFTC is in adapted PE.

“I want to be able to accommodate everyone and don’t want anyone left behind,” he explains. “I want to be able to modify activities to meet everyone’s needs, and help to improve them and design a program where everyone plays a role, and the program is socially inclusive to the group.”

Giving back and changing lives

Rozell says that his motivation to teach is to help others and impact lives the way his life was.

“Teachers have such an impact. They are with your children so much of the day. My motivation is to serve others and change lives,” he says.