It seems like everything’s coming up roses for Mark Rose. Earlier this month, the National Guard pro from West Memphis, Ark., became the first-ever recipient of the Forrest L. Wood Sportsmanship and Community Leadership Award presented by Goodwill.
Talking to people who are familiar with the angler, it’s no surprise Rose was chosen. The humble pro perfectly embodies the characteristics required for the award, being a man widely regarded for his ethics, integrity and community involvement.
Shaping his life around the needs of others is not a new concept for Rose. Prior to becoming a professional angler, he served as a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America, a position that enabled him to network with influential people while exerting a positive influence on local children and his community. That laid the groundwork for what would become a notable career in competitive fishing.
“I learned to deal with different charity organizations and civic organizations,” Rose said. “I knew the important people around, and later on, once I became a professional fisherman, they knew me as a guy who worked with kids. I guess they knew that I had a heart for people, and it gave me a platform.”
A mentor for all ages
Rob Hicks, a co-angler from Lula, Ga., knows firsthand the kind of impact that Rose has on people. Over the last few years, he has served as Rose’s practice partner and has had the opportunity to see up close what kind of man Rose really is.
“He’s been like a mentor to me, and I’m older than he is,” Hicks said. “One time I stayed at Mark’s house, and he needed to go get a haircut. So I rode with him, and even at the barber shop, it was like a movie star walked in. They think so much of him. He never meets a stranger.”
Rose’s biggest fans, though, seem to be the kids who get to learn how to fish from the man himself, and it’s clear that the feeling is mutual.
“The kids around here love Mark Rose,” Hicks said of his own neighborhood. “They think he hung the moon.”
Besides his early training at the Boy Scouts, Rose has taken his love for children to another level by participating in local kids’ fishing rodeos, emceeing the St. Jude charity bass tournament alongside veteran angler Bill Dance, and taking kids with special needs out on the water for a day of fishing.
“When I see the smile on a kid’s face after he catches his first fish, I think, `This is why I started fishing. This is what it’s all about,'” Rose said. “This is such a great sport, but there are just so many kids who don’t have the opportunities.”
The ultimate example
But Rose’s goodwill doesn’t stop there. He’s actively involved at his home congregation in Arkansas, organizing monthly sportsmen’s banquets and other activities, and says his faith plays a strong role in making him the kind of person who can be described as the ultimate example of sportsmanship and community leadership.
“I told somebody the other day that I’ve won tournaments and all, but I probably feel better about winning this award than I did about receiving a trophy for a major win,” he said. “The reason is because people will recognize you for what kind of heart you have – not how good you are with a fishing pole. I’ve said it before: This will all amount to nothing one day, but the time you spend with people will matter. I’m not ashamed of my faith; I try to make that well-known. I strongly believe that what we do for people means a whole lot.”
Clearly, people noticed.
“Mark has always been an outstanding angler, whether it’s with his performance or his work within the community with his fellow anglers,” said Jessica Huckstadt, marketing manager for FLW Outdoors. “He exemplifies the ideals of what this award really means. Our tagline here at FLW Outdoors is that we’re the best in fishing on and off the water. Mark is a very ethical person, and he shows that on and off the water.”
When talking to people about Mark Rose, the word “ethical” is frequently used.
“His ethics on the water are remarkable,” Hicks said. “I’ve never seen him crowd another competitor, even in practice. He’s always willing to help another angler if they have problems, whether it be in fishing or in life. When you have the respect of your peers, that’s everything. He’s just real.”
For Rose, being a good sportsman is simply a matter of giving back, with the side benefit being a renewed enthusiasm for the road he has chosen in life.
“I try to treat others with compassion and respect to try and give back what others have taught me, all that knowledge about such a great sport,” he said. “You have to give some of it back because you can teach people so much in a short amount of time, and it will help them for a lifetime.
“We travel all over the country to some of the greatest fisheries in the world, but when I get to take a soldier out, and he’s only caught a few fish in his whole life – he thinks it’s life-changing, but it’s part of my routine. We look at it as work a lot of times, but they look at it as passion.”
Tying Goodwill with good will
“This award is about our anglers strengthening the communities that they are in and are a part of, so it’s a really good fit with Goodwill,” she said. “Basically all of Goodwill’s revenues go to fund training programs to help people find jobs. That strengthens people’s lives and helps make the community stronger. That community commitment makes Goodwill a really good fit.”
Huckstadt also hopes that through this award, more and more people will begin to be heralded for their good works, just as Rose is noted for his commitment to community.
“Over the past year, we have realized that there are so many good stories and so many great things that our anglers do that we don’t even know about,” she said. “I think they should be proud, and I think this award will encourage people to tell us about the commitment they give outside of being a professional angler.”
In the meantime, Rose has set a standard for those who will follow in his footsteps as recipients of the Forrest L. Wood Sportsmanship and Community Leadership Award.
“Just do the sport right,” he says.
He certainly has.