By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

At 6-foot-6-inches tall and weighing in at 330 pounds, you'd never expect Zach Roth to be an expert on tending to a garden.

In this case, the former Holcomb High School and Garden City Community College football standout, is not.

But, he has certainly had flowers on his mind in recent weeks and for good reason.

Roth, who graduated in December from Texas Christian University with a degree in communications and human relations in Fort Worth, played a key role as one of the offensive tackles in the Mountain West Conference's Horned Frogs recent 21-19 victory over the Big Ten Conference's Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day in Pasadena, Calif.

The Rose Bowl has been called the granddaddy of all bowl games and for Roth and his teammates, it culminated a perfect 13-0 season which was capped off by being ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll, released earlier this week.

"It's been an amazing experience, something I'm sure I will never forget," Roth said in a telephone interview. "We flew out there about a week before the game and then got to visit the Rose Bowl itself the third day we were out there. It's an incredible place, so much history. We went back, got to walk down on the field, see all the plaques that are on the walls of the stadium."

Even a team picture became a memory that Roth will treasure forever.

"We came back and went down onto the field it was the most perfect grass you could ever imagine," Roth said. "Not a blade out of place."

Roth said the day of the bowl game was still fresh in his mind.

"We had a light breakfast real early and then went back to our rooms and relaxed, if you could call it relaxing," Roth recalled of that special day. "We had what we call unit walk-throughs in one of the big hotel banquet rooms and then had our pre-game meal. The coaches talked to us, prepared us and then it was time to go to the stadium."

Roth said he had problems sleeping the night before the game and had to take a sleeping pill to calm himself down.

"I was so psyched up but I knew I I had to get some sleep or I would be exhausted," Roth said. "When we got to the game, there were just people everywhere. It was nuts. Ninety-five thousand people, way more than I had ever seen at a game."

When Roth and his teammates came onto the Rose Bowl field just prior to the start of the game, the noise was deafening, he said.

"You couldn't hear yourself think," Roth said. "When we got out there for our first series, we realized we had to watch the ball because you couldn't hear any signals being called out by either our quarterback or center.

"Someone would just pass the cadence down to the next guy and I'd pass it on to the tight end when he was lined up on my side."

On the Horned Frogs' first possession, Roth was whistled for an illegal procedure penalty, costing his team five yards.

"On the next play, we scored so it didn't cost us anything, fortunately," Roth said. "I was just so nervous. The butterflies were everywhere in my stomach."

In a game that matched his underdog Horned Frogs against the heralded Badgers, Roth said he and his teammates were motivated to prove the so-called experts wrong.

"Wisconsin's a big team and they are very good, one of the best we've ever played," Roth said. "But I think our quickness offset some of that. It was a great environment, a great experience."

Leading late in the game, 21-13, the Horned Frogs yielded a touchdown with two minutes left. Wisconsin elected to go for the tying 2-point conversion and from the sidelines all Roth could do was watch and wait.

"I saw that the tight end was open, saw the ball go in the air and then saw linebacker Tank Carder jump into the air and bat down the pass that may have tied the score.

"Everyone just erupted," Roth said. "I bet half the team was out on the field. That just about topped everything."

As time ran down when the Horned Frogs had the ball on the final possession, Roth and his teammates knew they had accomplished something special.

"I just thought, 'holy crap, we have won the Rose Bowl', and it was like unbelievable," Roth said. "We were on cloud 9. I got interviewed by CBS Sports radio and I didn't know what to say right down there on the field. I was just yelling, but I don't know what I was yelling."

Nearly two weeks later, the memory is still fresh in his mind.

He was back home last weekend, and had the opportunity to sit down and watch the game with his family.

"It was really weird, I don't think I had ever watched myself play when a game was taped on television," Roth said. "It was a lot of fun, because I could tell everyone what was happening."

Roth returned Monday to Fort Worth, where he is now busy working on getting back into peak physical condition to prepare for the April 22-24 NFL draft. Currently, he is searching for an agent to represent him and hopes to have that part of the process finalized soon.

"There's a lot of different things you've got to do for the draft," said Roth. "It's going to be pretty intense."

These days, Roth's scheduled is full from the time he wakes up to the end of the day.

Normally, he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and is at a 6 a.m. workout that will last approximately 90 minutes. His day includes eating enough to ensure an intake of nearly 6,900 calories.

Next, he has meetings during the day to discuss various components of the NFL and then will typically do another workout in the late afternoon or early evening.

And every other day, he runs as part of his conditioning program.

Still, Roth remains realistic about his chances of making it at the pro level.

"This is what I've worked for since I was a little kid," Roth said. "It's what I want to do. I just hope I have a chance and that things will work out. At least this way I know I will have given it a shot. That's all I have ever asked for is just the chance."

And while Roth is not doing any gardening these days, he says there is never a day that passes where he does not think about flowers.

"The rose has been my favorite (flower) for a long time and it has a special place for me now," Roth said. "We're a part of history and everybody will remember what we accomplished. That's a pretty neat thing."