Now both are hoping for a chance to make their NFL dreams come true.
Rose and Small were two of 17 former Buckeyes to participate Friday at Ohio State's Pro Day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The event also the first time the duo had met with reporters since being ruled ineligible for the Rose Bowl in January.
The former OSU and Cleveland Glenville teammates were both in good spirits and were happy with their performances in front of scouts, coaches, family, friends and former teammates at the WHAC. Rose showed the mixture of size and speed that entranced several schools during his high school recruitment while Small laid down a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds.
Despite the bitter end to both their OSU careers, both Rose and Small made some positive contributions on the field as Buckeyes. Rose, a defensive end, battled through shoulder injuries and eligibility issues during his OSU career but finished his senior season with a career-high 10 tackles with 3.0 tackles for a loss and 2.0 sacks. Small, a receiver and return specialist, produced one of the this fall's best highlights with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Wisconsin and was named the team's rotating fourth captain for the annual rivalry game at Michigan.
Yet both know most of the questions surrounding their pro prospects have little to do with what happened on the gridiron. Rose and Small missed much of preseason camp this past fall because of academic issues, and the duo missed out on traveling to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl because after being ruled ineligible.
For Small, the issues started before he even stepped on campus. His academic status was uncertain all the way up to his eventual enrollment. As a junior, off-the-field issues appeared again. Mysteriously, he did not get a biography page in the 2008 media guide and had his uniform number changed from 4 to 82.
Both former Buckeyes said they were ready to answer whatever questions scouts and coaches may have. Rose said he spoke to scouts on Friday and his off-the-field issues came up in the conversation.
"I was just truthful," Rose said. "I had a hard time in school and I had other issues too. I made mistakes. I messed up. I'm not perfect, but I know I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong.
"I was wrong in what I did, and I'm trying to rebound from what I did."
Small also had a couple of interviews and said he "told the truth and moved on from there."
So what's the truth?
"I messed up in the past," Small said. "I'm moving forward. I had my little mess-ups, bumps in the road. I'm growing as a man."
Neither athlete had a chance to answer those questions or show their skills before Pro Day as neither were invited to the NFL combine.
"This is a huge day, This is my combine," Rose said. "I was preparing very, very hard for it. I've been preparing ever since I couldn't make the trip out to California. I've been working hard and it's starting to pay off for me a little bit."
Small said he also spent his downtime focusing on his Pro Day opportunity. He trained at the Sports Plant in Euclid, Ohio, a facility founded by OSU director of football performance Eric Lichter.
Small admitted he used his OSU struggles as a motivating factor.
"Everything that happened, I wouldn't change it," Small said. "I wouldn't change it for the world. I always use it for positive."
Now Rose and Small will wait for their NFL fates to be decided. Neither are likely to be drafted, but both hope to get a fresh start as professional football players.