The scene was familiar enough—just another junior high school basketball game, this one in Boston, Massachusetts. But something unusual was happening. Spectators who listened carefully overheard one of the visiting players complaining early in the game, “Hey, coach, there are two guys out there who look just alike. I can’t keep track of them.”
“Nonsense,” replied the coach. “The one guy is probable just too fast for you. Now get out there and hustle.”
Moments later the same player, this time looking really alarmed, reported, “Coach, there are three guys out there who look just alike!”
A quick glance at the home team would have shown he was right. The unsuspecting visitors had just come across Dan, Dave, and Doug Rozsa, identical triplets playing on the same team.
A couple of years later the Rozsas, by now well-known throughout the area, were again on the same basketball team, this time one that was preparing for the championship playoffs. The coach of the team they would play next was in attendance at one of their games, trying to figure out how to deal with the triple threat.
“Our biggest problem is that our guys don’t know which one to guard,” he confided to his assistant. “But I’ve got it all figured out. They each wear different colored shoes.” Unknown to the coach was the fact that seated right behind him and hearing every word was Sister Dawna Rozsa, mother of the triplets. And the next week as the confident coach came out to face the triplets, he was dismayed to find they really were identical right down to the color of their shoes.
The triplets lived in Boston while their father, Brother Allen Rosza, served as president of the Massachusetts Boston Mission. Since then, the family had been in California, where the boys are finishing up their senior year at El Modena High School in Orange.
All three young men are starting players on El Modena’s championship football team, with Dan at the defensive end, Dave at guard, and Doug at linebacker. In 1978 their team took home the Southern Conference Championship of the California Interscholastic Federation. On a rain-drenched evening they defeated Pacifica High School before a crowd of more that 10,000 spectators at Anaheim Stadium. In 1979 the team reached the semi-finals before being eliminated by the eventual champions.
The Rozsas have grown up playing on the same football, basketball, baseball, track, and wrestling teams, often much to the confusion of their opponents and even their coaches, who still haven’t figured out a way to tell them apart. The results of their collective athletic endeavors give the bedroom they share the appearance of a trophy case. Awards such as “Most Valuable, “All League,” “Player of the Game,” “All-County,” and All-CIF” seem to fill up every shelf and corner.
Many young people would be more than content with just the athletic success the triplets enjoy. Yet a look at their lives shows that this same high level of performance carries over into other areas. Each maintains a grade-point average that is nearly straight-A and each has received numerous scholastic and citizenship honors. All are Eagle Scouts and have earned their Duty to God awards. Each is active in all church activities, has served a youth mission, and is now in his fourth year at early morning seminary. Since they became deacons, the three have taken turns as president of their various Aaronic Priesthood quorums. In addition, Doug is this year’s student-body president at El Modena, with Dan assisting him as vice-president, while Dave heads up the senior class as president. Their attitude has always been to make the maximum effort at everything they do.
“We just try to be the best we can,” says Doug. “You only have an experience or situation once, and it’s a waste to say, ‘Oh, I could have done that if I’d only tried.’”
“Sure, it’s fun to be number one, but if you’re not, at least you know you never lose if you try your hardest,” agrees Dave. “We try not to think about what we’ve already done. Those things have been in the past, and we feel you have to keep proving yourself.”
Brother and Sister Rozsa were living in Greenville, Texas, in 1961 when the boys were born. Already the parents of four daughters, the couple were convinced they were never going to have any sons, so they had selected only girls’ names for the twins they thought were coming. A few days before the birth, the doctor called the Rozsas in and told them to get ready for triplets. So, with the addition of one more girl’s name, the couple thought they were prepared.
When the big day came, Brother Rozsa had his ear up against the delivery room door and heard just what he expected—“It’s a girl.” But before that had a chance to register the doctor broke in with “No, wait a minute; it’s a boy,” soon followed by exclamations of “Another boy,” “And another one.”
Practically having to pick himself up off the floor, Brother Rozsa’s first thoughts were “Scouting, fishing, and little league—at last!” An avid athlete and sportsman, Brother Rozsa says he had tried unsuccessfully to turn his very feminine daughters into tomboys. Thus he was overjoyed at the thoughts of not one but three fishing and football companions.
Brother and Sister Rozsa soon realized their three identical sons presented them with some special opportunities. One family home evening the parents and daughters decided they would read the entire New Testament by the end of the year.
“We figured out how many pages a day we would have to read to finish and talked it over, never dreaming that the boys, who were only eight years old, would be able to read the New Testament,” recalls Sister Rozsa. “But they didn’t realize they weren’t really a part of the conversation, so they started reading along with us. By the end of the year, each one had finished the New Testament along with the rest of the family.”
Brother Rozsa, now serving as a member of the Los Angeles Temple presidency, says he feels this incident taught his sons a lot about success. “They learned very early that if they stuck with a task they could be successful at it. We believe in our family that you can do anything if you set priorities and then follow them.”
As young boys, the triplets learned a lot about priorities from their parents and sisters. They soon knew that family and church came first, followed by school work, Scouting, music lessons, and sports. Over the years, they’ve kept up the same active pace. How do they do it?
“Well, we try not to waste much time. And we don’t have room for much sleep or television,” the three agree.
Serving full-time missions has been a priority with the triplets from the beginning. Their desire to do this grew even more when they were 12 and their father was called as a mission president.
“We decided when we were very young that we wanted to serve missions,” says Dave. “But being in the mission home gave us a better idea of what missionaries really do and what a mission is really like.” The three brothers still discuss the many dedicated and outstanding missionaries they knew in Boston.
Of course, they also admit they had great fun confusing the missionaries about which triplet was which. And, they remember many early morning bargaining sessions, trying unsuccessfully to convince the missionaries in the mission home to drive them around on their paper routes in the sub-zero Boston winters.
Serving a mission can be a financial burden to any missionary and his family, but what do you do when you have three sons all wanting to leave at the same time? The Rozsa family has foreseen this, and the boys have been working since the age of 13 toward their missions. In addition to those icy Boston paper routes, they’ve sold avocados, worked in construction, and held other odd jobs. Last summer all three worked at the same taco stand at the same time, guaranteeing considerable confusion among unsuspecting customers. They report their bank accounts are in good shape for the missions to come.
Even though the Rozsas have spent their lives in areas where the Church is a definite minority, none of the triplets feels he has ever had to compromise his beliefs to be successful.
“We always let people know where we stand, right from the beginning. Some guys bug us a few times, but now they respect us,” says Doug. “We don’t argue, we just say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to do that.’ Our coaches and friends know we have to be out of practice in time for Mutual, they know we don’t participate in sports on Sundays, and they know where we stand on the Word of Wisdom.”
For the most part, all three enjoy playing on the same teams. The only problem comes with wrestling season when the triplets, who stand 6 feet 2 1/2 inches tall and normally weigh in at 200 pounds, struggle to get into three different weight classes. One of them diets as another tries to eat his way into a higher weight class. The lucky third member of the trio gets to maintain the status quo.
A joint sports experience they remember is the football game when each of them made a touchdown. During another game, they all recovered the same fumble. Doug got to it first, then Dan drove in on top of him, followed by Dave.
“I guess sometimes we have an advantage,” says Dan. “We can usually figure out what each other would do in a situation.”
However it is that they do it, their coaches like it. El Modena’s football coach, Bob Lester, has only one complaint—“I wish they were quintuplets!”
Even with all their many activities, the Rozsas naturally find time for some relaxation. All three enjoy waterskiing, tinkering with cars, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Of course, some of the fun times they recall most revolve around their being triplets. At an early age, a favorite trick was to insist to Junior Sunday School teachers that all three of them were Dan. The next week they would all profess to be Dave and then Doug.
Sister Rozsa remembers a prayer offered by one of her sons at age four. “Bless my parents, bless my sisters, and bless those other two who look like me.”
Trading classes and teachers has been a source of occasional amusement, but the boys say they’ve kept this to a minimum. It’s always been a rule among them that while they often study together, each one has to take his own tests.
Now that the triplets are old enough to date, they’re really finding their threesome to be an advantage at times. Dan recalls one evening when he was trying to phone a girl to ask her out, but her number was always busy. He had to run off to a meeting, so he assigned brother Dave to fill in for him.
“Dave finally got hold of her and asked for a date. She said yes, I took her out, and she never found out what really happened,” says Dan. The three brothers remain sworn to secrecy as to the name of the young lady in question.
One thing people always ask the boys is “What’s it like to be a triplet?” Their response is really quite logical: “We’ve never been anything but triplets. It feels really normal to us,” says Doug.
“It’s easy for us to tell each other apart, too, because we look so different to each other,” says Dan. (Or was that Dave?)
The triplets are often amused by people’s reactions to seeing them for the first time.
“For some reason they get really mixed-up,” chuckles Dave. “They always come up to all three of us and ask, ‘Are you twins?’ Only rarely are we asked if we’re triplets. It’s like people think that’s just too much to be believed.”
Being triplets has its definite advantages, the boys claim. When they were young, their dad’s career in the air force took them all over the country. And unlike most kids, the triplets always got to take their best friends along with them wherever they went. In fact, in over 18 years the only time they’ve been apart was when serving their youth missions last summer. This togetherness will undoubtedly change in the next couple of years, though, as new experiences such as college and missions enter their lives. That is, unless missionaries start going forth three-by-three instead of two-by-two.