"First of all, War Eagle," Rocker said. "I'm glad to be back and I'm looking forward to working with Coach Chizik and his entire staff. I've watched Coach (Ted) Roof play at Georgia Tech, I know James Willis from when he played there (at Auburn) and I know Coach (Gus) Malzahn from when he was at Arkansas.
"Working with Houston Nutt it was a family environment and a very coachable environment for you in that you were able to work, do your job, get it done and enjoy it. (Leaving Nutt) was hard to do. He's very family oriented and he's all about the players. He's very player oriented and I enjoyed working with him. It was a great six years. We had a great run. We had a chance to go to Atlanta, a couple of bowl–the Capital One, the Cotton Bowl twice and the Independence Bowl. I've enjoyed it, but there comes a time when we all have to part ways and move on in this type of business."
Inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 2004 after his great career at Auburn that saw him win both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Trophy as the nation's best defensive player in 1988, Rocker says for him the goal now is to prove he's as good of a coach as he was a player while with the Tigers. In four seasons at Auburn, Rocker recorded 354 tackles with 48 coming behind the line of scrimmage.
"Coming back is a great honor," Rocker said. "I came to Auburn and had a great playing career, graduated and had great academic success there. Everything as a college student, I definitely enjoyed. Once I got out of there I went to the pros. After I got out of the pros I went into coaching.
"A goal of mine has always been to be known as a great coach. The thing is, I'm not the player anymore, I'm the coach. I'm striving to be a great coach and be special. Playing for Coach Dye, Coach Hall was my position coach and I got to see some things. While I was playing there I was trying to understand the game and why we did certain things. Those things helped me become the coach I am now."
Rocker pictured with his haul following the 1988 season.
Familiar with Chizik after learning from his Central Florida staff while coaching under Larry Blakeney at Troy State, Rocker said that he's looking forward to coaching with Roof after hearing a lot of good things about him from other coaches in the business.
"I remember Coach Roof when he was at Georgia Tech," Rocker said. "He played at Tech and I was a young, being recruited and coming to Auburn. I watched him play at Tech while I was playing at Auburn, so I know his background as a player. He was a great player there at Georgia Tech. In the coaching world all I've heard is that he's a great guy to work for. I met him as a player, but I've never met him in the coaching profession. For me I'm looking forward to it and we'll have a whole lot to talk about. I'm hoping that we can both make this thing work together."
Becoming the third defensive coach on Chizik's staff, Rocker said that he expects to coach all four defensive line positions for the Tigers. That would leave Roof as a floating defensive coordinator working with all areas of the defense on a daily basis. It's something Rocker said he doesn't have a problem with because no matter the position up front it still comes down to some simple things.
"One thing I know about playing down there is that there's not an off down," Rocker said. "You've got to lay it on the line every snap. The most important thing is not so much always talent but doing your best, leaving it on the field and not getting back and saying ‘Coulda, shoulda, woulda. I did my best and I left it all out on the field.' You're going to have to play hurt sometimes down there. Those are the things that sometimes playing defensive line a lot of people don't understand. You run into people every day and you're expected to run into them even harder on the weekend.
"There are only a few guys that get to play flag football. Defensive linemen and offensive linemen don't get to play flag football. They run into people. I'm expecting a challenge. I'm looking forward to it. It's a great honor to be there, but we've got our work cut out for us. The thing I'm looking for mostly is hard work. Number one you've got to be patient, and teamwork. It takes all of us to be special and that's what we're looking forward to doing."
With the losses of Sen'Derrick Marks to the NFL Draft and Tez Doolittle to graduation, Rocker will have to fill a void up front on the defensive line. The return of Antonio Coleman is a huge piece of the puzzle, but Rocker said in his mind everyone starts out fresh in spring practice and he's looking for the cream to rise to the top. That even starts on the recruiting trail as Rocker said he's looking for guys that stand out up front and bring that toughness to the table that Auburn is famous for.
"You've got to like playing down there, you've got lay it down and you've got to leave it on the field," Rocker said. "You're going to have to play hurt. I'm not saying hurt in a matter of where you can't walk or anything. You're going to have bumps and bruises when you play down there. It's a very tough position. It's the most demanding position probably in football–offensive and defensive linemen–and it's the most premium position.
"It's a thing that every college team and every pro football team are always looking for great defensive linemen because they're so hard to find. When you see teams that have great defensive lines usually they are pretty dang good as a team as a whole. I don't know much about what's there, but when I get there I'll find out. I'm trying to keep my mind at a clean slate so I'm open minded as to seeing what direction we're going instead of making judgment before I see what we have."