Rochford Comes Full Circle

This Saturday afternoon, coming out from the smoke in the final opening game at the Orange Bowl, amidst stories of one of the country's most adored stadiums making its curtain call, the first game of a new era of football that debuts its new head coach, a new starting quarterback, and a renewed swagger is one man's life long goal coming full circle.

After being named the new starting center for the University of Miami , John Rochford considers it a testament to hard work and maturity.

"I didn't plan on it taking this long but better late than never," Rochford said following Tuesday practice, the first after being officially named the starting center for Saturday's game versus Marshall.

Rochford, a fifth year senior who team mates have nicknamed ‘Rock', has paid his dues to earn his spot. In the spring, after being bounced around from offensive guard, long snapper, and H-Back, offensive line coach John Stoutland came to him and asked him if he'd like a shot to play center. It was then that he would re-dedicate himself to becoming the player he has always wanted to be.

"I'm a little older," he said. "I'm mature, experienced, I'm 23. That is one of the main things coming in as a freshman, a young player, I was a little immature."

It would be his immaturity as a player that would be what kept him down on the depth chart, changing positions and without guidance throughout his career up to this point.

However, the shot to compete for a starting job in his final season in a wide open competition would be just the spark he needed.

"I wasn't as committed, and now as you get older and more mature, you realize what you want out of life and you start working real hard for it and that is the case with me," he said.

Rochford would play little on the offensive line over his career. During the spring he was a virtual unknown to the coaching staff, only being known as a long snapper. However, he had played plenty of guard in mop up duty and was a regular contributor during practice as a center. The staff would ask him if he'd like a chance at center.

When he got that opportunity, Miami saw a new John Rochford.

"I knew what I wanted after spring ball," he said. "I thought I had a real good shot and got an opportunity to play and worked hard during the summer and put a lot of extra time in."

Since the spring, Rochford has gained twenty pounds in lean muscle mass while also getting quicker.

"I can contribute that to Coach Swayze, who got me on a meal plan and helped me out with my diet. I was able to put weight on and put muscle on and get stronger."

Despite being named the starter, a goal he has spent the past four seasons out to accomplish, the story hasn't ended quite yet.

"I'm proud of what I accomplished but I am still not finished," he said. "I feel like I've made improvements everyday in my game with time and effort with technique and I think I can be a solid player in the middle."

Being named the starter, doesn't mean a chance in habits in preparation for Rochford.

"That is how I got to this spot, preparing like I was a first team guy. Knowing everything, knowing the defense knowing the fronts knowing the blitzes and that impresses coaches. Nothing is going to change in my preparation, if you are a second team guy, you have to prepare as a first team guy."

This Saturday, in facing Marshall, he will be going up against bigger defensive tackles in Byron Tinker (6-foot-4, 281 pounds), Montel Glasco (6-foot-3, 280 pounds), and Shane Moore (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) however, John knows he has what it takes to succeed against players bigger than he is.

"I can play low, I have good hands, and we have big defensive tackles that I've been playing against all summer so I've gotten great work and I'm very fortunate because when you got some of the best defensive linemen in the country so Coach Stoutland and I have worked on technique and I'm not too worried about a bigger, heavier guy. I just have to keep my feet moving and stay low and you can keep anyone blocked."

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