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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Bears quarterback states his case in the Lone Star state
by Randy Pascal

Quarterback Adam Rocha is prepared to give himself every opportunity to enjoy some success at his current position of choice, both locally and beyond.

Now, he just needs others to have that same belief in his abilities.

The case he can make took a healthy step forward, recently, when the 16 year old 6’4” 213 pound St Benedict Catholic Secondary School senior was selected to Team Ontario, the only one of five locals who attended tryouts to crack the final roster.

Organized under the banner of the Ontario Football Alliance, the U17 team will travel, once again this year, to Texas in early January, culminating a week of football activities by competing in the International Bowl at A T & T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

With no less than seven current OUA football coaches on staff, the squad has opened doors for several talented teens in years gone by, including Sudbury lineman Austin Hill. For Rocha, the recent progression has been notably steep, especially for a young man who did not even pick up the sport until a little over two years ago.

“I had no football until grade nine, and then I started out as a linebacker,” said the grade 11 pivot recently. “I always wanted to try quarterback, but I didn’t really think I could. The first time I started (at QB) was summer of grade ten, and that was with the Sudbury (Jr) Gladiators.”

An avid hockey player in his youth, Rocha’s first signal of potential came in the summer between grades nine and ten, attending a Super Elite Football Camp in Sudbury. “Going into that one, I never actually thought I would be any good at football,” he admitted. “But one of the coaches told me that I had a chance, with my size, my arm, that I might be able to do something.”

“After he said that, I thought I should actually go for it.” More than anything else, it is perhaps the depth of the commitment to giving himself a shot that is most striking about Rocha’s gridiron journey. He holds absolutely no illusions, understanding that he is something of an extremely unpolished diamond in the rough, but one who is willing to put in countless hours to refine the raw product.

“I had really, really sloppy feet when I started playing quarterback,” he said. “It’s still not the greatest, but it’s improved a lot. Then I started throwing every day. Mentally, I was always a pretty smart athlete. I was never the most athletic guy, but I watched a lot of football, I started u-tubing videos. I learned how to read defenses, my football IQ got a lot better.”

Through his time with the Bears, Rocha has constantly tapped into the wealth of knowledge that is St Benedict football coach Junior Labrosse, even dealing with the constructive criticism in trying to better his footwork.

“I don’t really know how to put it into words, but having good feet is how smooth your feet are when you run,” said Rocha. “Coach Labrosse always said I run like a Clydesdale. I always ran hard on my feet, heel to toe a lot. Running smooth is more toes. Doing ladder footwork got me a lot smoother.”

“My three step drop was not good at all, kind of like shuffling,” he continued. “Then you kind of learn to cross your feet over without tripping, which is what you’re supposed to do. It took a lot of practice.”

To his credit, Labrosse would recognize that in terms of quarterback development, there was at least one more excellent option, locally, for his enthusiastic prospect. “He encouraged me to play summer ball for coach (Reg) Bonin,” recalled Rocha. “If not for the Glads season, I would not have made Team Ontario.”

“I don’t think there is just one thing with coach Bonin, it’s every little thing. There’s so many things that he teaches you, and I just wanted to grasp it all. I kind of felt bad for him at a point, because I would be asking questions all practice long. I wanted to know it all. I owe him a lot.”

In fact, it would be fair to say that the product of a very active athletic family – Rocha has an older brother who played as a “AAA” goaltender and two very busy younger sisters – leaves very few stones unturned when looking at methods for improvement.

“Part of working on my footwork was recording myself on video, tweaking stuff,” he said. “There’s actually a video of Drew Brees throwing in slow motion. I use that, try and mirror myself to these guys, try and make myself that much better. You’re always trying to find stuff you can improve on.”

It would all come together last month in Stoney Creek, with Rocha and a fellow quarterback from Ottawa selected from a pool of eight candidates for the pivotal position with Team Ontario. “The first half (of the tryouts), I didn’t feel too good about myself, but I felt that I still had a shot,” he said.

“There was a time in the afternoon tryout when I had a feeling I was not ranked in the top two. I made a deal with myself that I had to do more than the others who were still there. When they were throwing, I was watching, seeing who was open. I knew the defenses were only running one or two coverages.”

“Whenever they were up, I was paying attention, knowing what I was going to do before I went in.” As with almost every team on which he has competed to date, Rocha felt strongly that he had more to prove if he was to emerge as a top option. “I was always the underdog going in,” he said.

And as he readies himself for a chance to compete with some of the very best this province has to offer, the end goal is definitely similar. “I want to go down and show them that it doesn’t matter where you come from, that Sudbury can still produce good athletes.”

Even at quarterback.

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