On the first day of preseason camp, Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco was asked to describe who he was away from football, the down-at-the-shore Michael Rocco. His answer had a single theme.
"I consider myself a family man," Rocco said. "I love my family. I love being around my family."
Rocco's answer went on like this for a few minutes. But ultimately in talking about family, it all came back to football. After all, Rocco is a member of Virginia's first family of the gridiron -- by way of Penn State.
His grandfather Frank Rocco was a player and assistant coach in State College. Frank's three sons played for the Nittany Lions and now coach in Virginia. Michael's father, Frank, is coach and athletic director at Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg. His uncle Dave is coach at the Covenant School in Charlottesville. His uncle Danny is the first-year coach at Richmond, which makes his debut an interesting one Saturday at Virginia.
"I have great respect for what he's done and am very, very proud of him," Danny Rocco said of his nephew. "Having said that, when I watch the film, I just see No. 16. I don't attach any additional emotion or value to that."
With his brothers coaching high school football, Danny Rocco has been able to provide Michael unique insight into the college game. Danny was an assistant for 21 years at FBS schools before taking over at Liberty University in 2006, where one of the players he tried to recruit was his gifted nephew.
"My uncle was one of the big helpers getting me to pursue Division I football at the highest level," Michael Rocco said. "He encouraged me to play where I felt I could."
So even as a lightly recruited prospect, Michael chose Virginia and emerged last year as a sophomore.
In the next two weeks, the Roccos will be doing up family like never before. After Michael guides Virginia against Richmond, Penn State comes to Charlottesville.
"As a young boy I idolized Penn State football," Michael Rocco said of the team his father quarterbacked. "But ever since I came to U.Va., I bleed orange and blue."
In the case of the Roccos, family and football are the lifeblood, intertwined and inseparable.
- Kevin Dunleavy