Players of the Pine Belt: West Marion senior safety Eli Rockco

Published: Jul. 22, 2023 at 11:34 PM CDT
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FOXWORTH, Miss. (WDAM) - First-time head coach Mason Woodrow takes the reins of West Marion football this season.

He knows from learning under coaches Mitch Evans and Chip Bilderback that the most successful programs are player-led.

So, Woodrow will be looking to seniors like Eli Rockco to help lead the Trojans.

“I pull up at 7:15 [a.m.], he’s sitting here in his truck,” Woodrow said. “First kid here every day.”

“Set a standard from day one when coach Woodrow showed up that we were going to put forth our best effort every day and get everything we can get out of this year,” Rockco said.

Rockco has more perspective than most high school seniors.

After tearing his ACL in week three of last season, Rockco realized how quickly something you love can be taken away.

He’s highly motivated and the other guys see it.

“It’s a responsibility but I learned last year that every day could be your last chance at playing,” Rockco said. “That you’ve really got to come out there every day and put forth everything you’ve got.”

“First day when I got here, I think he was only four months or so off ACL surgery and he was all in, working as hard as anybody,” Woodrow said. “More than anything, you need positivity and a guy if things aren’t going well to step up and kind of stabilize the ship for us. And he does that.”

Rockco’s one of just three seniors on a team with limited numbers.

His ability to play free safety and wide receiver goes a long way.

“I’m just doing what I’m asked to do,” Rockco said. “I love both positions. Honestly my heart probably is at free safety but I love getting the ball, too.”

Rockco embodies what West Marion football’s always been about – making no excuses and embracing the grind.

All things that align with Woodrow’s vision for the Trojans.

“We’ve never been the biggest team, never have been,” Rockco said. “We’ve always had to go into every game and just battle it out. We’ve always had to be a little scrappy.”

“Football’s important in Marion County,” Woodrow said. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here because I knew from coaching against them how tough these kids were and how much they cared about football. Really, if nothing else, we want to go a step further than we’ve ever been here.”

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