Tahlequah Daily Press

August 26, 2013

Like a Rock

Northeastern State’s Joel Rockmore is out to build off of his solid 2012 campaign.

By BEN JOHNSON
Sports Editor

bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com



Postseason honors were revealed in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association last year, and Joel Rockmore was peeved.

The Fort Worth, Texas, native was nowhere to be found on the league’s First Team. No, he had to keep scanning until his name appeared with the rest of players on the Second Team.

“Nobody wants to be in second place, ya know?” Rockmore said. “That kind of upset me a little bit.”

Ahead of Rockmore was Missouri Western’s Michael Hill and Central Oklahoma’s Josh Birmingham. Hill was a no-brainer, finishing with 2,168 rushing yards — 963 more than the next closest rusher in the MIAA. Birmingham logged 1,073 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

Birmingham, though, maintained his reputation on being a pass-catcher and kick returner, too. Thus, his spot on the MIAA’s first team was established by the coaches.

In the grand scheme of things, postseason honors mean very little. But Rockmore said it still serves as an incentive to be even better in 2013.

“That’s definitely motivation,” said Rockmore, who amassed 1,024 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, despite missing the Missouri Southern game and being limited in the season-opening game against Pittsburg State last season.

“...I’m going to have to make up for it this year.”

NSU’s 2013 season is still a couple of weeks away, but Rockmore is already starting to get some recognition on the national level. He was selected as a Second Team preseason All-American by USA Football Network, Inc.

“Hontesly, it inspired me,” Rockmore said of the All-American nod. “When I first saw it, I got pretty excited, but then I came back down to earth and realized that it was just a projection. Now I have to prove it to them that I can become an All-American.”

Rockmore won’t be the capable tailback in NSU’s backfield this season. Once again, Terrence Dixon will team up with Rockmore to create perhaps the MIAA’s best one-two punch at running back.

“At the (MIAA) media day, I was talking to the Pitt State coach, and we were talking about Rockmore being a preseason All-American,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. “He said, ‘I really didn’t get to see Rockmore much, but I can’t believe he’s much better than Terrence.’ And he’s right.”

Dixon exploded out of the gate in 2012, rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns against the Gorillas in the opening week. He finished the season with 354 yards and five scores.

“They’re both going to be carrying a big load,” Evans said of his tailbacks. “It’s a great one-two punch.”

Despite putting up gaudy numbers a year ago, Rockmore spent the summer months trying to improve his all-around game. His main objective was to increase his speed in the open field.

“Mainly when it came to workouts, I worked on my explosion and my getaway speed,” Rockmore said. “That’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to work on.”

Another area he’s hoping to get better at: catching passes and creating plays in space.

“Especially with my size, I’d love to be more out in the slot,” Rockmore said. “Just want to help out in the receiving game.”

Rockmore may see flaws in his own game, but Evans said there’s no other running back he’d rather have.

“I wouldn’t trade Joel for any running back coming back in this conference,” Evans said. “...I’m just excited to see him come in and be ready to go.”