Rockville High School football coach Erick Knickerbocker was eager to see the 2021 senior class play football. It was the first class he had seen since the start, Knickerbocker had started their first year with them.
“You feel like they’re your own children,” Knickerbocker said. “I mean you feel like you watched them grow up, I mean some of those kids weighed 100 pounds when I met them.”
This season never took place, canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, Knickerbocker wanted to do something special for the class that was so missing. They managed to keep a tradition: an award ceremony for seniors. The graduating class has the chance to wear their jersey once again, paint a rock at school, and get their end of season prize.
But Knickerbocker had another surprise. The team’s motto is “Restore the Rock”. As a high school history teacher, Knickerbocker delved into the history of the program and helped its athletes build their confidence through past successes. He channeled this into a newly renovated part of their locker room. A small space adorned with plaques for 20 of the best players in Rockville history, including former NFL player Bill Romanowski and unsuspecting graduate Nas Knighton.
“It was a shock to me,” said Knighton, who will play football at Post University next year. “I wasn’t ready for this. Almost got emotional.
Players must earn the right to use the separate dressing room. Each week, two players can be nominated by faculty and school staff; their success on the ground is only part of it, if at all. Inspired by a New York Giants training, these two players will be able to choose a jersey from one of these 20 Rockville alumni and wear it throughout the preparation of the week.
“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who are the top 20 players to play at Rockville High School,” Knickerbocker said. “It was just the simple question that we were trying to figure out. Top 20 players and Nas was always on that list.