Rockville High School football coach Erick Knickerbocker couldn't wait to see the 2021 senior class play football. This was the first class he’d seen all the way through, Knickerbocker started with them their freshman year.
“You feel like they're your own kids,” said Knickerbocker. “I mean you feel like you've seen them grow I mean some of those kids were 100 pounds when I met them.”
That season never happened, canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, Knickerbocker wanted to do something special for the class that missed so much. The managed to keep one tradition: a senior night award ceremony. The graduating class getting a chance to wear their jerseys one more time, paint a rock at the school and get their end of season awards.
But Knickerbocker had one more surprise. The team’s motto is “Restore the Rock”. As a high school history teacher, Knickerbocker has leaned into the program’s history and helped his athletes build confidence from the success of the past. He channeled that into a newly renovated portion of their locker room. A small space decked out with plaques for 20 of the top players in Rockville history, including former NFL player Bill Romanowski and an unsuspecting graduating senior, Nas Knighton.
“It was a shock to me,” said Knighton, who will play football at Post University next year. “I wasn't ready for it. Almost got emotional.”
Players have to earn the right to use the separate locker room. Each week two players can be nominated by school faculty and staff; their success on the field is only part of it, if any. Inspired by a practice from the New York Giants, those two players will get to choose a jersey from one of those 20 Rockville alumni and wear it throughout the week’s preparation.
“We spent a long time thinking about who are the best 20 players to play at Rockville high school,” said Knickerbocker. “That was just the simple question we were trying to figure out. Top 20 players and Nas was always on that list.”