BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
When Rocco Spindler, a three-year starter for the Clarkston Varsity Football team, narrowed down his top five colleges choices to one, he picked the best fit for him and went on a promise he made a year ago.
“I made you a promise and I am going to fulfill that promise,” Rocco said. “With that being said, I will be continuing my academic and athletic career for the next four years at the University of Notre Dame.”
The promise was made to his grandfather, George Spindler, before he passed away last year.
“He only had three days left. He was a huge Notre Dame fan,” Rocco shared. “I hadn’t come to the decision yet. I told him just so he could go with peace of knowing before he passed away. I said, ‘hey, Grandpa, I am going to Notre Dame.’ He was so happy. I was like, ‘You can’t tell anyone.’ He didn’t.”
Rocco added at the time he didn’t know where he was going. It wasn’t until two weeks ago he knew where he wanted to go.
Rocco noted ever since he was a child his grandpa would tell him the pros of going to Notre Dame, why it was so special and why it was so prestige.
“When the recruiting process started, I saw why Notre Dame was so special,” he shared. “I really want to go to Notre Dame and I fulfilled that promise.”
Rocco shared his choice with a handful of family, friends, teammates and coaches at Clarkston High School on Saturday evening narrowing it down from Notre Dame, Lousiania State University, Ohio State University, Penn State University and University of Michigan.
His parents, Rochelle and Marc, and sisters, Dominique and Isabella celebrated on the Wolves’ field with him while friends and family cheered in the stands.
“It’s exciting in the sense this process is over,” said Marc. “He couldn’t make a bad mistake and to be able understand that now we can focus on if there is going to be a high school season, getting ready and then become a great student-athlete at Notre Dame is why the excitement is there. A lot of unfortunate circumstances going on right now. It interrupted some of the process, but my son is smart enough to know that life is bigger than football, life is bigger than athletics so he respected that process through and through.”
Rocco added people have asked him why didn’t he commit sooner
“It was a very tough decision with all the opportunities all the schools offered,” he said. “It was splitting hairs. I was thankful for every opportunity they offered and gave me, the university and the teams. I was just truly blessed. I just had to sort out the pros and cons of each team.”
There were a lot of pros for Rocco to attend Notre Dame including winning a national championship on the football field and winning in the classroom.
“The business school, I believe, is one of the best,” he shared. “I believe they can develop amazing, talented guys. I believe they are the NFL offensive line factory. The relationships I have with those coaches will go with me for the rest of my life.”
He admitted it was tough to say no to Michigan.
“It was heartbreaking,” Rocco said. “Everything I said, everything they said was sincere. It was a very close decision. When I say it was splitting hairs, it was not easy. That’s why it took so long. I told them this afternoon. It came down right to the wire. Michigan was always a great university. They always spoke well of other teams. They are a great team, great coaching staff. Nothing really changed my decision. In my heart Notre Dame was the best choice for me.”
As for not joining fellow teammate Garrett Dellinger at LSU, Rocco said it just wasn’t for him.
“Garrett had his decision and what he wanted and I had mine,” Rocco said. “We would love to team up from flag football to Chiefs to now in high school. But I am going to do what’s best for me and he is going to do what’s best for him.”
He said thank you to all the coaches and teams who recruited him.
“Thank you so much for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to play for your team and go to your university,” he shared. “The relationships I made over the last four years are something I will take with me forever. It was an amazing process to go through. I wish nothing but the best for you and your team.”
Rocco thanked everyone for being there with his family as he announced his choice.
“I am truly blessed and humbled to be in the position I am in today,” he said. “A lot of dedication, blood, sweat and tears went into this journey. I would like to begin by thanking our athletic director Mr. (Jeff) Kosin for helping me put this night together. Due to circumstances, I truly thought this day would never happen.”
Next he gave a shout out to the Clarkston community and support from every one.
“The support you have given me over the last four years has been surreal. Without you coming to countless games, rain or shine, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today. I can not thank you enough. I will always remember this is my home and as long as I live I will always be a Clarkston Wolf,” he said. “I would like to thank all of my teachers, past and present. From coming in early, staying late helping me with certain assignments as well as teaching me the importance of excelling off the field.”
To his teammates, from flag football to Clarkston Chiefs to now, he said, “without each of you pushing me past my limits, teaching me integrity and getting past adversity during difficult times, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.”
He added, “I would especially like to thank Coach (Kurt) Richardson for giving me the opportunity my freshman year to play on varsity and believing me enough to be a team captain. The life lessons you have taught me go beyond football. I will use them for the rest of my life. Thanks coach.”
He saved family for last.
“To my three beautiful sisters, Gabriella, who couldn’t be here tonight, Dominique and Isabella, I love each and every one of you so much. You have achieved so much in your lives already. You have truly made the shoes too big to fill. But I am willing to fill those shoes day in and day out.
“Dad, in life you have taught each of us the importance of dedicating ourselves. You have given me the knowledge and the tools to be a great football player, but most importantly to be a better man. You inspire me with your passion, your work ethic and your determination to succeed. If I can only be as half as good as you one day, I will know that I made it.
“For my mom, my biggest fan and my number one supporter, I love you. I always think you are the glue to this family. You picked me up from school, you packed my lunches, drove me to endless practices, even screamed like a mad woman at my games, took care of my bruises after, and always let me know you are supporting your little boy no matter what. Without your love and your guidance I wouldn’t be who I am today. I cannot thank you and dad enough.
“For someone who couldn’t be here today, my grandfather. Grandpa, I know you are watching over me every step of the way. I truly miss you so much.”
For Rocco’s senior season with the Wolves, he hopes there is a fall season.
“I want to be with my team,” he said. “I want to win another state championship. I want to win the Michigan High School Football Anvil award. I want to be another All-Stater. I want to be another All-American. There are a lot of things I need to do in order to get those things. They aren’t given.”
He added though the boys haven’t been able to lift, Coach Richardson has been getting the team back in shape with lots of conditioning.
“We are just getting back to where we were,” Rocco said. “The guys I am seeing I am seeing a state championship team.”
The Michigan High School Athletic Association will decide and release more information about competitions in the fall season the week of Aug. 20.