“I was trying to lose some weight,” he said. “That’s a true statement.”
The McEachern junior defensive end was already 5 feet tall when he was in second grade, so his position on the defensive front was a no-brainer. At first, however, he wasn’t really enjoying his new sport, nor the position he was playing.
But Rochester didn’t quit. By the time he suited up for his first game, he realized he was much bigger than the opposing linemen, and he could use that to his advantage.
“That’s when I really started performing well and really started liking (football),” said Rochester, now 6-5 and 284 pounds, and a member of the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal Dynamite Dozen.
Rochester’s steady growth has been ongoing since elementary school. Rochester was already 5-8 going into his sixth grade, then caught up to his 6-foot mother going into his seventh.
He may still grow another couple of inches.
Rochester doesn’t have to worry so much about trimming fat now. He conditions and works out five days a week, can bench-press 310 pounds and squat 390.
Last season, as a defensive tackle, Rochester recorded 104 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in helping McEachern to an 11-3 record and an appearance in the Class AAAAAA state semifinals.
Those numbers have helped Rochester generate offers from some 16 schools, according to 247 Sports, with most of the offers coming from the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences.
After last year’s trip to the state semifinals, Rochester is confident that McEachern will be strong enough to either win, or at least play for, a state championship this fall.
“I believe we can win state this year,” he said. “That’s been the first thing on my mind. Having an explosive offense, and defensive-wise, I think we are better than we were last year. That’s what I really believe.”
McEachern’s has been known for its aggressive defensive lines, and the trend is expecting to continue through this season. With Henry Famurewa and McKenzie Billingslea having graduated from the defensive end positions, Rochester is going to see time at both the end and at defensive tackle.
Wherever Rochester ends up will depend greatly on McEachern’s own depth, and that of the teams it faces.
Rochester will be on the line with Fitz Weaver, a converted linebacker, and Josh Ohanu.
“We’re moving him around to make it harder for teams to hone in on him,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “He’s very agile, athletic and has great balance. A lot of tall guys tend to lose their balance, but he has good balance, good speed and some big mitts.”