HPCA’s Brown signs with Mount Union

Apr. 24, 2013 @ 10:02 PM

Growing up in Pennsylvania, Rockill Brown was heading down the wrong path. He was living in a rough area outside Philadelphia, getting in fights and moving closer to the perilous life many of the people closest to him knew all too well.

But a series of difficult choices and hard work put him on a new path — one that led him to his adoptive family in North Carolina, a stellar career as a student-athlete at High Point Christian and a commitment to NCAA Division III powerhouse University of Mount Union.

“It’s very surreal,” says Brown, a three-year football standout for the Cougars. “I come from a very bad area — I’m from Pennsylvania, I’ve lived in Philadelphia, I was born and raised in Lancaster. I’ve had two very close cousins killed. My father was killed.

“So, it’s surreal. If you’d have asked me maybe four or five years ago where I’d be, I wouldn’t say I’d be getting ready to play college football. So, I’m just really excited, and at this point the sky’s the limit. I’ll be getting what I’ve worked for.”

He began playing football in the seventh grade at the suggestion of his mother as a way to control his aggression. At first he hated it. The conditioning, the work — it was all too much. But into high school, things changed and he saw a difference.

“Around my ninth-grade year, I really started to invest in it and invest in myself,” says Brown, the son of Danitsha Cuff and Thomas Brown. “Then, I started to actually appreciate the game.

“A lot of people say that football builds character. I believe that football shows character. Everyone has character, and football’s going to challenge you in so many ways that you have to show your character.”

Before his sophomore year, his mother made the difficult decision to give him up for adoption. The family of Sid and Debbie Grant of High Point adopted him, and he continued going to school and playing football at High Point Christian.

“My mother is one of my biggest inspirations,” he says. “She had me at a young age, 16 years old, and she really couldn’t provide for me. So, when she saw me going down the wrong path, she said, ‘We need to get you into a different environment.’ 

“I would think that, as a mother, the hardest thing to do is separate from your child. And she swallowed her pride and put me in a better place, which is here. So, it’s that people have invested in me, and I’ve learned from that and used it.”

With the Cougars, who this year reached the playoffs for the first time in just their third varsity year, he achieved an impressive number of accomplishments while mainly playing defensive tackle but also contributing at linebacker and offensive tackle.

“Rock and I have a special relationship,” Cougars coach Steve Lechner says. “There are a lot of similarities, as far as background. To watch him overcome quite a bit of adversity in his life is really a joy and a blessing.

“On the field, he produced at a very high level. He’s the most decorated player in the short history of our program — the first to make the Shrine Bowl, first all-state player. … He plays with passion, fire. Football’s an intense game, and Rock left that impression with us.”

Brown narrowed his top college choices to also include UNC Pembroke, Western Carolina and Campbell. But it was Mount Union — which won the 2012 Division III national championship for its 11th national title since 1993 — that struck a chord with him.

“When I went to visit, I met the coaches and the players and viewed the campus, and it just felt like it was perfect for me,” says Brown, who wants to study criminal justice. “People say you get that feeling. I had that feeling, that this was the place. ...

“It’s probably one of the sweetest moments of my life. There’s no feeling greater than knowing you’ve accomplished something. So, I’m really ecstatic knowing that I have accomplished something. That’s a great feeling for me.”