Spartans Thrive With Their Own Piece of the Rock

Hondo S. Carpenter

Spartans Thrive With Their Own Piece of the Rock

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As you look at the Spartan rushing attack gaining national attention you certainly have to give Javon Ringer the respect he deserves. The Spartan Nation knew coming into the season that the right side of the line was anchored by two true returning stars in Roland Martin and Jesse Miller.

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Well, all three of those young men are stars, but if you watch closely, the Spartans are having success running as much on the left as the right and one of the big reasons is the emergence of LT Rocco “Rock” Cironi. Rock, as a freshman, made the all Big Ten Freshman team, but struggled last season and only appeared in three games.

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Those struggles are behind him and in 2008 The Rock is dominating. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Spartan 2008 opponents, and by the way you may have to offer them a hand…up. Rock is leaving opponents laying on the ground and wondering what in the world just hit them?Â

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Cironi isn’t one to tell you how good he is or to even show off. He has a humility that is refreshing, but if you want to know ask Javon Ringer about him. “He is a great left tackle. The best compliment a back can give a lineman is that he trusts him. I know I can hit a hole full speed because Rocco will take care of his business.” Think Ringer is the only one who feels that way? “I can tell you as a QB that left tackle is like your best friend. Rocco has played great. I can’t think of anyone in the Big Ten who is playing better,” was how MSU QB Brian Hoyer described the monster left tackle.

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Hearing Ringer and Hoyer praise him is nice, but what does his head coach think? “I think Rocco, for sure, has had a great season and he is only going to get better. He has great pride and that really speaks to his family in how he was raised and I look forward to seeing how good he can get,” was Coach Dantonio’s assessment of his QB’s bodyguard. He elaborated with, “He worked hard last season on technique and how we wanted things and he really stepped up and responded.”

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I recently congratulated Cironi on his play. Here was the exchange.Â

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HondoHey Rock, great play today. You looked fantastic.

RockReally? Thanks!

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I was going to interview him, but I had to just walk away. I didn’t want him to see me laugh. I wasn’t laughing at him, I was laughing at how refreshing his attitude is. Coach Dan Roushar told me, “Rocco has all the tools. What makes it nice is that he wants to be good. He wants to pay the price and that makes a guy special.”

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I admit that I am guilty at practice spending more time with the line than others. I understand the big uglies, and that in this scheme; they are the legs and bodies that drive the Spartan Nation. Some guys you look at and you want to politely smack to pay attention. Rock isn’t one of them. He is intense and most of all he has a quality that makes players special. Coach Roushar called for another player to step up and even though he had just taken multiple reps, he jumped in for more. Roushar looked at me, and the rest of his OL and said, “That’s what I am talking about Rocco.”Â

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As several young Spartans looked on he sent a statement. You want my spot? You think you can play on this line? Are you ready to work? Rock may not have been elected captain, but make no mistake he is a leader. He leads by example.

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How many times have we seen players that talk and don’t walk? That is not Cironi. I hate to kill you with practice stories, but I think practice tells you a lot about a young man and how far he will go.

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During fall camp when players are tired and exhausted from long two a day practices and film and play book study Rock was working his reps. Now you need to understand that there are managers standing all around waiting at the beck and call of the players to meet whatever need they have.

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Roushar called for a ball and the managers were all filling water bottles or working with other groups. Almost instantly Rock took off and ran and got a ball. Not a big deal you say? He didn’t have to run and do it. He did it because he has character. He did it because he has a passion for the game.

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You can’t teach what Cironi has. You can’t teach character. By the time they get to MSU that is up to their parents. That is part of a young man’s environment. MSU is blessed to have a great group of character kids. He may not play the position that gets all the accolades, but he is a big part of it.

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Last Saturday Rock stood silently behind Javon Ringer. Ringer wanted people to give “his guys” the credit for his success. Rock is one of the reasons that Javon is having that success. There he was, standing behind his star tailback content to let him get the glory.Â

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You know about the Ringers and the Wileys and you should. They deserve it along with many others. Just remember the Cironis. He will one day walk across a stage at MSU with a degree in Human Resources, but he already has gotten something from his parents and the folks in Warren, Ohio. He has the character that insures whether or not he plays in the NFL, he is a wonderful young man. He is a kid of character. He loves being a Spartan and most of all he is a great role model of what it means to be one.

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Rock has something a lot of people don’t, something that his 6’6” and 310 pound frame doesn’t make: he is a man. He is… a Spartan.

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 Just don’t ask his opponents what he is. Folks don’t always have kind words for somebody that just manhandled them. I would just ask them to get to know him off the field. The Rock, on the field, will run you over and look for his next victim. He has done a great job of getting to the second and third block. Off the field, he may just give you that boyish grin that reminds you he is only a kid, and that he probably has a water balloon behind his back. For sure he is a bruiser on the field, but a gentle giant off the field. One need only see him give a humble glance that almost says, “Are you asking me?” when he is asked for an autograph by a kid.

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Yes Rocco, they are asking you. Yes Rocco, you may not seek the limelight, but it finds those that don’t seek it. It’s shining on you. You have a team full of great kids, and you belong in that conversation. You also, are a great kid even if you’re too humble to think it.

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That’s refreshing. That is why you can’t help but imagine the pride this young man has given his family and loved ones. We, in the Spartan Nation, are already gaining it. They know it.

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