When Rocco Palazzo arrived, he might not have come off like a top-notch football player.
As a freshman, the Penn Charter High School senior wasn’t the biggest lineman on the field. And he’s quite reserved, so he wasn’t hootin’ and hollerin’ like some linemen like to do when they’re playing football.
All the 6-foot-3, 230-pound two-way lineman from Oxford Circle did was play his position. And he’s done it quite well.
“I’ve always been quiet, I’m sure some people didn’t know if I belonged there,” Palazzo said with a laugh. “I’ve always been quiet, it’s just my personality.
“And I’m never the biggest guy out there. I’m not small, I was a running back when I first started playing pound ball, but ever since I’ve always been a lineman. But at Penn Charter, I’m not the biggest. There are other guys who are a lot bigger. We have two guys who are 6 foot 4. I’m not that big, so I use technique. I’ve always been taught that the low man wins, so I always try to play with good technique. That usually helps me play well.”
Palazzo became a starter at offensive guard during his freshman year, and kept that job his entire career. But it’s what he did on the other side of the ball that got him noticed and eventually a chance to play beyond high school.
“I love offensive line, that was my position, but last year, it was really because we didn’t have enough guys, so they started playing me at defensive tackle,” said Palazzo, who will play next year at Dickinson College in Carlisle. “It was good because I got a lot of film last year. I didn’t get too much (film) this year so I’m glad I played as a junior. It really worked out well for me.
“Dickinson is great. When I got on campus, it just felt like a place I should be. I really felt like I belonged. I like everything about it. The coaches are great. And it’s only about two hours away, and that was really important to me. I wanted to go to a place where my family could come watch me play, so that’s perfect for that.”
Palazzo didn’t need a senior year to get noticed by the Red Devils, but he’s happy he had one. Due to coronavirus, it wasn’t your typical season, the Quakers played only two games and finished 1-1. But their final game was a victory over Germantown Academy, which is always the biggest game of the year for Penn Charter.
But for Palazzo, the best part was just being out there with his team for one final time.
“We had a really good senior class, there weren’t many of us, but we’ve worked hard from the time we got here as freshmen,” Palazzo said. “We kind of learned from the coaches how to work hard. I learned it playing pound ball, but I learned a lot here. I’ve really gotten a lot of help from the coaches here.
“Coach (Tom) Coyle has been great. I bonded with him ever since I started playing defense because he calls the defense. My brother (Christopher) played for him at Judge. He’s really one of the reasons I came here. My brother loved playing for him and my parents really liked him as a coach, so it’s worked out well. And I knew him a little bit because I played for the Little Quakers, so I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a great coach.”
Football has always been important to his family. Not only did Palazzo learn a lot from his older brother, but both his parents are huge football fans. Especially his mom.
“It’s funny, my mom is a big football fan, she loves it even more than my dad,” Palazzo said. “She’s the one who signed me up. They both love coming to my games, so I’m happy they’ll still be able to go. Football is really important to my family, we’ll have a lot of people out for the games, so I’m glad I’m going close.”
Just as the jump from youth ball to high school ball is a big one, Palazzo knows playing college football will be a challenge. It’s one he’s willing to tackle head on. And he’s going to give it his all, but at the same time be patient.
Ideally, he’ll be on the field when the season kicks off, but he’s more than willing to show he belongs.
“I know I’m going to have to prove myself and I have no problem with that at all,” Palazzo said. “It was like that at Penn Charter, too. I started as a freshman, but I definitely had to prove myself. And I know I’ll have to do that. Of course I want to play right away, but if I have to wait, I’ll just work hard at learning, getting stronger and see what happens.”
He’s also focused on the learning aspect of college.
“I am thinking about doing something in criminal justice or criminal law,” Palazzo said. “I wanted to do something interesting, something that I would enjoy every day. I was going to do something in sports medicine, but criminal justice, something in that field just seems like something I would like to do.”
But until he gets there, he’ll just work at being ready.
“I want to have a good rest of the year at Penn Charter,” said Palazzo, who throws the shot put on both the indoor and outdoor track teams. “I hope we get to have a track season, and I want to do well in school. I usually do. And I’m going to keep working out. It’s hard with gyms closing, but Penn Charter does a really good job of giving us a place to work out, so I’m sure I’ll be able to. I need to go in ready.”