Thursday, February 22, 2007


Pictured above: The Rocholl family visits with Jon at the Harvard game, 2006

When I was a student, I was only curious about Columbia sports from the perspectives of the actual Columbia athlete. But now that I'm older, and a parent myself, the thoughts of the athletes' parents are beginning to enthrall me.

To that end, I present below a short interview with the parents of Columbia Kicker/Punter Jon Rocholl. Rocholl is finishing up his sophomore year at Columbia and has already impressed many Lion fans with his long field goals and excellent punting. He's been about as consistent as you can expect a young player to be in his position, and he capped off an up-and-down final game of 2006 with a clutch 27-yard FG to seal a 22-21 win over Brown.

His parents, Sue and Rocky, were kind enough to send this blog some of their Baker Field photos earlier this year and I took a shot at asking them for an interview. They agreed and even answered my questions very quickly. I'd like to thank them very much for their cooperation and I hope CU fans, players and everyone else finds this short Q &A informative:

JAKE: How involved were you in Jon's recruitment process? Did you take the lead or were you in more of an advisory role?

SUE & ROCKY: We were very involved in helping with the recruitment process, as were Jon's high school coaches. Initially, we took the lead, in encouraging him to contact schools and attend their kicking camps. Snider HS athletic department provided information on procedures, and gave Jon guidance. When decision day was approaching, we gave Jon the freedom to choose whichever school he felt fit him the best.

J: Obviously they did something right because Jon chose Columbia, but what was your impression of the way you and Jon were treated by the Columbia recruiters? Was there anything that gave you pause or rubbed you the wrong way?

S & R: We felt they did a great job of recruiting. The recruiter, (John DeFilippo), was very informative, positive and affirming. The head coach came to our home, which impressed us. Unfortunately, (DeFilippo, whom Jon had built a relationship with), was no longer a coach by the time Jon arrived at school.

J: We've read that Jon received a scholarship offer to play at Ball State. How hard was it for you to approve his decision to go to a very expensive school like Columbia instead?

S & R: The financial decision was a difficult one. Ball State would have been free, with very small traveling expenses for our family. So, going to Columbia became a family decision. We all had to decide if we were willing to make the sacrifices to participate in Jon's college life. It is a burden for our family for him to be there. We spend hundreds of hours and dollars driving to and from NYC. But, we are willing to do this because we believe in Jon and his abilities.

J: Had anybody in your family been to New York City before? What were your impressions of the city and did the school's location concern you?

S & R: None of us had been to NYC before the recruiting trip that Jon and I (mom) took in January of 2005. We enjoyed the city, although it is very different from Fort Wayne or Omaha, where we've lived. NYC is a very busy, noisy place and yet has so much to offer.

The inconvenience of the distance was the only major concern we had about NYC.

J: Now that you've seen more of the city after two years, have your impressions changed?

S & R: Well, the distance hasn't changed! But, we have enjoyed the adventure of experiencing NYC. We've learned ways to keep it affordable and safe.

J: Did you have any reservations about Jon starting as a freshman in 2005 at the same time as he was trying to adjust to college work?

S & R: No, from his past history, we knew that he was more disciplined while in season, then when out of season, without as much structure. Of course, we also knew that college football was going to be taxing and time consuming.

J: Speaking of the work. What have been Jon's academic interests at Columbia and his non-football interests for after graduation? Does he have a preferred career?

S& R: He has many and varied interests. (He 's even enjoyed his Art Humanities class much more than we ever thought he would!) However, he is having a difficult time pinpointing a career.

J: As parents, what has been the most positive and negative things you've experienced in connection to Columbia football and Columbia overall?

S& R: Positives: the chance for Jon to be competitive on the team from the first day of practice, the chance to play as both a punter and a kicker, the relationships he's made with coaches & teammates, and the independence and maturity he's gained. Negatives: that athletics in general, and football in particular, are not an esteemed part of college life, the school doesn't seem very parent friendly, and the co-ed floors & suites have given us some concern.

(Credit: Columbia University Athletics)

J: I see that a lot of visitors to my Columbia blog are coming from Jon's facebook page. In case you didn't know, he has a gazillion friends on that page from all around the country. Coach Wilson has described Jon as a very funny guy. This is all a long way to ask whether you think Jon is doing well socially at Columbia and whether he was like that in high school too. My memory of the athletes when I was at CU (1988-1992), was they were very introverted and not too outgoing socially.

S & R: We think Jon is doing well socially, as the football guys are family. Unfortunately, the (rest of the campus world) is not as open to friendships with athletes. Jon is an extrovert, always has been, and is the most easy-going, fun loving guy around. Probably one reason he stays in on-line contact with so many is that it has been difficult to connect with a lot of like-minded friends on campus.

J: Has Jon ever felt uncomfortable at Columbia because of non-athlete students or professors treating him poorly simply because he is an athlete? Or has he been treated better than expected?

S& R: Jon has been uncomfortable at times. There seems to be a perception that athletes didn't have to meet all the same requirements that non-athletes must meet, to enter Columbia. Which is NOT true! Some profs are very understanding of the demands that athletes face. Others, which probably don't get personally involved with the students any way, don't seem to care. Jon hasn't been treated better than expected.

J: Jon seems like he could be a legitimate NFL prospect at kicker/punter. Is this something you've considered, or is that something that isn't on the agenda right now?

S & R: We would all like to think that the NFL is an option for Jon. We are not naively banking on him being chosen to play. Jon has not had enough interaction with those who truly know what it would take to be in that position. Until that day comes, who knows?!

J: What advice would you have for parents of prospective freshmen or the parents of kids who have just agreed to come to Columbia?

S & R: Enjoy the opportunity that has been given to your child!

Make sure that the student is going because that's what THEY want to do. Ask the question, "Would I want to go to school there even if football for some reason doesn't work out?"

Going to CU is an honor that does come with challenges and costs.

We would encourage you to support the student with your love and prayers.


At Thu Feb 22, 05:04:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Domer '72 said...

Interesting take on the athlete/non-athlete issue. I would bet it is similar at all the Ivies. I would echo the point on being supportive. It is critical for the first 2 years. It's a tough transition from HS to College and FB is very demanding.

I'm jealous the Rocholls could drive to NYC for Columbia games. I just spent 4 years of flying into Newark or Philly and then renting a car to get to (and around) Princeton. A Columbia note: Wade Fletcher ruined one of my trips.

At Thu Feb 22, 09:13:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No pictures????

At Sun Feb 25, 01:24:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great piece! Hope to see some more. PS, still bummed about men's basketball being unable to play up to potential. Terrible pattern of falling way behind and then mounting furious rallies which fall just short.

At Mon May 21, 11:28:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Ryan said...

It's disappointing to hear that people still treat athletes so poorly at Columbia. These people need to get their heads out of their asses and support these young men and women .

At Mon May 21, 11:35:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...


These things ebb and flow. Athletes were not treated too badly in the late 80's/early 90's when I was at CU but now it appears more students are complaining about "favoritism." Actually, I think that's a sign of good things... the athletes are no longer being ignored and that means they're making an impact on campus life. Notice, no one is complaining about the athletes behaving badly.


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