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East Texan Rockwell hoping for a career in pro football

By Jack Stallard
Dec. 8, 2011 at 10 p.m.

Steven Rockwell knows all about second chances and how to make the most of them. When the former Ore city High School standout says he can succeed at the professional level despite having played at a small high school and a Division III college, his background backs up his claims.

"I would love to play in the NFL or Canadian Football League ... anywhere the Lord blesses me with a chance to play," said Rockwell, who was recently named to the All-South Region's third team and was also selected to play in the Division III Senior Football Classic.

"I just want someone to give me a chance to play at the next level and see what happens."

Rockwell, a senior running back at Hardin-Simmons University, will play his final college game tonight in a 6 p.m. contest in Salem, Va. The game will give Rockwell a chance to show what he can do in a televised game (Fox college Sports) and in front of any available scouts.

"This is a big honor for Rock," Hardin-Simmons head coach Jesse Burleson said on the school's website. "He has worked really hard and has had a great career for us. We are proud of his accomplishments."

That Rockwell is still playing football and talking about moving on to the highest level is a miracle in itself.

Rockwell was a football and basketball standout at Ore City, and was an honorable mention All-East Texas selection by the Longview News-Journal in football as a senior in 2006. He size (6-0, 215) and speed caught the attention of several colleges - SMU, TCU, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe most notably - but a devastating knee injury nearly cost him his football career and his leg.

Rockwell tore the anterior cruciate ligament during a basketball game during his senior season, and had the first of five surgeries on the knee in March of 2007. He had two more surgeries on the knee in April due to a staff infection that developed in the knee, and another staph infection forced two more operations in September of that year.

After finally fighting off the infection, the big-time offers to play college football were gone but Hardin-Simmons and then head coach Jimmie Keeling gave Rockwell an opportunity to play at the Abilene school.

Rockwell carried 63 times for 440 yards and four touchdowns for the Cowboys as a freshman in 2008, including a 178-yard, three-touchdown game against Howard Payne.

He finished with 711 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore, but had just 304 yards and four scores after battling injuries during his junior campaign.

Rockwell opened his senior season by rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown, and finished the year with 186 carries for 1,076 yards and 18 touchdowns. In his final five games, he had 152 yards and four scores against Howard Payne, 169 yards and three touchdowns against Sul Ross, 81 yards and a touchdown against Texas Lutheran, 134 yards and a touchdown against McMurry and 32 carries for 166 yards and four touchdown in the season finale against Louisiana College.

Playing in the bowl game gives Rockwell a chance to impress possible future employers, but it's also an opportunity to give back to the school that took a chance on him.

"I feel blessed to have come as far as I have and to be able to end my college career in a bowl game. It's a pretty special way to end my career, especially when you consider what I had to overcome," he said. "It also makes me feel good to have the opportunity to represent Hardin-Simmons one last time in my college career."

(Follow Jack Stallard on Twitter: @lnjsports).



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