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College football: Virginia, Richmond set for a Rocco reunion

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

It’s not unique for Danny Rocco to call his nephew, Michael, to discuss things they have in common.

Danny Rocco has nearly 30 years of experience coaching college football. So as Virginia’s starting quarterback, Michael often leans on him for advice.

But their Aug. 22 conversation was a bit different.

They had the usual small talk about their family and the Pittsburgh Pirates. When it came to football, though, the discussion was limited.

That’s because Danny Rocco is in his first season as the head coach at Richmond, Virginia’s opponent in the season opener today at Scott Stadium.

“It’s going to be a great weekend for my family,” Michael said. “It’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be competitive. It always is, in the Rocco family.”

Virginia head coach Mike London told his junior quarterback to “let your talking be through your play” this week.

Still, London said he has no qualms about allowing Michael to communicate with his uncle before opening kickoff because “it’s human nature.”

“All of us know he’s going to try to do the best job he can for us to win a game,” London said. “Then after the game, I’m quite sure the families will meet. I haven’t banned him from talking to his uncle. I don’t think he’ll give away any secrets.”

Danny Rocco said he’s looking forward to coaching against his nephew. He said he has “great respect” for the way Michael played last season, his first year as a starter.

Michael leaned on Danny Rocco’s insight during the offseason as he found himself involved in a battle for the starting quarterback job with sophomores Phillip Sims and David Watford.

London announced on Monday that Michael held on to his position, and will get the opportunity to square off against Richmond’s defense, which expects to be well-versed on the Cavaliers’ quarterback.

“When I watch the film I just see No. 16,” Danny Rocco said. “I don’t attach any additional emotional value to that. The more I watch him the more I acknowledge just how well he performed a year ago.”

His nephew isn’t the only familiar face Danny Rocco will see today. He and London were on the same Virginia staff from 2001–04 under former head coach Al Groh.

The connections between these programs don’t stop there.

London is a Richmond graduate who guided the Spiders to the 2008 Football Championship Subdivision national title in his first of two seasons as their head coach.

Also, four Richmond assistants were once Virginia coaches, and two played for the Cavaliers. Three Virginia assistants are ex-Richmond coaches.

“A lot of irony; a lot of subplots, if you will,” Danny Rocco said. “I’ve got a lot of guys on my staff that have either played at U.Va., graduated at U.Va. or coached at U.Va. So it’s going to be a real interesting and exciting afternoon when we show up there on Saturday.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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