Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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A real deal for Rockets

Brock Dodrill is a rarity among Division I-A college football players.

The walk-on from Defiance not only starts at whip line-backer for the University of Toledo, he's still paying his own way to school.

That's right.

Dodrill, a 6-2, 214-pound sophomore, doesn't have a scholarship, which is almost unheard of for a starting position player, excluding punters and kickers.

“The no scholarship part will change quickly because we're going to give him one in the spring,” UT coach Tom Amstutz said yesterday. “Brock's a real tough competitor and his play has been really instrumental in our success on defense. He just gives it everything he has on the field. He's an overachiever.”

Dodrill owes a lot of his success to senior inside linebacker Tom Ward, whom he plays alongside in UT's 4-4 defensive alignment. Ward, who also is from Defiance, is engaged to Dodrill's sister, Britney.

“Brock might be the only starting linebacker in the country who's not on scholarship,” Ward said.

“I just love the game of football,” Dodrill said. “As long as I'm playing, I'm happy. I just want to be out on the field. It's a bonus for me if I get a scholarship.”

Coming out of high school, Dodrill was undersized and underappreciated. He didn't even get a sniff from a college higher than the Division II level.

“We looked at him on film and he was a good player in high school, but we thought he was too small to play linebacker in college,” Amstutz said.

At Ward's urging, Dodrill started lifting weights and joined the Rockets football program as a walk-on last year. He lettered as a freshman after playing in 11 games and making nine tackles, mostly on special teams.

On the first day of two-a-day practices this summer, Dodrill tore his MCL and didn't return to the team until the second half of the second game at Eastern Michigan.

However, when starting free safety Demetris Simms went down with an injury in the sixth game against Ball State, defensive coordinator Lou West moved whip (weak side) linebacker Patrick Body to free safety and inserted Dodrill in Body's spot.

Since then, Toledo is 5-1. And the Rockets will carry a four-game winning streak into Saturday's Mid-American Conference championship game against Marshall in Huntington, W.Va.

Dodrill has ranked first, second or third in tackles in five of his six starts, and both of his interceptions have been timely, setting up a field goal and touchdown.

For the year, he ranks third on the team in tackles with 72. Ten of those have been for losses.

“Brock earned his position and I'm sure our coaches feel the same way,” Ward said. “He's really made a difference in our defense the second half of the season. He's been incredible out there making plays. He's proven himself.

“I enjoy playing with him. It's like playing with my brother.”

Dodrill said it helps to be tutored by Ward and senior inside linebacker David Gardner, who were both named to the first-team All-Mid-American Conference defensive team yesterday.

“David's a great player and so is Tom,” Dodrill said. “I never had any brothers, just two older sisters. So I look at Tom as my older brother and I look to him for guidance. We think alike, so it's been a pretty easy transition.”

Amstutz said Dodrill has earned his starting job through hard work and determination.

“You couldn't measure his heart in high school, but you could see everything else,” Amstutz said. “His heart makes up for why he's on the field playing now. He always does more than we expect.”

QUICK HITS: Toledo made it a clean sweep yesterday in the weekly awards for the West Division. Senior quarterback Brian Jones was named the top offensive player for the second straight week after passing for 233 yards and three touchdowns in UT's 42-24 comeback win over rival Bowling Green on Saturday. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman rover Keon Jackson was named defensive player of the week after registering five tackles, including three for losses, and senior receiver Donta' Greene was named special-teams player of the week after returning five punts for 109 yards. ... Senior center Chris Tuminello has been named a second-team Verizon Academic All-American for the second consecutive year. He has a 3.93 grade-point average in civil engineering.

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