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Senior Rocky Palacio Displays Achievements in Both Academics and Athletics with the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award

Countless hours spent inside the classroom studying and outside practicing on the football field come with challenges, but for senior Rocky Palacio, they also come with rewards: the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete Award. Palacio said he received the award in head football coach and athletics director Peter Abe’s office on March 5.

Palacio’s father introduced him to football at an early age, taking him to watch games and teaching him the basics. He played flag football growing up and transitioned to contact football in high school, which gave him a social outlet to make friends, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Palacio.

“I think it’s definitely made me like a tougher person, especially mental toughness,” Palacio said. “Physical toughness is a big thing today when people think of football players, but I feel like mental toughness is really a big part — just having that resilience to keep going.”

Alongside his athletic passions, Palacio said that he holds himself to a high academic standard, making this award a representation of the goals he strives towards by showcasing that it is possible to succeed in both sports and school.

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“It’s pretty important to me just because it reflects the person that I want to be,” Palacio said. “I wanted to be a good athlete, but also a good scholar and good leader. I feel like that’s the type of person I want to be — some type of role model. So, it means a lot. I usually don’t really care that much about awards — I want to win and have more team success — but I feel like awards that reflect on character are pretty important.”

To be eligible for the award, you must be on First Team All-League, have a 3.5 GPA or higher and exhibit good character outside of the classroom such as with clubs and community service, according to Abe.

“He demonstrates that you don’t have to relegate yourself to being good at just sports or just athletics or just a good person; you can commit and dedicate yourself to being the best version of yourself in all facets of your life,” Abe said. “So, he’s one of the best and most shining examples of being a quality Bulldog student-athlete that we could find, that we’ve had around here in a long time and a great model for our younger generations of student-athletes in any sport.”

One of the toughest challenges he faced in his football career was fracturing his ankle in his junior year season during his first-ever CIF game. Palacio said that he relied on his coaches, team and family for support as he recovered.

“I just confided in my team and just the road to recovery — like working back and knowing that I can come back better and stronger — motivates you,” Palacio said.

Palacio also plays baseball in the spring season. He said that having another sport to participate in later in the school year helps him deal with tough losses from the football season.

“My position in both is like a leader,” Palacio said. “With quarterback, you’re commanding the field, and I play catcher and pitcher for baseball, so it’s like the same thing. You should just come in the field and you’re in control of a lot of things, so I’d say that definitely translates.”

Palacio said that his team’s determination to win motivates him, but he ultimately values the experiences and lessons football offers.

“It’s more important that I made relationships and made fun memories,” Palacio said. “I look back and think about the fun times I had with the people  — I think my coach put it in a good way: 20, 30, 40 years from now, I’m not gonna care that I made CIF. Ultimately, maybe I’ll still be talking to some of the kids on my team and be friends with them, so it’s just thinking about the people and what memories we’ve made.”

This story was originally published on Portola Pilot on April 12, 2024.