Last season, McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) defensive tackle Julian Rochester watched from the sideline in San Antonio as teammates Chuma Edoga and T.J. Rahming played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. This year, his view of the game will be through his helmet. He received his honorary jersey for the Jan. 9 game on Tuesday in a ceremony at McEachern as part of the Selection Tour presented by American Family Insurance.
“Playing in the Army game means more than just being a highly recruited player,” Rochester said. “It means being known as a person as far as helping people, helping out in your community, being a great teammate, and being a humble teammate. It’s not all about ‘I’m better than you’ or ‘I’m ranked higher than you.’ There’s just more of an emotional feel to it.
“My dad served in the military, my grandfather served in the military, my uncle served in the military. I’ve been around military people all my life. I see how they act and I would love to play in the game, to give back and show how much I appreciate what they’ve done for me to be able to play college football.”
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Rochester slipped in some recruiting rankings (he’s listed as the No. 8 defensive tackle in the 2016 class according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings) because of an arm injury during the summer, but since getting healthier, the 6-5, 310-pound senior has helped the Indians post three shutouts. He has eight sacks this season, including three of quarterback Will Lovett in a 35-0 defeat of North Cobb (Kennesaw) on Oct. 9.
“I didn’t say anything to him,” Rochester said. “I had to go out there and handle business. I always have a rival feeling against North Cobb. Me and Tyler Queen, who’s now at Auburn, always had battles, so since he graduated, I just had to hit up on somebody else this year.
“Lately, we’re more than a football team. It’s more of a family-type deal. I’m always with my teammates. It’s crazy how much of a bond we have.”
Rochester committed to Georgia in May and though he may take official visits to other schools, he said he is solidly a Bulldog. He’s also unconcerned about rumors of Miami trying to lure Georgia coach Mark Richt, who is a Hurricanes alumnus.
“It’s only an hour and a half, an hour and 45 minutes (to Georgia),” Rochester said. “I know I’ve been to Georgia more than 15 times. I’m always out there. Coach Richt is my dude, so I know where he stands and I’m not worried about anything.”
Rochester wears No. 99 for McEachern, but like all the players on the selection tour, his honorary jersey is 16, for his graduation year. He wouldn’t mind shaving a digit on the jersey for the game.
“I would love to wear a No. 8 or No. 9 for the game, but we’ll see how that works out,” he said. “Today’s ceremony was fun because last year, I got to watch three of my former teammates (Rahming, Edoga, and Taj Griffin who was hurt and didn’t play in the game) at their ceremony,” Rochester said. “I enjoyed being in front of my school and my teammates, but it was a little weird being up there by myself.”