Rocky, Rocky, Rocky chants were being shouted in the Michigan State football team’s locker room after a win against Purdue on Saturday. However, the Spartans weren’t making a Sylvester Stallone reference but they were cheering on their freshman quarterback, Rocky Lombardi who impressively led them to a W.
“It is a good feeling to know that your teammates have your back. Obviously, I don’t have a lot of game experience and for them to come in and support me like that, it means a lot to me,” said Lombardi.
Red-shirt freshman Lombardi made his first appearance as starting quarterback and his performance did not disappoint his coaches, teammates and Spartan fans. With 46 passing attempts, 26 of those were completed for 318 yards and two touchdowns. Though his arm is what helped put numbers on the board, Lombardi showed he is a dual-threat quarterback and is not afraid to get in the pile with 11 rushing attempts.
“Then offensively, I thought Rocky played a tremendous game... For a guy coming in there on his first start, it was a big game, really big game,” said head coach Mark Dantonio. “I thought he was poised, I thought he ran the ball effectively when he was asked to. I thought he was pretty much on the money throwing the football.”
Lombardi, a multi-sport athlete, also wrestles, plays baseball, participates in track and field and according to Dantonio, “he’ll drive it to the green” when golfing. Walking into the post-game press conference scratched up, uniform dirty, Lombardi allowed that wrestling toughness to show throughout the game.
“I’m as competitive as it gets, I’m a winner and I went out there today with a tough mentality that I was going to go out there and compete and run somebody over if I have to,” said Lombardi.
With quarterback Brian Lewerke, who usually starts, dealing with an injured right shoulder, there was still a matter of if Lombardi was also able to be a leader on the field. During his first collegiate start, Lombardi proved he was ready to be the voice that kept the Spartans going.
“He (Lombardi) was fired up and wanted to show everyone that he could step up and be a leader on this team and I think he did a phenomenal job today,” said junior wide receiver Darrell Stewart. “He took initiative in the huddle and was a real leader all the way through.”
Though this win over Purdue was big for Lombardi, just as much as it was for Michigan State, it is still unknown if this marks a continuous start for the Iowa native. It is also unclear of when Lewerke will return on the field, however, according to Dantonio he looks better than he did last week.
“I’m just excited that we have two quarterbacks playing at a high level and that’s what’s exciting. Those decisions can be made at another time, but first thing we have to do is get him (Lewerke) healthy,” said Dantonio when asked about the quarterback job.