Where are they now?

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

Joey LaRocque: Football linebacker, 2006-2007

At OSU: No OSU player had more tackles than LaRocque in 2006 and 2007. He totaled 184 tackles in that span with 16 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three sacks and two fumble recoveries. The transfer from College of the Canyons in California made Second-Team All-Pac-10 his senior year in 2007.

Now: LaRocque was selected in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, and the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder played in 14 games as a rookie before needing back surgery after the season. While LaRocque was driving to a follow-up appointment, an oncoming vehicle swerved into LaRocque’s side of the freeway, smashed into his car and LaRocque was rushed to the hospital for another back surgery.

LaRocque was released by the Bears after that, but his agent floated the idea of playing in the lower-tier United Football League. Now at 180 pounds in his hospital bed, LaRocque’s agent told him he had a month to be ready. He got healthy, played one game for the Omaha Nighthawks and then was signed by the NFL’s New York Jets in Jan. 2011. He fractured his sternum in training camp, however, and returned home to southern California “not knowing what the hell I wanted to do with my life.”

LaRocque started helping coach a local high school team, and he finally found his passion during offseason training. Two high school players — one of whom was now-OSU safety Justin Strong — collided in a workout session and one needed stitches.

Remembering his own playing days and spurred on by that event, LaRocque was motivated to make football safer and he took matters into his own hands by peddling rugby scrum caps door to door.

Today, LaRocque is the founder, President and CEO of RockSolid, LLC, where he designed the first ever soft shell helmet for offseason and flag football. The company grew quickly, and he’s done business at every level from youth flag football to the NFL; he’s already been instrumental in improving the soft shell shoulder pads the NFL uses and is “in the works” of establishing a deal with the NFL’s youth programs by being their supplier of soft shell helmets. He expects to have 30 employees by the end of the year and already has 10 former NFL players on staff.

LaRocque admits that engineering has not always been his element. At OSU, he jokes that he “majored in football” — he technically graduated with a degree in speech communication — but that hasn’t stopped him in his aim to enhance to protect players and enhance the game of football.

“This is something I love. It’s an industry I created and it’s become my baby,” LaRocque said, who plans to move soon from Orange County, Calif. with his wife of three years to Dallas, where RockSolid’s headquarters are located. “Anything I can do to save the integrity of the game, I’m all about.”

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