Defensive coordinator’s return to UWRF makes it a family affair

Posted April 13, 2016

After first stepping onto the UW-River Falls campus as a prospective student six years ago, Rocky Larson knew where he belonged. It was the school his parents attended and met at when they were students, and where they made the decision to move to Somerset, Wisconsin, to begin their family.

According to Larson, with a family that is as close as his, it was important for him to stay around home. Larson is now back at UWRF as the newly hired football defensive coordinator.

“I wanted to be close to home, and I wanted to be with a family atmosphere. It felt right stepping on campus here and I knew a lot of people from my dad,” he said. “It was just a right fit.”

A big reason he wanted to be so close to home was to watch his younger siblings compete in high school sports. At that point in time, his brother Reggie was involved in basketball and football. Reggie’s twin, McKell, was helping their dad on the sidelines of the football games, and their family had just adopted Gaelin Elmore, who played football and is now at the University of Minnesota.

Due to an injury that occurred in high school, Rocky was not able to play college football, but instead was brought on as a coach. He said that as an 18-year-old coaching 22-year-olds, he was forced to grow up quickly. Larson spent the 2010 through 2013 seasons coaching various positions on the defensive side of the ball.

When Reggie and McKell both graduated in June 2013, they had plans to attend attend different colleges. Reggie had been offered a full-ride scholarship to West Point, the U.S. military academy, and McKell was off to UW-Eau Claire.

However, after spending two unhappy weeks at West Point, Reggie decided he would come to UWRF to play. For him, nothing could beat being that close to home and having a brother who was coaching. Reggie began his football career during the 2013 season as a center.

McKell also found herself at UWRF after one semester at UWEC because both her brothers were on campus, and she missed being around football. McKell was brought on staff, and helps with film, writing down play calls, and setting up for practices and games.

According to McKell, football has played an important role in her family’s dynamic.

“We’re really tight knit, and football has a lot to do with that,” she said.

After the 2014 season came to an end Rocky was offered an internship at the University of Minnesota. Six months later, he got a call from the head coach at UW-La Crosse and was offered a full-time position there, which he accepted. The Larson siblings were split up — and on two opposing teams.

UWRF played UW-La Crosse in the 2015 season and beat the Eagles in overtime, 21-20, according to the UWRF sports information website. For Rocky, the loss was terrible, especially since it was the only game he was able to watch his brother play all season.

When the year drew to a close, Rocky knew he wanted to return to UWRF so he called Head Coach Matthew Walker to tell him he’d come back as a volunteer for the football team. Then, as luck would have it, a the defensive coordinator position opened up and Rocky got the job.

For him, it was great to be able to come back to his family, girlfriend and the place he called home.

“My family was really excited, we all went out to eat. It was like a big homecoming,” he said.

McKell said she was the last to find out that Rocky was returning to UWRF.

“My family left me out of the loop because I can’t keep secrets,” she said with a laugh. “So I had no idea. I had no idea he was going to be in the role of defensive coordinator. But I was really happy.”

Reggie echoed McKell’s happiness, and added he was glad to have his brother be able to watch him play his last year of football.

“I was really excited for him to be back,” he said. “He wanted to watch me for one more year, and now he gets to coach me for one more year.”

As the spring football season kicks off, the siblings get to see each other every single day, along with their dad, Bruce Larson, who is helping coach. When asked if it ever got old seeing her family every day, McKell responded with a laugh.

“A little bit,” she said. “No, they’re good. I love hanging out with them.”

Rocky also pointed out that every day there are four Larsons on the field, but it’s even better when their mom makes the drive to River Falls to have supper with them all after practice.

With his newly acquired position and his family by his side, Rocky said he felt some pressure the first day on the job.

“Nervous? I was the first day,” he said. “Walking into the office I was pretty nervous because there was a lot of coaches I didn’t know, there was a lot of players I didn’t know. But after an hour of being in the office, I felt home.”

Rocky will kick off his coaching career as the defensive coordinator on Sept. 3 at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.