FITCHBURG — The next time Rocco Lamonica takes to a football field, it won’t be too terribly far from the place where he made his name as a dominant high school lineman.
The St. Bernard’s senior put pen to paper Wednesday morning, signing a National Letter of Intent to play football as Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. With school administrators, coaches and a dozen of his teammates looking on, Lamonica made his commitment to the Hawks official.
“The overnight trip made the decision for me. After going overnight and meeting the staff and some of the players, I got to see what the school and football community were like,” Lamonica said. “It reminded me of (St. Bernard’s). That was what made it. It was a tight-knit community.
“It’s only 45 minutes away, so everyone can see my games. My family, my grandparents and friends. … It’s close enough to home that I can still see people.”
A tackle and nose guard. Lamonica was a four-year varsity player for the Bernardians, reaching the state championship game twice. The Bernardians were Division 8 state champs during Lamonica’s freshman season in 2019 and fell in the Division 7 title tilt last season.
“It’s been great here. The coaches here have kept me on track and pushing me,” Lamonica said. “They’ve backed me up for four years on everything I’ve done. I’ve put in the work, but I wouldn’t be here doing this today if it wasn’t for coach Bingham, the rest of the coaches, (principal Linda Anderson) and the rest of the staff at this school.”
The 6-foot-4, 296-pound Pepperell resident was a pivotal piece in St. Bernard’s success over the last four years, longtime Bernardian head coach Tom Bingham said.
“He’s been so important to this team,” the coach said. “Leadership, on and off the field, he checks those boxes. He was a really big part of what we did for four years.”
Lamonica will join a Hawks team that went 6-4 last season, including a 3-4 mark in Northeast 10 play. He’ll have a familiar face already in the program in St. Bernard’s graduate Matt Smith, who was a sophomore defensive lineman at St. Anselm last fall.
Regardless of wins and losses, Bingham believes that Lamonica has made a great choice for his future.
“I always tell the kids they need to go where it just feels right and this is a great fit,” Bingham said. “I think the entire staff at St. Anselm’s made Rocco feel at home.”
The St. Bernard’s senior is eager for what his time in Manchester holds, if not a bit anxious.
“It’ll be different. A lot of new things, so there’s a little bit of nerves,” Lamonica said, smiling. “But change is good.”