Gwinnett Daily Post All-County Football
For the last three years, Rocky Capobianco has made it a point to talk to the Dacula eighth-grade football team. Specifically the 'B' team.
Capobianco holds a special place in his heart for the group. Just five years ago, he was part of the squad.
He wasn't big enough or fast enough to make the 'A' team as an eighth-grader.
As a senior this season for Dacula, he still wasn't the biggest guy on the field, but that didn't matter.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound quarterback/running back led Gwinnett County in rushing with 1,503 yards and had 13 touchdowns to earn Daily Post Offensive Player of the Year honors.
"I just tried to do my best," Capobianco said. "It was mostly the O-line that did everything. We had a pretty awesome O-line, which helped out with the running game."
Capobianco's success running the ball propelled Dacula to its best season since 2005. The Falcons posted a 9-4 record and a No. 7 state ranking, reaching the quarterfinals before losing to eventual runner-up Walton.
"He's just one of those guys that's not the biggest, he's not the top-end fastest, but those things aside he's a winner," first-year Dacula head coach Jared Zito said. "That's the best way to describe him. I know he's 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, but he's got that it factor that you can't really describe how he does it. He has that ability to find a way to win."
Capobianco's moxie comes from always being the smallest guy on the field. After playing on the 'B' team as an eighth-grader, Capobianco spent the summer doing 1,000 pushups and sit-ups a day to build strength. He added sprints and started throwing more later in the summer. By the time he was a sophomore he was playing on the varsity.
"He's never going to feel like he's arrived," Zito said. "That's partly what makes him good. He plays with a chip on his shoulder."
That edge helped Capobianco this season. The senior ran Dacula's veer offense the past two seasons under former head coach Kevin Maloof. When Zito brought in his spread offense, he wasn't sure where to put Capobianco.
By the time the season rolled around, he had no choice but to find a spot for him on the field. Capobianco transformed the offense from the spread to single veer, running the ball a majority of the time.
"The biggest thing about Rocky is he loves the game and he wants to win," Zito said. "He's just a guy that plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. He plays it hard and loves it. What we did with him as the season progressed with the running game at quarterback, when we had to have it Rocky was going to be lined up to run it."
Against South Gwinnett, Capobianco bobbled a snap on a PAT in overtime. He picked up the ball and threw the game-winning two-point conversion. He rushed for a season-high 286 yards against Berkmar and completed a signature drive against Norcross in the playoffs.
Capobianco didn't throw the ball much, but he had a 38-yard pass to set up his touchdown run in the final seconds to beat the Blue Devils.
In addition to his offensive load, he also started the last five games of the season at safety. He was your typical hard-nosed do-it-all type football player.
"He's a very, very good high school player," Walton head coach Rocky Hidalgo said. "He's the kind of kid that high school football is all about. He's a really good high school football player."
Capobianco's 1,503 yards this season rank No. 3 in a single season at Dacula. He passed some of the guys he grew up watching like David Irons and Cole Brodie.
"I loved wearing that blue and gold," Capobianco said. "I remember coming up here as a kid watching all of my heroes playing football."
Capobianco doesn't have any college scholarship offers, but that's mostly because of his size. He's proven he can play with the state's best by leading Gwinnett in rushing. It's the same county that has produced the last two Class AAAAA state champions.
Capobianco worked his way into being a winner from middle school to high school. He'll likely end up signing a scholarship or walking on at a college. Coaches will doubt him because of his size, but it won't take long for him to prove them wrong. It's what he's always done.
"I just want to be great at everything I do. I'm not ever satisfied," Capobianco said. "Every time I accomplish something, it's what's next. I've got to keep working towards something."