After connecting with recently hired Mayville State University Comets head coach Rocky Larson this spring via Twitter, I immediately became a Comets fan. Larson – who recently was hired February 1st – is a through and through Midwestern boy who is personable, friendly, and has an impressive coaching resume at the ripe ol’ age of 28 that netted him his first head coaching job. A well-deserved final candidate, the UW-River Falls graduate is poised to head a Mayville St. program that has traditionally struggled, but now has new life and a ton of great opportunities for Minnesota preps that extend past the gridiron and the classroom. With a coaching staff that has deep Minnesota ties, a lot of opportunities for playing time, and the chance to be apart of turning around a program and improving the collegiate experience of generations of playing after you, Larson deserves to have the Comets program checked out by the MN recruits reading this article, which is why I have made this feature free. During the 2019 season – before Coach Larson was hired – the Comets had only 40 kids on their roster. With such a thin roster going into 2020, the Comets program is in a very unique position to provide incoming recruits with a chance to really be personally involved in the growth of a program, while building a culture and playing a ton of football to boot. I truly encourage the MN players reading this article to contact Coach Larson or any of his staff, and I hope you enjoy the article.
NFN: Hello and thank you for your time, Coach Larson! Please begin by sharing with us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? When did you get into football & where has it taken you for your playing days? Also, what’s your favorite thing about football/what do you love about the game?
Larson: “My name is Rocky Larson. I am 28 years old and a first time head coach at Mayville State University. I am originally from Somerset, Wisconsin. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. I spent the last four years as the Defensive Coordinator there. I got into football the day I was born. My dad is a long time successful high school coach in Wisconsin. I grew up around football every single day. I was a Freshman in high school when I decided that I wanted to coach college football for the rest of my life. I got hurt playing high school football so as a Freshman in college, I got right into coaching. Football has given so much to me and it truly has made me who I am today. The brotherhood and the bonds that guys create in a locker room, is probably my favorite. It is really fun to see a group of guys at the college level who do not even know each other come so close together for one common goal. That does not happen anywhere else in today’s world.”
NFN: Share with us a little bit about your coaching experience and background. When did you first start getting into coaching? Where have you coached? And how did you become the HC at Mayville State?
Larson: “I had a different path than most in the coaching profession. I am 28 years old, but have been coaching college football for 10 years. I went to UWRF to be a student and a coach. So all through my college days I was coaching something. My first two years I was with the defensive backs. My third year I was with the defensive line, and my final 2 years were on the offensive side of the football. After 5 great years at UWRF, I had a chance to go work under Jerry Kill for a spring internship. I learned so much about the game of football in those 6 months alone. From there I was offered a full time defensive back job at The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I spent one season there and had the chance to come back home to be the defensive coordinator at UWRF. Like I said earlier, my dad has been a head coach for over 20 years. My brother who is 25 years old has been a high school head coach for 2 years already so I was the only one in the family who was not a head coach. Mayville presented an opportunity for me to get my start. I loved my time at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, but I was ready to take a chance on myself and take a shot at being a head coach. I also wanted to get into the scholarship world. I spent 9 years in D3, and loved every second but a part of me has always wanted to see how we could do when we have scholarship money.”
NFN: That’s awesome. Now get into some details and specifics about Mayville State. What are some things people should know about the school, what it offers, and some positives about the school/campus/community/etc.
Larson: “One of my favorite things that I found when I came on campus was the community support. You can feel it everywhere. We are a scholarship school in the North Star conference, with a new administration who wants to win. They have been great about giving football the resources necessary to win moving forward. I can’t thank the administration enough. We are a public school so our price gives us a big advantage in the recruiting process. For a Minnesota student athlete, for tuition and room and board it would be 13,120. This is before any academic scholarships or football scholarships so it gives us a chance right off the bat. Another nice thing about our campus is that we have 63 majors, as well as a 13:1 student to faculty ratio. Our location is a big part in the process also. We are 45 minutes North of Fargo and 35 minutes South of Grand Forks. One of the most important things for me when I was building this staff was find a good group of guys that can help us win the State of Minnesota in recruiting. Our offensive coordinator was a GA at St Cloud State. Our Defensive Coordinator played high school football at Fridley, and has recruited the twin cities for 4 years, and our defensive line coach is from White Bear Lake, MN.”
NFN: Awesome. Now talk about the Mayville State football team. What division do you play in, who do you play against, what the culture you’re trying to implement will look like, and any other FAQs or things to know about the team. What makes it an intriguing place to play football at for a MN school football player? What is unique to the team/position you’re in right now that could be beneficial for a potential recruit?
Larson: “So we play in the North Star Conference. Teams in our league are Valley City, Waldorf, Presentation, Dak State, and Dickinson. We had two teams ranked in the top 25 last year. I am the third head coach in three years so this is the third different culture change some of these players have had to go through. The athletes currently on roster have been through a lot, and we appreciate them sticking it out and giving us a chance as a staff. We are building everything on relationships, weather it be coaches to players, players to coaches, coaches to recruits or coaches to coaches. We are going to build a family bond where everyone is held accountable and to the same standard. When we took over, we were in a unique spot. We finished the year with only 34 kids on our roster, so we are looking for kids who can come in and play early in their careers which is interesting for a lot of kids. It is also an exciting time around here. We have signed 36 kids in this class, one of the biggest in recent Mayville history. Mayville is an intriguing place for Minnesota kids because of the price, and still getting a chance to play high level scholarship football. We are only about 4 hours from the Twins Cities area, so it is not that far of a drive to get out here. Also for the out of state kids, we are going to be very similar to a lot of their home towns. You also get a chance to be part of something special and get this program flipped back to where it was in the 1980’s. Our biggest thing is making kids aware of what NAIA football is all about. NAIA gets a bad name and is negatively recruited all the time just because people are not educated about it. I would suggest to all kids looking to play college football at the next level, at least read into and check some different NAIA programs out to see how they compare!”
NFN: Lastly, how can kids contact you and the coaching staff? How are you guys operating within these weird conditions of COVID-19, and any lasting notes/facts for people to know.
Larson: “This is for sure a weird time in the world. Being a first time Head Coach with needing spring ball practices and being around the guys, with it all just cut out was tough at first. We have to realize this is more than just about football through. We have adopted and used zoom conferences more, Google hang out, and building relationships for the 2021 classes more virtually than anything. We are setting up zoom conferences with different coaching staffs around the state of Wisconsin and Minnesota to just talk ball with these coaches and continue to build relationships. Recruits should start to do their homework in this time off. Start looking into school that have what you want to study and reaching out to coaches. We tell kids all the time go visit as many schools as you can and find the right fit for you. Fill out as many questionnaires as you can to get noticed. I would also remind players that facilities don’t win games, people do. Find the right fit for you and your family for the next 4-5 years!”
Hit up @coachlarsonmsu for more info, and go Comets!