At halftime of the 2014 FXFL championship game, Brooklyn Bolts head coach John Bock Sr. received an important text message.
The Bolts’ defense had just allowed a long touchdown pass to the Boston Brawlers, and Bock, a Crystal Lake Central graduate and former NFL lineman who usually concentrated on watching the front seven, was about to find out why.
“(My son) John (Jr.) texted me and he goes, ‘Dad, your safety didn’t come off the hash in Cover-2,’ ” Bock Sr. said. “I get to the meeting (at halftime) and said (defensive coordinator) Joey (Smith), ‘You’re coaching my defense, you were running Cover-2? My son just said the safety didn’t come off the hash in Cover-2 and that’s how they scored.’ And (Smith) said, ‘Yep, coach, the kid’s right.’ ”
John Bock Jr., who was watching the short-lived Fall Experimental Football League championship on ESPN at home in Florida, was 10 years old when he sent that text. Already, many of those 10 years he had spent hanging around his father’s teams, watching and soaking up knowledge, were coming in handy.
Now, John Jr. is a 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior transfer lineman at his father’s alma mater. He moved this summer to Crystal Lake and is living with his uncle, Mike Bock, and aunt, Kathy. John Sr., recovering from recent back surgery, plans to move from Fort Lauderdale, Florida sometime soon.
Central, coming off a 6-4 season and a Class 6A playoff appearance, will gladly add an NCAA Division I prospect to its offensive and defensive lines when the season starts. The IHSA moved football, volleyball and boys soccer to a February start because of the COVID-19 since those sports are considered higher risk.
The Tigers’ coaching staff has seen Bock’s work on videos from Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, although Bock already looks different since he has reshaped his body and shedded about 50 pounds through intensive workouts.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s going to be just fine,” Central coach Jon McLaughlin said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that he’s going to be as good as billed. There’s going to be pressure on him coming back here and following in his dad’s footsteps. He seems to have fit in quite well. The kids are accepting of him and have pulled him in.”
McLaughlin mentioned that some of Bock’s new teammates have parents who went to high school with his father. John Bock Sr., a 1988 Central graduate, played at Louisville and Indiana State in college and played six seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets and Miami. Bock Sr. coached several years at the college level.
“I want to really become a leader on this team and want everyone to have the same work ethic that me and these other guys I’m lifting with have,” Bock Jr. said. “It’s just some of the people can replicate that and feed off of us. I really like the team, they all work crazy hard. We’re going to do way better this year.”
Bock Jr. watched his older sister Brooke, one of the nation’s top hammer throws in track and field, getting recruited and came to a realization sometime during his sophomore year.
“It was my own fault I wasn’t getting recognition,” he said. “I kind of flipped the switch and tried to outwork everyone. (D-I football) has always been a goal. Probably a year ago I thought it was realistic, but it wasn’t realistic, it was me being lazy and not wanting to put in the work to do it.”
During the quarantine with the coronavirus, Bock Jr. rededicated himself. He went from weighing near 330 pounds last football season to his current weight and recently ran a 5:58 mile. He also changed his study habits and is now making all A’s and B’s.
“He’s totally reconstructed his body,” Tigers offensive line coach Steve Spoden said. “He goes to Forge (Fitness in Crystal Lake) on his own. He runs hills on his own. He wants to play at the next level and he’s doing everything in his power.
“He’s an utter joy to be around. When I see a kid who has not only the acumen, but the desire and the work ethic to go someplace, it reinvigorates me as well. With his size, and it doesn’t hurt that his dad was an NFL player, that’ll get him in some doors.”
Spoden has worked with several of the area’s top linemen for years, including Los Angeles Chargers tackle Bryan Bulaga, many who made it to D-I schools. In Bock Jr., he sees the same desire from some of the best he’s coached.
McLaughlin compared some of Bock’s traits, as he has seen on video, to some of the area’s best linemen over the past few seasons.
“He has great feet, moves really well for as big as he is,” McLaughlin said. “As far as finishing his blocks, his mentality reminded me of (Cary-Grove’s Addison) West or (Prairie Ridge’s) Jeff Jenkins. Just based on what I’ve seen in camp, his feet seem to be like (Central’s) Wyatt (Blake). Those are three pretty good people.”
West is at Western Michigan, Blake is at Northwestern and Jenkins was at Iowa, but is now out of football.
“In the last year, a light really went on for him,” Bock Sr. said. “He’s grown 5 inches and lost 50 pounds in the last calendar year. He got his grades up. I can’t believe who he’s become. He works out six days a week, he’s got perfect footwork. He was getting a lot of attention down here (in Florida), then COVID came up and the amount of cases here and the (lower) amount of cases in McHenry County, we just thought, ‘Let’s make a change right now. Let’s see if we can get some Big Ten interest.’
“I can’t thank (the Central coaches) enough. They’ve been so good to him.”
Bock Jr. has always been one of the biggest players on his teams. Bock Sr. said his son had to lose 30 pounds when he was 7, just to make the weight limit in a 10-year-old league. This season he will finally be competing against players his own age.
“Something went off in my head,” Bock Jr. said. “I felt like I wasn’t at the potential where I knew I could get to. I lost the weight. I reformed my body. I gained so much muscle in a short amount of time. I just dedicated myself to working out and (getting better) grades. I wanted to be the best player I can be.”