By Jim Bender
WINNIPEG – There is at least one Winnipeg Blue Bombers hopeful who should have a pretty secure future — whether he cracks the local CFL club’s roster or not.
Judge, salesman, photographer … Wait, did you say “judge?”
“Yeah, Judge Rocquemore, yeah, yeah,” middle linebacker Jontrell Rocquemore said with a smile during a Zoom media interview on July 18.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Utah State product went to the NFL Cleveland Browns rookie mini-camp in 2019, signed with the Bombers in 2020, then asked for his release after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Rocquemore, 24, spent the interim preparing for his future.
“I will say the best and worst thing going through that COVID or going through that 2019 season was going back and forth,” he said. “Do I put my all into football or do I try to build my life? Luckily, I was blessed to do both. I actually went back to Utah State and got my Masters. I got my MBA (Business Administration).”
Rocquemore credited Utah judge Kevin Allen, who is now retired, for mentoring him. Allen invited Rocquemore to check out court and visit him in his chambers to ask questions afterwards.
“We sat down one day and had a great conversation just about the world and how things have changed and what kind of change I want to see in the world and one of my first thought processes was what can I give back, what can I do?” Rocquemore said. “Life changes. After I got MBA, it was kind of a wake-up call for me. It opened my eyes to the business side of things, specifically law. I love it, I love law, I love the justice side to it. I love helping people who don’t have voices who actually need that help. But there’s also multiple ways to do that. And with my MBA, there’s ways to build businesses and actually start giving back to the community. Just a wide range of things. At this point, I’m really open to opportunities – that’s why I’m here – open to growing and actually helping people out.”
While studying for his Masters, Rocquemore worked with student athletes to help pay his way. During the pandemic, he sold solar panels door-to-door to make ends meet. Then, Rocquemore became a photographer and started his own photography business.
But the most immediate goal is to become a professional football player.
“It is the love of the game that brought me back,” Rocquemore said. “Being able to find myself beyond the game has given me even more confidence on the field because I understand that the game is a game, I love it, but I’m also here for a different purpose.”
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea is impressed by how players like Rocquemore have handled their lives without football.
“What we’ve heard about these guys is how resourceful they’ve been the last little while, making sure they can create new pathways for themselves if football’s not around, and look after their families,” he said. “It’s been very uplifting to hear the stories about what the guys have been doing, that just being one of them.”
A safety in college, Rocquemore has been transitioning to linebacker at training camp.
“I know my abilities and I’m confident in myself,” he said.
BIG CATCHER: At 6-foot-6, Bombers wide receiver Carlton Agudosi stands well above most DBs.
“Size is definitely an advantage if you work on your game,” he said. “People say, ‘If I had your height,’ but if you don’t work at your game, you’d just be tall and goofy. You have to work on it regardless. Practice makes perfect and it’s an advantage if you use it, just like anything in life.”
TOUGH GIG: Bombers DB Deatrick Nichols admitted the motion is the toughest part of adjusting to CFL rules. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea sympathized.
“The defensive back spots, especially the inside positions when you’re facing the waggle, the toughest transition for any American to make, to come up and see all that motion and understand the width of the field and the depth of the routes and the route combinations and the nuances of the CFL passing game,” he added.