Battle football coach: Rovon Blocker was a dedicated father and teammate

Battle High School Football Coach Justin Conyers walks to the center of a football field holding Rovon Blocker's hand. (Photo provided by Conyers/Battle).

Battle High School Football Coach Justin Conyers said he has spent the week watching Rovon Blocker's highlight film.

"It gives me goosebumps just talking about it," Conyers said.

The former star defensive tackle on Conyers' 2014 state championship team was shot to death Saturday.

Conyers said the last time he spoke with Blocker was the week of Fourth of July. The coach gestured to the middle of Battle's weight room. "It was right here, I told him, 'I'm proud of you for working, I'm proud of you for wanting to be a good father to your son. Keep grinding,'' Conyers said.

Blocker was part of Battle's inaugural football team. As a young player, he bounced between Rock Bridge and Hickman's district teams before landing at Battle his sophomore year. Conyers said in the team's early stages, the coaching staff had to preach family.

"You're getting put together with kids who come from some place else, some got pulled from other schools" Conyers said. "We made sure we brought our families here, so they could see us in the act with our children and wives so they understand."

On the field, aside from Blockers' size and strength as a defensive tackle, Conyers said one of his valuable aspects as a player was that he was coachable.

"He was a technician, he was a team player," Conyers said. The coach said it was ultimately Blocker's character that made him stand out among all the players he has coached in the last decade and a half.

Following the state championship season, Conyers said Blocker suffered a neck injury at practice his senior year. In a game later that week, Blocker went down with an injury in the same area, which forced the coaching staff to urge him to see a specialist. Doctors learned he had a birth defect, according to Conyers. Blocker had been born with a narrow spinal column, which had been pinching nerves in his neck. Blocker could no longer play high school sports or any contact sport for the risk the defect posed. His dream of playing college football, cut off four weeks into his senior year of high school.

"He was a Division 1 football player," Conyers said. "It broke my heart, because here's a kid that doesn't come from a lot. This was his opportunity to change his life."

"It's very easy, when adversity strikes, it's easy to quit," Conyers said. "But he showed up every single day. He came to every practice. He was always cheering his brothers on," Conyers said.

Despite his inability to play, Coffeyville Community College offered Blocker a scholarship so that he could acquire his associate's degree. Conyers said Blocker wanted to be a police officer. The college offered Blocker the opportunity to also be a part of the football team, to allow him to attend practice, and to help players in his position.

Conyers said Blocker ended up having a child, and his son became his focus.

Blocker became very involved with Battle football after graduating high school. Conyers said he attended all home games and would travel with the team to away games. He also popped into practices and team weightlifting sessions.

"He got a job with the city, he was doing really well," coach said. Conyers said his son turned one just days before the shooting.

Conyers said he learned about Blocker's death shortly after it happened from a former player.

"I've had three or four dreams about Rovon," he said. "I was sick to my stomach all day Sunday. It was just so tough thinking why, how, you want more details," Conyers said.

"He was not a street kid whatsoever. In all the time I've known him. Six years of a bonding relationship, he was never once a kid I ever had to worry about," Conyers said. "A kid I wouldn't have to worry about getting a phone call saying he got locked up for something stupid."

Conyers said Blocker was committed to being a good father after growing up without one. Conyers said he was also coachable in that respect.

"Rovon was nervous about being a dad," Conyers said. "Coach [Atiyyah] Ellison did a great job as a mentor for Rovon. [Rovon] would ask, 'what do I need to do to be a good dad?'"

Conyers said there's something he hopes to do for Rovon's young son.

"When he's old enough to understand, I definitely want to make sure I get an opportunity to talk to him and explain how important and how valuable his dad was and how much his dad loved him," Conyers said. "There's just a lot of people growing up without fathers. I want him to know that his dad wanted to be a part of his life and how important he was to him. I'm really hoping I can get my hands on his state championship ring so that I can give that to his son one day, and he can cherish that for the rest of his life."

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