Rocco Spindler (50) and Garrett Dellinger (74) warm up before Clarkson’s game on Friday night. (Photo: Evan Petzold, Detroit News)
Clarkston – Rocco Spindler and Garrett Dellinger met on the football field when they were 4 years old.
For the Titans, a local flag football team, Spindler was the starting quarterback. Dellinger was the starter at running back.
With Spindler and Dellinger leading the offense, the Titans went undefeated that season.
“That’s where we started to build our relationship,” Spindler said. “We’ve been best friends since flag football. Man, we were good, really good.”
Over a decade later, those athletes now play exclusively on the offensive and defensive lines for Clarkston High School. The juniors have earned national recognition as four-star prospects, obtain offers from schools across the country and have started both ways since freshman year.
More: Detroit News high school football rankings: Week 7
Spindler and Dellinger also have a ring on their fingers for a 2017 Division 1 state championship.
“Those are the guys we count on,” said Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson. “They do a great job.”
The point is that Spindler and Dellinger do everything together. From football to video games to eating competitions, they’re inseparable. That makes a college decision much more intriguing for both of them.
The Clarkston standouts share offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, Arizona State, Kentucky, Minnesota, Toledo and Wisconsin. Spindler also has offers from Pittsburgh, LSU and Penn State, while Dellinger has Northwestern.
A majority of the same offers for two players that have been together since their childhood.
The conversation of playing with each other at the next level always begins as a serious discussion, Dellinger said.
“It slowly turns into, ‘Yeah, we would kill it,’” Dellinger said, pumping his fist in the air. “We just start getting excited and hyping each other up.”
The top priority for Spindler and Dellinger isn’t to play together. First and foremost, each lineman wants to go where he feels most comfortable.
“But we’ve got the same interest and likes,” Spindler said. “At the end of the day, we love each other, so we probably will be playing at the same school.”
Bonding beyond football
While some high school classmates are at parties, the nationally-ranked linemen from Clarkston are not. They recognize the opportunity in front of them and try to do everything in their power to remain on the road to the NFL.
To achieve that type of greatness, Spindler and his counterpart put in extra work – even when nobody is watching.
“We stay away from all the bad things like drinking, smoking and even parties,” Spindler said. “We have the mindset that someone out there is working harder, and someone is better, so it’s about: What we are going to do to be the best?”
But it’s not all about working out and playing side-by-side on Friday nights.
Spindler and Dellinger enjoy video games, specifically Madden 20, Call of Duty and Fortnite. They also compete against each other at various restaurants where chicken wings are offered.
Whoever can eat more food wins the contest.
“I am the eating champion,” Dellinger said.
“No,” Spindler shouts in response. “Come on, man. I’m definitely crowned the champion.”
Regardless of which lineman of over 280 pounds can eat more food, it’s the off-field bond that holds them close, and there are examples of it in the trenches.
“When you have this bond with the person next to you that you’ve played with forever, you know each other’s abilities,” Dellinger said. “It makes the game more fluid since you’re connected.”
Spindler is rated No. 40 in the nation and as the second-best prospect in the state, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He’s also the only junior nominated for the 2019 Michigan High School Football Anvil Award, an accolade that recognizes the best lineman or linebacker in the state.
Dellinger is No. 121 in the country and the fifth-best in Michigan.
Of Spindler’s 14 offers, he said it’s “definitely” a dogfight between Michigan and Notre Dame. He’s also interested in Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Penn State. He plans to release a top list in the near future.
Again, even as thoughts of other schools enter his mind, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound lineman often finds himself going back to the Wolverines and Fighting Irish.
“Everybody says it’s going to be between those two schools, and it definitely is,” Spindler said. “I’m not going to lie. Those two schools have shown the most interest, and I can see what they’re producing to the next level. I love those teams.”
Led by fifth-year coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan has stood out to Spindler due to the relationship he’s built with the coaching staff and the overall culture of the program.
Based on the relationship aspect, Michigan actually reminds Spindler of Clarkston.
“We are a brotherhood,” Spindler said of the Wolves. “We don’t bring kids in as transfers from other schools. We just work with what we have, and that’s why we win. We love each other; we’ve grown up with each other; we can trust each other.”
Spindler is preparing multiple visits to Michigan and Notre Dame, but he also wants to see Ohio State, LSU, Penn State and Wisconsin in the coming months. He plans to make a commitment by the end of his junior year or before the beginning of his senior year.
Dellinger is much like Spindler, as both friends are interested in the same programs.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman said it helps that Ann Arbor is only 50 miles from Clarkston, giving the Wolverines an advantage from a geographical standpoint.
Turns out, Michigan is a place where the Clarkston standouts could end up playing college ball, Dellinger said.
“Without a doubt,” Dellinger said of the two possibly committing to Michigan. “My thing is that I want a good education, and that’s very important at Michigan. (Offensive line) coach (Ed) Warinner, the way he was communicating with his players and teaching was something I really liked. They’ve got a great football tradition.”
Before thinking about making a choice, Dellinger wants to take all five of his official visits. Three of those are already locked in – Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
By Dellinger’s side for those visits is likely going to be Spindler, his best friend since they met for the first time in flag football.
And they could keep the streak of playing together alive by signing to the same university.
“We’re going to go where we fit best, but if we go to the same school, that’ll make it 10 times better,” Dellinger said. “There’s nothing better than playing with the person you’ve been with since you were 4 years old.”
Evan Petzold is a freelance writer.
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