The day before, Mock, a Hillsboro resident, was already anticipating eating his mom’s twice-baked potatoes and buffalo chicken dip. His girlfriend since high school lives in Festus, so Mock enjoyed two holiday dinners. On Sunday, he headed back to Illinois to finish out the semester.
Mock has a lot to be thankful for. Despite playing the rugged position of linebacker for three years, he walked away from football intact. Mock, a 6-1, 230-pound senior, played in 27 career games for the Hawks. His junior year, he suffered a torn labrum and missed three games. He played in all 11 games this fall for Quincy (5-6) and was healthy until the final game against William Jewell College on Nov. 16 when he bruised a bone in his leg.
“There were ups and downs,” Mock said about his college career. “But overall it went well. I ended up on good notes in college and high school. My base of connections is so much wider.”
Those connections Mock’s made at Quincy will hopefully open doors to a career after he graduates in May with a double-major in sports management and finance. Over the summer, he interned at Northwestern Mutual, a financial services company.
“My dream job would be a sports agent,” Mock said.
One thing is certain, if Mock tackles the business world like he brought down ball carriers this year, he’s already on his way to reaching his dream.
In the 47-42 win over William Jewell, Mock had 11 tackles, including two for a loss. For the season, he had 101 tackles, good for fourth in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Add an interception, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries and Mock was chosen to the GLVC honorable mention team. Teammate Peyten Chappel was Quincy’s only first-team player this year after racking up 120 tackles, which is third all-time in team history in a season.
“I’m blessed to receive that,” Mock said of the all-conference honors. “There are a lot of good players (in the GLVC). Peyten is very physical and loves the game. He plays with attitude and passion and will be one of the greats to go through Quincy.
“My defensive line opened up gaps and the other linebackers gave me opportunities to make plays. The coaches put me in the right position to be successful.”
Sean Kelly has been the defensive coordinator at Quincy the last three years. When Kelly sent in the defensive calls, Mock would oftentimes check them when the offense came to the line of scrimmage. Kelly praised Mock for his diligent film study and preparation.
Something Mock did during the win at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar stuck with Kelly. Twice during the Oct. 19 game, Mock bailed out the Hawks after turnovers. On first-and-goal from the 7, Quincy running back Oscee Calhoun fumbled into the end zone and the Bearcats recovered. Mock sacked the Southwest Baptist quarterback for an 8-yard loss to snuff out that drive. In the fourth, with the Hawks leading 42-34, redshirt freshman Jalen Griffin fumbled at midfield and gave the Bearcats a chance to tie the game. But two plays later, Mock intercepted the ball and set up the insurance touchdown.
“His pick was a cool moment,” Kelly said. “That was a tough game. We had just fumbled the ball on the 50 and on the next play he robbed the curl route. He ran to the sideline and gave the ball to (Griffin) and said, ‘We’ve got you.’ I wish I could say I called that play, but he dropped right into it. He has soft hands and made sure he let (Griffin) know that mistake wasn’t going to cost us a loss.”
Mock said he could see Griffin was visibly upset. So he made a senior move.
“I went out there and I knew we had to make a stop,” Mock said. “I made the play and got the ball back and we won the game. After the pick, I told him to have faith in what we do. That was a great moment for me.”
One of Lee Freeman’s disappointments is he never got to see Mock play after he left Hillsboro. Freeman has been the head coach of the Hawks since 2014. He coached Mock for two years when he played safety and quarterback. In his final two seasons at Hillsboro, Mock had 10 interceptions, seven his senior year.
“He was a very productive player in high school,” said Freeman, who guided Hillsboro to the Class 4 quarterfinals in 2017. “He was unmatched in his work ethic and understanding of the game. He was very intelligent as far as game situations were concerned.”
Freeman remembered Mock taking over a game against University City in 2015 with three interceptions in a wild 35-27 shootout victory over the Lions.
“It was on a Saturday. It was a warmer day,” Freeman recounted. “One of his interceptions was in our end zone and he made it to midfield. That was when we were running more power formations. When he played quarterback, he tossed the ball and had to turn around and be a lead blocker. After the (end zone) interception, he asked me not to block on that play because he was out of gas. On every down you got his best effort.”
If Mock wanted to come back to Hillsboro and help coach, Freeman said he’d absolutely try and find him a place.
Kelly said Mock isn’t the first high school quarterback who’s transitioned into a full-time defensive player at Quincy.
“A lot of high school teams put their best player at quarterback,” Kelly said. “Sam never shied away from contact. He’s been a huge part of consistency for us. As smart as he’s been, it was amazing to have him and we will miss his leadership. The culture he set in linebackers room, he made everyone better.”