A native of Ironwood, Michigan, Brock Strom attended Indiana University before transferring to the Air Force Academy where his name was synonymous with football success. In 1958, the 6-0, 217-pound tackle became the Academy's first All-American football player and the Associated Press described him as "the bulwark of the team that almost literally came from outer space to go through the season undefeated and land in the Cotton Bowl opposite Texas Christian on New Year's Day.”
Strom was captain of the unbeaten Falcons (their record tainted only by a 13-13 tie with Rose Bowl bound Iowa), and he was known for his leadership ability and hard-nose football. He blocked and tackled with authority and, according to Falcon coach Ben Martin, was a captain in every sense of the word. In Strom's first year at the academy, 1955, the players were all freshmen. They played freshman teams of other colleges. Strom was co- captain of the teams of 1955, 1957, and 1958.
After the Air Force Academy, Storm studied at MIT, earning a masters degree in Astronautical engineering. He served in Southeast Asia, flying 105 missions as a navigator. He was decorated with two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, and three Air Medals. Achieving the rank of colonel, he served as Deputy for Space Defense Systems, responsible to the Secretary of the Air Force for the entire U.S. Space Defense Program.
What are you doing now?
I am trying to stay busy. I am a past president of a charity called “The Home Front Cares” that is helping the families of sailors, soldiers and airman stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have raised and given away about $1.5 million to these families in the last seven years. Before retiring, I worked on the anti-satellite program and was the director of engineering during the building of the satellite based NAVSTAR Global Positioning System that is now used in ships, cars, trains and planes. I went to work for Burlington Northern Railroad to put the GPS on the railroad, eventually taking over their information systems department as a senior vice president. I retired from there and came out to the Air Force Academy to teach math and economics and after ten years of that took up The Home Front Cares. It’s really a wonderful charity, and the people of Colorado Spring and the Denver area have been so very supportive. It’s been fun to be able to work with them... I do a little golfing and spend a lot of time visiting the grandkids, and last year my wife Claire and I are celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.
What did it mean to you to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame?
It was really recognition of the football team that I played on. The Falcons came from nowhere in 1958 and the Cotton Bowl of the 1959. We had a fantastic season and for one reason or another I was the guy who got most of the publicity. And it was really recognition of that team more than of myself individually. The Academy has not had an undefeated team since then, and I remind them of that every now and again.
How did your former teammates respond to you becoming a Hall of Famer?
There was a very raucous table of ten who came back to the Hall of Fame event. They were real happy to be there, and they had a great time celebrating both my induction and their recognition and it was an honor for them. It was a wonderful event that I enjoyed very much.
What are the most significant changes in the college game today?
When we played the limited substitution meant that if you started a quarter, you either finished that quarter or you could only be substituted once a quarter, so it was a completely different game because you had to play both offensive and defense. Frankly that was part of the reason we were able to succeed because we were not every deep, and the limited substitution meant the other team had to stay on the field as much as we did. And I think we were probably in better shape and better able to handle that.
What life lessons did college football teach you?
Perseverance, that’s the number one thing that it’s taught me. That you got to keep on plugging and success will come. It certainly worked for me... I went into research and development for the Air Force and there were a lot of days when things did not go completely right. The anti-satellite program was one of those where we ran into problems in the process in trying to demonstrate the ability to achieve a satellite kill capability and we worked our way through them. Our efforts paid off with a very successful satellite kill on Friday. the 13th of September, 1985.
Who are the individuals in your life who have been instrumental in your development?
My dad was very instrumental in my life. He was a veteran of World War 2 and an engineer. There wasn’t a job that was beneath him and one that he wouldn’t tackle himself. Ben Martin, who was our football coach at Air Force, is one of the people who were a very significant leader. He demonstrated the ability to motivate and get people all working on the same page, plus he was a great football tactician. My high school coach was also very unique. His name was Merts Mortelli. He ended up coaching at Superior State College in Superior, Wisconsin. He brought out a lot of awful good things in the players he had... He was just fun to be around.