Is the NFL in Roberts' future?
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- NFL scouts sometimes make calls to University of Charleston coach Pat Kirkland and even pay an occasional visit to UC practices.
In their no-stones-unturned search for talent, they see the Golden Eagles' Jordan Roberts as an all-around athlete who's worth a look, his Division II status notwithstanding.
In light of Roberts' play in UC's season-ending 62-0 victory over West Virginia State at UC Stadium on Saturday, the scouts may ratchet up their interest a bit.
Roberts, a 5-foot-11, 218-pound senior from Madison, rushed 28 times for 301 yards and five touchdowns and set an NCAA Division II record by rushing for 273 before halftime, breaking the Division II first-half rushing mark of 229 set by Kentucky State's Alvon Brown in 2000.
Running through tackles like so many highway cones, he scored on runs of 19, 66, 9 and 24 yards in helping UC (9-2) to a 48-0 halftime lead and added an 8-yard scoring run in his only series of the second half.
NFL possibilities, said Kirkland, are realistic.
"The big reason the scouts like him is not only is he a good tailback,'' said the UC coach, "but he plays on all of our special teams. And sometimes that's where a lot of those guys get their niche and get their foot in the door.''
The former Kennedy Award winner has stirred up considerable interest, Kirkland added.
"Most of the NFL teams have contacted us,'' he said. "A number of those teams have been on campus looking at Jordan and a couple other guys, but obviously Jordan's the main one. He's got the speed, talent, work ethic. He's a very coachable young man. There's a number of Division II players in the NFL, and there's a number that get drafted each year. I would anticipate a lot going on for Jordan this spring.''
Roberts admits he holds NFL aspirations but, for the moment, hopes the Golden Eagles will be selected to play in the six-team Division II regional, which is part of the 24-team national championship playoff. The pairings will be announced later today.
"I think we put ourselves in a position to hopefully make the playoffs,'' Roberts said. "If we don't, it's going to hurt. I've got big dreams for this team and hopefully we can make the playoffs for the first time. And I have big dreams for myself. I'm proud of our coaches, our players, everybody that got me here. It would be a shame to end our season right now. I think we can compete with anybody.''
His 301 rushing yards easily surpassed the school's single-game record of 229, a mark set by Julian Lambert in 2003 and equaled by Roberts last year.
"I would say this game or the [UNC] Pembroke game was my best game in college,'' he said, "but I would say my best game ever was in high school when I scored eight touchdowns in the second round of the playoffs.''
Roberts also set a UC single-season rushing record, finishing with 1,622 yards on 238 carries, to break the mark of 1,430 he set last year. UC's records date back to 2003, the year the school revived football after a 47-yard absence.
Roberts entered the game averaging 127.1 rushing yards to rank 15th in Division II, and his 183.8 all-purpose yards were seventh. He leads the West Virginia Conference in both categories.
UC, which has won 16 of its last 19 games, loses 11 seniors, who, said Kirkland, have been essential to the team's progress.
"I can't say enough about the group of seniors,'' he said. "This season has been a direct reflection of them, their work ethic and their dedication to this football program. Our seniors got the boat in the right direction.''
The Yellow Jackets (2-9) ended the season with six straight losses and, if all goes well, might see an increase in scholarships next year. State coach Earl Monroe estimates the school now offers only "12 or 13,'' which is far below the NCAA maximum of 36.
"We're trying to increase the scholarships,'' said Monroe. "I know they're working on that, but to say how many and when, I say we'll probably know in the near future.''
In the meantime, Monroe was not pleased with his team's play on Saturday, especially in its attempts to tackle Roberts.
"We were just arm tackling,'' he said, "and he was running through us. I was hoping it would be a spark for a linebacker or defensive end, knowing you're playing against one of the top guys in the country. I was hoping it would motivate them to have a good game. But [the Golden Eagles] were just more physical than we were today. We have to get more physical guys who play with a little more attitude.''
State totaled just 150 yards of offense and never advanced past the UC 32 in the first half.
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.