Usually, it’s not a good thing when the top tackler on your team is a defensive back. But for Herbert Hoover, Andrew Rollyson isn’t your typical defensive back, so it was a very good thing indeed.
Perhaps a safety in name only, Rollyson led the Huskies in tackles from the secondary as a mere sophomore and was selected to the Class AA All-State first team as he helped Hoover reach the playoff quarterfinals for the first time since 2015.
Despite standing just 5-foot-8 and weighing 160 pounds, Rollyson came up with 49 solo tackles and 14 assists last year, forced five fumbles and recovered two as the Huskies went 6-3.
Most teams are led in tackles by their linebackers, or perhaps a defensive lineman — players who are closer to the ball at the snap. If a defensive back gets a lot of stops, most times it means opposing ball carriers are breaking into the open field. Not so with Rollyson, according to Hoover coach Joey Fields.
“Obviously, he was our safety,’’ Fields said, “but it was a week to week thing last year. We were trying to get our best guys to where we thought they were going to try and attack us the most. We got to moving him to where the ball was going to be ran. He was playing more in the [tackle] box, even up on the edge. He did a lot of things for us.
“He could be our safety, an outside linebacker to corner to defensive end, if needed. He’s that type of football player and that type of kid. He’s a football player first, and that’s what we tell our guys.’’
Rollyson said he has no special approach to his success, and is just willing to do whatever the coaching staff needs.
“Week to week,’’ he said, “it’s just be hard-nosed and stick your nose in there. Go get the ball pretty much. Just be in the box a little bit more. That’s not a bad thing.
“I just want to be a team player. I don’t want to be selfish or run anybody down. I just want to go out there and play.’’
Fields said his coaching staff does some of the same things with linebacker Brock Truman and cornerback Devin Hatfield — moving them around the formation in an attempt to locate the ball carrier.
“We don’t look at them like [certain positions],’’ Fields said. “This one might play safety, and that one might play safety, but they might be playing another position by default. It’s about getting the best 11 on the field, and [Rollyson’s] one of our best 11 in all three phases of the football.’’
Rollyson also plays receiver on offense and caught 10 passes for 152 yards in a nine-game season. In fact, he plays basically the same three positions as Hatfield — the team’s marquee player and a first-team All-State athlete in both football and basketball. Rollyson and Hatfield line up as defensive backs, receivers and kick returners.
Hatfield generates a lot of attention because of his background, being the son of a coach (former Mingo Central basketball coach Kevin Hatfield) and a younger brother of Drew Hatfield, a state record-breaking receiver for the Miners who’s now playing football at Glenville State. Rollyson, though, has no problem playing the role of Robin to Hatfield’s Batman.
“He’s awesome,’’ Rollyson said of Hatfield. “He’s a good leader. He does everything right. I have no problem being by his side.’’
Fields is ecstatic to have two all-around players of that caliber.
“The more guys you’ve got that are very knowledgeable about football,’’ Fields said, “and mentally and physically tough — and those two are — [is a big help]. It’s not just on Fridays. They’re doing it on and off the field. In the locker room, they’re as valuable as they are on Friday nights.
“So the more guys you have like that — and that spreads — and that’s something we talked about yesterday. Toughness spreads and also softness does as well. So the more tough guys we’ve got in there — and those two are very tough kids, mentally and physically — the better football team we’re going to have.’’
Rollyson’s toughness even extends to his other sport, wrestling. He placed sixth in last season’s Class AA-A state tournament in Huntington in the 145-pound weight class.