Jaden Roberts has always been too small to play football, and that’s just the way it is. Of course, Jaden didn’t know he was too small, and he started playing when he was in the 5th grade…and he just kept on playing. By the time he was a junior, Jaden was about 5’7,” 5’8” if he stretched really, really hard, and I’m guessing (if I’m completely honest) that soaking wet he weighed somewhere about 140 pounds.
What Jaden Roberts WAS the perfect size for was riding bulls, something that he has loved since he climbed onto his first monster when he was in the 6th grade.
“My mom rode barrels in high school, and she started working with my sister when she was young. As soon as I was old enough to sit in a saddle, she put me on a horse and then started entering me in every rodeo event I was big enough to do. I started riding calves when I was 6, and I really liked it. Bulls were the next obvious step.”
Jaden’s grandfather, Ladoytt Northcutt, was a big supporter of Jaden’s rodeo career…well, he was until he realized that it was very possible that his grandson might get hurt, thus hindering his athletic career at Comanche ISD. Finally, the two made a deal each year that Jaden would not mount a bull during football season, and eventually the pair made the same deal about basketball season.
“I always thought up until this year that I would go to college on a rodeo scholarship like my sister. I was going to ride bulls and do team roping; at least, that was my plan.”
Was it Steinbeck who spoke of those best laid plans of mice and men…?
And then it was the 2013 Comanche Indian football season, and Jaden Roberts was a senior running back for the Indians. By this time he had grown quite a bit and stood at 5’10” and weighed in somewhere between 155-162 pounds, according to the day.
“Then, after I was fairly successful this season…”
I interrupted at this point with a large roll of the eyes, considering that Jaden Roberts, under the leadership of head coach Stephen Hermesmeyer, was voted the 2013 District 4-2A offensive MVP for his unbelievable tenacity as a running back.
“…I began getting some coaches emailing and calling me, and I realized that maybe I had a chance to play.”
I’ve known Jaden for a very long time so I felt perfectly free to ask him how someone who is not really built to play football happened to be so successful.
“Why were you able to run like you did? I watched you make yards when you just should not have been able to make an inch.”
“My vision is probably my best asset. I’m not very fast, but I can see where to make the cuts, which is what really helped me. And even though I’m not fast, I’m pretty quick; that was a big thing for me.”
I’d say it a little differently myself. I’d say that Jaden Roberts was a running back who just refused to give up, that quit just wasn’t in his football vocabulary.
“I loved it. Up until my senior year, I actually liked basketball better than football, but then, there’s really nothing that beats Friday nights, is there?”
And then, I asked the hard question…the question that, quite honestly, I would not have printed had I gotten the wrong answer…
“Tell me about the coaching staff”, and yes, I know it is a loaded question, but as I said, I’ve known Jaden a very long time, and truthfully, I already knew what his answer would be.
“They insist that we develop a certain mental toughness, so much more than what we did in the past. Once you figure out that it’s all in your head, and you can do it…then you can. Anything is possible. You just have to believe and push yourself.
“What turned it around for me was understanding what the coaches wanted out of us, plus we really worked hard in the off season, really hard. At least I did. I think these coaches made it mean more to me, and I committed more.”
And that’s how a very small 160 something pounder has found himself heading toward the collegiate gridiron at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, where he plans to be a running back for the Yellow Jackets.
“I’m really excited for the chance to play running back again. Hardin Simmons looked at me as a slot receiver, but HP offered me the chance to play running back, which is what I love. Another reason I chose it is because their two first string running backs won’t be back next year. One transferred, and one had to return home to take care of personal business so that gives me a better chance of playing as a freshman, which almost never happens, but it might this time.
“The hardest thing I will have to overcome is my size, but I think I can do it. It’s all in my head, and I just have to be tougher with more of a never quit attitude than those across the line from me. I give a lot credit to my high school coaches who pushed me to work harder and have the mindset of a winner.
“And to the younger kids I would say, ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. Nothing is easy but if you want it, be willing to work for it!’”