Greatness, by definition, is hard to achieve. Yet BR-92 East Baptist University’s Kendall Roberson manages to be consistently great on a nightly basis. Check out these stats: 1,378 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns on 168 carries in eight games played, a disgusting 168.4 rushing yards and 2.4 TDs per contest. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior ranks second in D3 football in total rushing yards, fourth in average rushing yards per game and tied for first in total TDs.
Need more? How about the numbers Roberson posted against BR-199 Belhaven just over two weeks ago: 420, 5, 33. Yes, you read that right — 420 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 33 carries. Let me repeat that — 420 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 33 carries. Even more impressive? Roberson accomplished the feat in just three quarters of action, breaking American Southwest Conference and ETBU records for single-game rushing yards in what turned out to be a 46-13 blowout victory.
“He had a very special day — one of those days where great competitors get into a zone,” third year head coach Joshua Eargle said. “Even in those conditions, with the amount of rain — close to five inches — it seemed like everyone else was moving in slow motion. Some of the cuts he made were ridiculous. It seemed like every time we handed him the football he went to the house with it.”
Eargle’s not exaggerating. Just look at the box score:
“I heard a running back say there’s a hammer and a nail in every football play,” explained Roberson, “you get to decide what you want to be. In a muddy game, in the rain, someone’s gotta be the hammer.”
Roberson provides easy banter, doesn’t talk about himself or his attributes, instead focusing on his teammates and his faith. He truly feels blessed for his abilities and the opportunity presented to him at ETBU.
“I think that God has a way of moving people to the right places,” said Roberson, who trusted his instincts and transferred from Wayland Baptist University to ETBU his junior year. “Three years ago ETBU got a new coaching staff and they made it important for us to know there must be a four way system — coaches must trust coaches, players must trust coaches, coaches must trust players and players must truest players. When that happens, a family can really exist on the field. That’s when special things occur.
“I got to witness this. I’ve never seen it in front of me like this before. I really pride the coaches on the job they’ve done, and the way they’ve built this brotherhood.”
Junior offensive lineman Tyler Scott praised Roberson’s work ethic.
“Kendall works hard every day,” he said. “He comes to practice, gives 100 percent every day. He’s very patient back there. He lets us get our blocks, and then he takes off. He doesn’t try to make plays by himself. That’s the difference between him and everyone else.”
Coach Eargle went a little farther with his evaluation of his running back.
“Kendell is the heartbeat of our team,” he said. “When he speaks everyone listens. He’s an emotional player on the field. Off the field he keeps to himself and goes about business. But when he puts that helmet on he’s the heartbeat of this team. When he has a good day, the Tigers have a good day.”
When told about his coach’s assessment of him, Roberson seemed genuinely taken aback.
“Oh, wow,” he said. “That’s a big statement from the coach. I’ll definitely agree with that. I try to bring as much energy and passion to the field every day. I treat it like work. You don’t go to work with a content attitude; you go to get the job done. As a senior that’s what I want to be remembered as: someone who worked hard and helped energize the team each and every day.”
So far, so good, and the numbers speak for themselves: six 100-plus yard games, including a 214-yard, two-touchdown performance against Southwestern on Sep. 19 and, most recently, a 157-yard, three touchdown showing against BR-141 Sul Ross State.
“For the most part, I’ve been blessed and I really thank God for everything I’ve accomplished to this point,” Roberson said. But I’m not satisfied, because as a player you want more.”
Indeed, none of his personal stats would matter if they didn’t amount to team success in the long run.
Thankfully, Roberson’s hard work helped the team accrue a 6-2 overall record (3-0 in the ASC) — the Tigers’ first winning season 2005 — t0 set up a pivotal showdown with 8-0 BR-8 Hardin-Simmons this weekend. The winner takes control of the ASC with one game left on the schedule.
The Tigers haven’t won a conference title since 2003.
“This is our third season here as football staff,” Eargle said. “To be here now, getting ready to compete for a conference championship on our home field is an opportunity we’re very excited to have.”
Roberson agreed, noting that his status as a senior makes the game even more vital.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to play for a game as important as this one,” he explained. “I’ve been focusing on the little details in my position all week. It’s one of those games that, as a senor, you realize they don’t come often. I’m treating this game like it’s the last game I’ll ever play. If the game was tomorrow I’d be ready. It’s all or nothing for me.”
Scott isn’t shocked by his team’s current position.
“I had this feeling there was something different about this team at the beginning of the season,” he said. “We started practicing and we felt it. The coaches preached how it was important to try to get better each and every weekend. That philosophy put us in good position to reach our goal. Now, we’ll just go out there and have some fun. Let chips fall where they may.”
Roberson graduates in December, and hopes to continue the game of football in some capacity be it marketing, medicine or as a coach. Even so, his focus is on the present situation.
“With two more guaranteed games, God has a way of leading you to where you need to be,” he said. “I’m focusing on Hardin-Simmons. Right now that’s my purpose. Whatever happens in the future, may it be God’s will. I’m focusing on what’s in front of me.”