Nick Roberts stood tall in the pocket
The watershed moment for Trumbull High senior quarterback Nick Roberts came early in the 2013 season.
“We weren’t happy with the outcome the past two years (a combined 7-12 record) and we got together to do something about it,” said Roberts, who will attend Dean Junior College in Franklin, Mass.
But despite all the conditioning and pre-packaging that Roberts and his talented receivers and dedicated lineman did, Trumbull opened its season with a stunning 57-20 loss to Shelton High.
That’s when Roberts, who was forced into a starting role when senior quarterback Brendan Moore was injured in game one his sophomore season, completed his transformation from a player of promise to one of distinction.
“After the Shelton game that Friday night, I told everyone that I was going to be on the field on Saturday at 7 a.m. and that they better show up,” he said.
Maybe it was his 6-4, 230-pound frame, or as Roberts believes, it was the realization that it now or never, but almost the entire team was there waiting for him.
“There were no coaches and we had a full practice,” Roberts said. “We were determined to turn the season around. We had talked all year about being the underdog, being under the radar, because we hadn’t done much to talk about the past two seasons.”
Coach Bob Maffei’s Eagles won their next seven games to position themselves for a berth in the postseason.
Roberts, who threw for 3,104 yards, third best in the state, and 32 touchdowns with only nine interceptions, gives full credit to his offensive line.
“Zach Thompson was at center and made all the line calls. Phil Reardon and Corey Haslam were at guards but the key was they could all play multiple positions,” Roberts said. “With Phil Reardon and Jon Newland at tackle, we must have had thirty pancake blocks.”
With time in the pocket, and standing taller than most quarterbacks, Roberts had the time to view the field and Trumbull averaged better than 36 points a game.
“I has such great receivers, and they were all on point in reading the defenses,” Roberts said. “T.J. Hayduk, Eric Anderson, Jeff Sam, Quentin Brunetti and Hunter Wnukowski, I think, were the best group in the state.
“Then you add in Marc Cesare running the ball and we had the balance we needed.”
Trumbull finished the season 8-3 and college scouts came calling to talk with the son of Joe and Cindy Roberts.
“I had the height, but I was skinny and played only one year of Junior Pee Wees (Pop Warner) in fourth grade and then stuck to playing baseball and basketball,” Roberts said.
“I never played again, but freshman year my Uncle Greg (Lane), who had played in North Carolina, thought I had what it took. He encouraged me and worked with me.”
It wasn’t easy.
“After Brendan Moore got hurt, I came in and was a little lost,” Roberts said. “I was getting sacked because my reads were late and the game was just too fast for me.
“It (the experience) was bad for the team, but good for me because it forced me to grow up and decide if I really wanted to be a varsity player.”
That sophomore campaign ended at 2-7, before Roberts’ due diligence resulted in a 5-5 season as a junior.
“My mechanics got better, I got stronger and learned to read defenses on the fly,” he said.
“But I’ve got to continue to improve. That’s why I watch tape all the time and work out four times a week to better my foot speeds, my drops and my pocket presence. There’s always improvement to be done.”
Roberts sees Dean Jr. College as a path to reach two goals.
“I’d love to play Division I football and this gives me a chance to gain game experience,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a police officer, so I’ll be studying criminal justice.”