The physical distance between Douglas Byrd and South View High Schools is only a few miles. But the challenges Jerry Roberts faced in making the trek have been huge.
Just over a week ago, Roberts made his debut for the South View football team, carrying 18 times for 116 yards and scoring from five yards out with 39 seconds left to seal a 29-26 win over Westover.
The victory kept South View unbeaten at 5-0 as the Tigers head into a critical Patriot Athletic Conference game this Friday at Pine Forest.
It’s quite a difference from where Roberts was this time last year. He was injured in his third game of the season with Douglas Byrd, and he would not return to the field for the Eagles.
Off the field, he was beset by personal issues beyond his control. His football future appeared in doubt until his former head coach at Douglas Byrd, Scott Barbour, and his wife Ashley, opened their home to Roberts and took him in.
“Coach Barbour and his family were an excellent support system for me,’’ Roberts said. “I want to thank everybody who’s worried about my condition and athleticism and helped (get) me through it.’’
South View coach Rodney Brewington didn’t know anything about Roberts and his football pedigree until he enrolled at South View. “Every year you get transfers in and out,’’ Brewington said. “When I laid eyes on him I was like, ‘Wow.’”
With good reason. Roberts is a solid 5-feet-10, 190 pounds. A classic power running back, he bench presses 350 pounds and squats 400.
But that’s not the end of his impressive statistics. He’s strong in the classroom, where he carries a 3.9 grade point average.
Brewington said South View school officials were careful to consult with the central office of Cumberland County Schools to make sure Roberts’ transfer was completely proper. “Any time you get a kid that comes from another school there is a protocol you have to follow,’’ Brewington said. “We went step by step. It was a rigorous process.’’
Roberts finally became eligible to join the South View team the Tuesday before the Westover game. But now he faces another challenge.
“He’s picked up the system as far as the plays we have designed for him, but as far as the entire system he’s weeks behind,’’ Brewington said. “Every week we try to give him a new wrinkle.’’
The good news for Roberts is South View had an open date prior to this week’s game with Pine Forest, giving him a little extra time to get up to speed.
When he has time, he sits down with Brewington and his son, Tiger quarterback Donovan, to go over plays and learn more about the entire South View offense.
“I want to be the person that if I have to put the team on my back and carry us to a win I can bring the whole team with me,’’ Roberts said. “Friday night we formed a bond. The whole team came together.’’
Brewington knows it will take that same kind of unity this week against Pine Forest. “We know other teams are going to be able to out-athlete us,’’ Brewington said. “Our biggest thing is playing team ball and doing our assignments. Our thing is to figure a groove and work it so hopefully we can come away with a victory.’’
PHOTO: Jerry Roberts and Coach Rodney Brewington