YSU's junior offensive guard remembers watching the national championship game instead of getting a chance to play in it.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Nick Roberts remembers sitting home last December watching the NCAA Division I-AA national championship football game on television.
"That was probably one of the worst feelings that we ever had," said Roberts, a junior guard from Newton Falls, who played his high school football at Champion High.
"The fact that we never got a chance to get to that game has stuck with us ever since," Roberts said. "Each day we get up at 6 a.m. and work out with that feeling in mind."
The 6-foot, 303-pound Roberts is beginning his second season as a starter on the Youngstown State offensive line. Last season was an outstanding year for the two-year letter winner.
He is listed as the strongest player on the team, according to the Penguins' weight room records. He holds schools record in the incline press (410 pounds, set a year ago) and the power clean (331 pounds), which he set this past spring.
"Our entire offensive line stayed together here all summer and worked out as a group," Roberts. "We've all worked very hard and we have all dropped a few pounds, while adding some strength and quickness."
Roberts finished up spring practice at 316 pounds, but has dropped 13 pounds this summer.
"Really our first five on the O-line are as good as anyone around, but we need some of the younger guys to step it up for backup support," Roberts added.
Last year Roberts started all 11 games for the Penguins and was named the team's offensive lineman of the game four times. He was also named the Gateway Conference offensive lineman of the week for his efforts against Southern Illinois.
This summer he was named by Street and Smith to its I-AA preseason All-American team.
"This summer we really came together as a group," Roberts said. "I think that this camp is going to be outstanding and we are really going to surprise a lot of people."
Roberts and the offensive will have a new quarterback working behind them for the first time in four years as Jeff Ryan has graduated.
Roberts doesn't think that will be a problem.
"The thing is that if the O-line does their job it just going to make it easier for whoever is back there and it will also open up all kinds of opportunities for P.J. Mays and the rest of the offensive backs," he said.
Roberts' position coach John Klacik, also the Penguins' offensive coordinator, is counting highly on his veteran performer.
"Nick has to take on the role as the leader of this offensive line," Klacik said. "He and Andy DeNiro are the veterans returning this year and they have to be the leaders for this group.
"I think that Nick has taken a big step toward that goal this summer.
"He can be as good as he wants to be," Klacik said. "He's a very hard worker and the more you work the better you get. We expect great things out of him this season."