Gabe Roberts has a combination of speed, size, strength and intelligence that helped him dominate on the football field throughout his high school career with the New London Bulldogs.
Come fall, he will be suiting up for the University of Pittsburg after receiving a full ride scholarship offer and signing a letter of intent to attend the school on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
Roberts, who is 6’5″ and 290 pounds, hopes to gain size and strength while attending the Division I school. Academically, he expects to be challenged and hopes that the skills that have helped him earn a 3.83 grade point average at New London High School will also propel him to success in the classroom at Pitt.
Whether planning for his activities on the field or in the classroom, Roberts said signing with Pitt is a dream come true.
“I have been playing football since fifth grade when I was on a YMCA team that my dad coached,” Roberts said. “My dad, Bob Roberts, is a tough guy and a big football fan, so he has always helped me get better.
“I played through middle school and entered high school as a freshman. I weighed about 160 pounds then. It was a dream of mine to play college ball, but it was a pretty distant one.”
Roberts, a two-way starter on the offensive and defensive line, gained attention as a junior, as various scouts came to watch him play. His college dreams looked like a sure thing-until he broke his hip at the end of his junior year.
“I missed all of the summer camps the next year, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get to play college ball after that,” he said. “This year started rough. I wasn’t myself for the first three games, and I just didn’t play very well. After the fourth game, my dad and our coaches got after us, and we started to make some improvements. I spent lots of time in the weight room with my dad and teammates. We were all best friends, and we worked hard together.
“Going into the last game of the season, we still had a chance to make the playoffs. It was ‘win and we’re in’-but it wasn’t meant to be. Our coaches knew we were having a rough season, but they stuck with us,” Roberts added. “As players, we just tried to work hard, have fun and not get on each other too much.”
Despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs in his senior season, Roberts had recovered from the broken hip and was again attracting attention from college scouts-most notably those from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I had some game-day invites in Madison. I was offered the opportunity to be a preferred walk-on at Madison. It was incredibly exciting to think of playing for the Badgers,” Roberts said. “I met the offensive line coaches and built a good relationship with them. They offered me the chance to walk on, but then the offensive coaches (Bob Bostad, who was Wisconsin’s offensive line coach, and Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst) left Wisconsin to accept positions with Pitt.”
Roberts visited Pitt in January and was very impressed by the city, campus, and athletic department. The admiration went both ways, as Pitt offered Roberts a full ride scholarship on Jan. 20.
“I’m a huge Wisconsin fan, but I chose Pitt and I feel really good about it,” Roberts said. “I liked the culture of the town, and they have top notch academics. Places like Carnegie Hall and other big points were a huge draw. The players and coaches are all very friendly.”
Roberts said he will have academic advisors to help him set up a schedule that will balance athletics and academics, and he expects to work hard in both areas.
“I’m hoping to get bigger and faster and hopefully earn a spot on special teams this year,” Roberts said. “I’m hoping to compete for the offensive guard position, and possibly play center a little bit as well. It would also be awesome to play on defense again.”
Most of all, Roberts said he is enjoying the moment.
“This is all still just hitting me,” he said with a grin. “I didn’t believe it when I heard the offer from Pitt. I’m just excited to get to camp and work as hard as I can.”
Bulldogs Coach Pete Mroczynski said he has enjoyed coaching Roberts throughout his high school career and fully expects him to be successful in whatever he chooses to pursue.
“Gabe is a great young man, like so many I have had the honor to coach here in New London,” Mroczynski said. “He played three years on our varsity squad and was a starter that past two years on both sides of the ball. He has worked to improve every year. I also have to give great credit to Randy Marsh, our line coach, who spent tons of time working with Gabe’s technique and footwork. Gabe was an All Bay Conference selection this past season-1st team defensive end and second team offensive lineman.
“Gabe is very likeable, he’s willing to work to improve, and he’s very humble,” Mroczynski stated. “He is a team player that is well-liked by his teammates and peers. He has proven that he can do very well in high school athletics and academics, and I think that will continue the next five years.”
Gabe’s decision to sign with Pitt has only added to the excitement his family shares for his future.
“We are very excited for him,” said Tara Lawton, Gabe’s mother. “We were thinking he was going to be a Badger, but this works out too! I know it was a hard decision for Gabe, but he is looking forward to the opportunities he has at Pitt. He’s one of those kids that work hard all year round, and we’re confident he will do well at Pitt.”
“It has been a long process for Gabe to come to this decision,” said Bob Roberts, Gabe’s father. “He started with 15 schools he was considering, and in the middle of his evaluation process, he suffered the hip injury. When injured, people have a choice of either surrendering to their condition or stepping up and working harder. Gabe chose to step up and work harder, and it paid off for him.
Bob Roberts noted that his son’s success says a lot for the dedication of his coaches and teachers that have supported him-including Coach Mroczynski and Coach Randy Marsh, who recognized potential in Gabe as a sophomore and encouraged him to put forth the effort to succeed. Assistant Principal/Activities Director Scott Eggart was also mentioned as a great supporter and mentor to Gabe.
“Gabe has always been very dedicated, focused, and goal-oriented. His commitment has been unwavering,” commented Bob. “It’s a nice message for all small towns-there are lots of kids raised with these same values. Gabe is very privileged to have the opportunities that he has, and I’m most proud in the fact that he understands his privilege.”