Jacobs: Aurora Christian product at the helm for Wheaton College
There’s nothing wrong with Jordan Roberts’ legs.
Albion College found that out Saturday when the Wheaton College senior quarterback ran for 174 yards and four touchdowns in a 66-0 romp for the Thunder (2-0).
The performance was reminiscent of Roberts’ days at Aurora Christian High School, when he routinely carved up opposing defenses with his feet, as well as his right arm.
“That’s what I was telling people,” Roberts says. “I think it’s the most running I’ve ever done in a game in my life. It was fun.”
Roberts carried the ball 14 times, averaging 12.4 yards a rush.
“It was just kind of what they gave us. It was not in the game plan,” he says. “Whatever the defense gives us, we’ll just use that to our advantage.”
Roberts also completed 13 of 17 passes without an interception and threw a touchdown pass in the game, but it was the rushing yards that stood out. Combined with the 45 yards he gained on the ground in a season-opening 48-27 victory at Benedictine, he’s already rushed for more yards this season (219) than he did all of last year (182).
Last season, Roberts was coming off an ACL tear in his right knee suffered just before the start of the 2011 campaign.
“It was at the end of practice and we were going No. 1 offense against No. 1 defense,” he recalls. “I took off running out of the pocket and made a cut and my knee just buckled.”
He missed the 2011 season and admits the injury might have had a slight effect on his 2012 performance.
“It was always in the back of my mind,” he says. “It was a little scary at times, but nothing to where I think it hindered me.”
It certainly didn’t hinder him as far as throwing the football. Roberts threw for 2,500 yards in 10 games. He tossed 29 touchdown passes against just five interceptions and completed a school-record 70.2 percent of his passes, breaking his own mark of 66.2 percent set in 2010.
Roberts says last year was “bittersweet” because although the Thunder went 8-2 and tied for first in the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, they were not invited to the NCAA Division III playoffs as were fellow league co-champs Elmhurst and North Central. Roberts was named first-team all-conference.
Roberts and his teammates have high hopes for this season. Wheaton is ranked 14th in the country in the latest D3football.com poll. North Central is ranked sixth.
“I think we’re OK right now,” Roberts says. “We have the potential to be a very good team. It’s just a question of guys stepping up and understanding that.”
He says the team’s goals are to win conference and make a run in the playoffs. Roberts knows something about postseason success, having won eight playoff games at Aurora Christian and leading the Eagles to a second-place finish in the 2008 Class 4A playoffs. In the process, he set IHSA records for passing yards in a career (9,752), career pass completions (616), and career touchdowns (127).
Roberts says his goal was to compete at the NCAA Division I level.
“But, obviously, it didn’t work out that way,” he says. “Throughout high school, I visited a decent amount of schools.”
He continued visiting schools even during his senior football season, but the two-year process of choosing a college finally came down to a quick decision when a Wheaton College assistant coach came to see him at Aurora Christian.
“A week later, I told him that’s where I wanted to go,” Roberts says. “I don’t really think I thought it through ... as much as I should have.”
That’s not to say he’s been unhappy with his decision.
“Wheaton College came and knocked on the door and it just felt right,” Roberts says, noting that Wheaton is a faith-based private school like Aurora Christian.
“That was a big thing. The faith-based aspect of it,” he says. “On top of it, they had a good football program, as well as academics.”
Last year, his brother Grayson joined the team as a freshman wide receiver and because Jordan’s injury gave him another year of eligibility, he’s able to spend another season throwing passes to his brother.
“It’s been awesome having him there,” Roberts says. “Not that I enjoyed having the ACL tear … [but] it’s definitely been an awesome experience and I’m very thankful for that.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To suggest local college athletes deserving of recognition, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.