Tall and lean with a sprinter's graceful stride, Will Roach began his first college camp in excellent physical condition. But when he paused this week to talk after practice, he was breathing hard and soaked with sweat.
"It's a whole lot more work; totally different!" Roach said of the workouts. "I'm not used to doing too much. But you come out here and everybody's good, so you've got to work hard."
The brother of current Tide middle linebacker Freddie Roach, Will was about as prepared for college football as any true freshman can be. What Freddie didn't tell him, Will's other brother, Tim Bowens (Alabama's Director of High School Relations and a former Tide receiver), did.
"It's been kind of what I expected," Roach said. "I knew I had to come in and work hard. You've got to work hard to stay ahead."
Following graduation from Brooks High School in Killen, Roach allowed himself the luxury of a few weeks' vacation. But last June he entered The University early, aiming to get a head start on the season.
Roach spent the past several weeks working out and lifting weights with his new teammates. "I guess I'm in better shape than I would have been in," he said. "I arrived in late June, and got some work done. I think I'm in pretty good shape, but I've got to continue to work and get better."
An outstanding athlete, Roach could play either offense or defense. During his senior season of high school he rushed for 973 yards and passed for 176 more, accounting for 15 touchdowns. He finished high school with 6,199 all-purpose yards.
Roach also totaled 53 tackles and three interceptions playing safety on defense.
"I'd describe myself as an athlete that's playing receiver," Roach said. "I came in preferring to play receiver. Alabama's got some great (defensive backs) out here. Going against those guys, they'll make you work hard."
Will is obviously more slender than brother Freddie, though there is a definite family resemblance. However, on the field he'll remind fans of brother Tim, who played at Alabama from 1996-1999.
Listed at 6-1, 187 pounds, Will has still got some growing to do. "Ideally I'd like to play at 215," he said. "I'm about a year or so away from that."
Besides lifting weights and running, Roach also took part in several voluntary pass skel workouts during July. As a general rule it's very difficult for a true freshman to play his first season, but skill players have a better shot than most.
"I was able to 'hang' out there," Roach said. "It wasn't really that bad. I was kind of lost for a little bit, but then you get used to it."
For now, with six senior receivers on the roster, Roach benefits from plenty of veteran leadership. He commented, "Those older guys show you around. They take care of you out here. There are plenty of guys taking care of me. Those (older) wide receivers are great. They're outstanding leaders. They teach you well."
Early scouting reports on Roach are good. He runs very well and has excellent body control. He also has a knack for making the tough catch.
Right off the bat Roach discovered the difference between college and prep quarterbacks. "They've got way stronger arms than what I'm used to," he said with a laugh. "The first pass I caught from Brodie Croyle, I think I jammed my finger.
"It's totally different, but I think I'm ready."