BLOOMINGTON-With its 16th commitment for the 2006 football class, IU thinks it's got a star in the making from the Lone Star State.
Mandela Roberts, a 6-0, 220-pound middle linebacker from Lukfin, Texas, became the 16th player to verbally commit to the Hoosiers. Roberts called the IU staff Monday morning to let them know about his decision.
"I went ahead and made my decision," said Roberts. "I want to get a chance to play early and there's a chance I could play early at Indiana."
Indiana thinks it's got a good one in Roberts, who starred at one of Texas' top football programs for the last four seasons. Roberts was a Class 5A All-State honorable mention pick and an all-district choice after recording 128 tackles and six sacks as a senior. Lufkin High School's all-time leader in tackles, he helped lead his team to a 14-1 record and a berth in the Class 5A state semifinals last month.
Roberts came to his decision over the weekend after missing his flight to a scheduled trip to UTEP. The weekend at home gave him a chance to weigh his options, and he decided he didn't need to take any more visits.
"I was sitting there thinking about it and decided to go ahead and commit," said Roberts.
Roberts made his official visit to Bloomington Jan. 5-7, and appeared close to committing before he returned home. He said the trip to Bloomington opened his eyes to what IU had to offer both on the football field and off.
"It's a great school, with great people," said Roberts. "I was really impressed with the Kelley School of Business because I want to major in business. Everything seemed to be going in the right place there – everything seemed to be going uphill instead of downhill, so that's where I decided I wanted to play."
Roberts also knows that he very well could get an opportunity to compete for playing time early as well. Indiana lost its three starting linebackers from a year ago, leaving all three positions up for grabs in the fall.
"Coming from Lufkin where I've been playing 15 games a year, I want to keep playing, I want to stay in the groove," said Roberts. "I don't want to be out for a year and get rusty. It will be a great opportunity to play in the Big Ten and be young and be successful at it."
Probably the toughest part of the decision for Roberts was to leave his homestate to venture north to the Big Ten. There was certainly a draw to play at one of the in-state schools, but ultimately he decided Indiana was where he belonged.
"It's real hard going away from Texas," said Roberts. "That's the only place I've lived my whole life. It's going to be a chance to meet new people and stuff and travel, but it's going to be hard. I know I'm going to get homesick.
"But you have to give up some stuff to get the good stuff."
Roberts Talks About IU Pledge
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