The drive up to Ada from Dallas was smooth. Getting to the stadium you have to pass the high school and take Stadium Drive. On the street you have Cougar paw prints painted on the concrete to lead the way. Think they're not serious about football there? 19 state championships is enough to start believing. Hearing that they had 12,000 people in attendance for a home game this year before tonight had me wondering where I would sit and park.
I got in the stadium with about 16:00 on the pre-game clock. I got there in time to hear a funny horn go off and to see the players leave the field. They play at the university in Ada and they have a lightening detector with a siren and light on the system. I drove nearly 200 miles and now was facing the fact that there may be no game.
I was able to reach Bryan Roark, their father, and we chatted about the season so far and his sons. He mentioned to me that when I called the other night for a weather report that Coach Wilson from Oklahoma was on the other line talking to Craig. He also said that Tennessee was in to see Craig that night.
Craig to this point was averaging about 16 pancakes per contest, so he had a lot of living up to those performances tonight for me to verify. Chad on the other hand was being used pretty much only on the defensive side of the ball. He was being used on offense in short yardage situations at the tackle position and Craig played guard. At the beginning of the season an injury to the starting center had them thinking that Chad would be playing center all season.
When the lightening cleared and the rain stopped the players came back out. Craig was easy to find because he was the broadest and tallest kid on Ada's team. Chad was also easy to find. Although 20 months younger, an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Craig he stood out. Not just because he physically looked impressive, but you could see him just getting jacked up about the game and being vocal.
At half of the game it was clear that Nebraska had stole one and I was hoping that Chad would follow big brother. Craig had ten pancakes at half and physically was dominating the players across from him. What was most impressive about him was his physical strength, his feet and his motor. He would be blocking someone 10-15 yards downfield and wouldn't stop.
Chad on the other hand was being a nuisance on the defensive side. I'm not sure what his stats were at halftime, but he was in on a lot of quarterback pressures and tackles. Even on double-teams he was effective.
At the end of the game Ada took care of Cushing winning by over 20 points. At this point there were at least two kids that stood out to me and I was made aware of them coming to Lincoln the following day with Craig and Chad.
Some others that stood out were Jerry Johnson and Kerry Johnson. They are twin brothers with Jerry playing running back/wide receiver and Kerry is the starting quarterback. Kerry is holding an offer from SMU already to play either cornerback or wide receiver. He got a chance to split out and have a ball thrown to him only to have to be slightly over-thrown, but Kerry gave his best effort laying out for the ball. Jerry was equally impressive with good moves with the ball. Both were lightning quick.
|From R-L, Dusty Newport, Craig
Spencer Austin, Chad Roark
The real test for me was to see what all the hub-bub was about with Craig and his height. Rumor had it that he was 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 and that was why some schools were over-looking him a bit. After the game the tradition of the team and the town is to meet on the field and talk a bit before clearing the field to any post-game with the coaching staff.
It was at this time that I was intending to verify Craig's height. I stand 6-foot-3 myself and I was looking him right in the eye. He is all of 6-foot-3 and put together. Chad and Spencer were noticeably not as tall as Craig so I felt good with the 6-foot-3 tag on Craig. Dusty was really put together as well and looked to be a division one athlete.
While I would call the trip to Ada a success I really didn't feel that way until after the game. That wasn't because I had to see how tall Craig was or anything. I had a chance to really think about the pressure that Craig was under at this point. Schools like Oklahoma are still calling. He is still getting offers from schools like Oregon that know he is committed. And then there was acknowledging the fact that Tennessee was in the stands to see him that night.
It led me to believe then that the recruitment of Craig wasn't going to be over until he signed the dotted line. I also wanted not just the first Roark to go to Lincoln but the second. It was apparent to me that Craig was a super college prospect, but that the potential of Chad will lead him to either as good and if not better than Craig. I kept having to remind myself that he was only a junior.
Then we got back to the uncertainty or the feeling of if Craig didn't end up in Lincoln. His dad told me at that time he was 100% committed to Nebraska. He added that Chad actually had stronger feelings for Nebraska than what Craig did possibly. Then Craig took off his shoulder pads and that put some of these thoughts to rest. Under his pads, and close to his heart, was a sleeveless Nebraska Cornhusker tee shirt. Rest easy.
|Ready the painter!|