Jelani Roberts: Time to make the big play

Jelani Roberts grew confident days before the Northwestern camp. It was perfect timing.

A couple of weeks before attending Northwestern camp, Jelani Roberts held offers and interest from schools including Navy, Davidson, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

At the start of camp season, he traveled to Boston College and suddenly picked up a surprise offer. The then-unranked receiver from Baltimore Gilman HS arrived on the scene just in time for Northwestern camp.

“My focus was trying to catch the ball and show I could play receiver,” Roberts told on Friday. “I really got a lot of confidence from Boston College and having a great camp there.”

Define, sleeper: This. Roberts dominated at NU camp and picked up an offer shortly after. Again, in the rapid recruiting process, he needed to move quickly.

Just more than a week later, Roberts visited NU and was toured by superbacks coach Bob Heffner. Earlier that day, Charlie Fessler—another camp participant and wideout—had committed to Northwestern. It was good that he visited in time.

“Coach Heffner talked to me about it,” Roberts said. “He was pretty open. He just wanted me to understand how many receivers they were trying to take in.”

From camp, though, Roberts understood that he liked Northwestern. An offer was the goal, and after rushing out post-camp, he returned to seal his commitment.

“It was definitely in my mindset,” he said. “I thought it could be the place. When I was at the camp, I needed to catch a plane. I just wanted to see the campus, and I was thinking it would be the place for me.”

Roberts also fits the “versatile” scheme, and told PW after his commitment that he earned some comparisons to Venric Mark. He started playing football young at age 6 or 7 and “felt like he didn’t really want to play” but then grew into playing running back.

Throughout his high school career, then, Roberts focused on transition. At Gilman, he “moved into the slot” and started learning how to play wide receiver. It was an obvious success.

Roberts grabbed the offer from Navy during his junior year of high school, which marked a crucial moment for him. After that, the process involved waiting for other schools to take notice. That, too, was an obvious success, and he understands why he’s here.

“Really, I just want to bring my skillset,” he said. “Bring speed and quickness like that to the offense and kick returns. I’m just trying to make a lot of big plays.”

Purple Wildcats Top Stories