Cornerback Michael Roberts has big plans for his first season at Ohio State.
Player Spotlight - Michael Roberts
"Honestly, my ultimate goal is to come in and start. There seems to be a big need at corner and I want to help out right away," Roberts said.
Roberts hails from Scarborough, Ontario (just outside Toronto) and is considered the No. 1 defensive back in all of Canada. And he might be the fastest player on the OSU roster the minute he steps on campus.
"I run a consistent 4.3, but have been timed (unofficially) at 4.2. I will run an official 4.2 this year," he said with confidence.
The 5-foot-11, 172-pound Roberts was discovered by Ohio State last summer while on a recruiting tour.
"A man up here named Ron Diaz helps a lot of Canadian football players get noticed by colleges. This year, he took a few of us on a tour. We went to Tennessee, Kentucky and then to Ohio State."
Did the OSU coaches know much about him before he arrived in Columbus?
"They heard about me running a 4.3 on grass while I was visiting Tennessee - that's about all they knew about me.
Roberts was offered a scholarship to OSU when he was down in the summertime for camp. Although Roberts enjoyed his visit, he needed some time to consider the offer.
"I thought about it for about two or three weeks, but then it just hit me one night. I couldn't sleep at all and I just knew Ohio State was where I wanted to go. I ended up calling coach Dantonio at midnight to tell him my decision and I woke him up. He said he thought he was having a dream. Finally he just told me to call coach (Jim) Tressel the next morning to make it official."
So why did the Buckeyes win out over Tennessee, Kentucky and others?
"I was just more comfortable at Ohio State than anywhere else. The coaching staff made me feel real comfortable, especially Coach Tressel. There were just a lot of plusses that set them apart. It's a great academic school, it's fairly close to home and there is a need for corners. I also like that it's a big school in a big city. There will always be a lot of things to do."
Roberts began playing football just three years ago thanks to his success in another physical sport.
"I was playing for a rugby team in 9th grade - I loved the contact. I was skinny, but pretty big for a 14 year-old and I was fast. I started doing really well and a few of my friends told me I should try-out for a club football team called the Scarborough Thunder. I made the team and started for them my sophomore and junior years. My high school didn't have a football program at the time."
The Thunder is regarded as one of the top club teams in Canada. Several former players have received college scholarships.
"The competition was great. It was football at a very high level," Roberts said.
This year, Roberts' high school (Central Tech) resurrected its football program.
"They brought back football this year and that was a good experience. We went 8-2, but lost pretty bad in the Toronto City Finals."
Roberts said there was a noticeable dropoff in the level of competition compared to his time with the club team.
"There was much better competition when I was playing for the Thunder. The high school teams like Central Tech get more media attention and there are more people in the stands, but the competition is not as good."
Did the lack of competition hurt his development?
"No, I don't think so. Football is football. I learned a lot my two years with the Thunder, but I was still able to work on a lot of things this past season."
Roberts will graduate early from high school and will begin taking classes at Ohio State in March.
"I wanted to get in there early so I can go through spring ball and get a jump on the other freshmen. Like I said, I want to play right away, so I need to have a productive spring and summer."
Roberts said covering "deeper routes" is his strength.
"If you go deep, I will blanket you. No one is going to out-run me."
What about weaknesses?
"Anything quick, like a three-step drop back from the quarterback. I need to work on those quick routes."
Roberts has only been to OSU's campus twice. His first time was the camp last summer and the other was for the Illinois game on Nov. 17.
"It was something else seeing the stadium and all the fans on game day. There were people parking an hour away and walking to the stadium. All you could see was a bunch of red and white."
Uh, that's Scarlet and Gray.
"Guess I still have some things to learn," Roberts quipped.
Although he wasn't sure about the home colors, Roberts definitely got a feel for the deep OSU tradition on that day.
"It was just an incredible atmosphere, like nothing I've ever experienced. Ohio State seems like a place where you play for the fans. There's just so much tradition."
Roberts will make his third trip to Columbus on Jan. 18. That's when he'll finally be making his official visit.
"I couldn't get down there any earlier because I've been taking extra classes to graduate early."
As for hobbies, Roberts enjoys playing basketball and hanging out with his friends. He has also taken up yoga to "help out with flexibility."
He holds a 2.7 GPA at Central Tech and has "no idea" what he'll major in at OSU.
But he does know what jersey number he'll shoot for.
"I wanted No. 2, but luckily I won't have the chance to get that one. I definitely want a single-digit, so I think I'll go for No. 8."
Special thanks to Michael for the interview!