Is Will The Thrill Headed To The Hill?

You've heard of the star athlete playing football, but it's rare to hear of a football player starring as an athlete.

You've heard of the star athlete playing football, but it's rare to hear of a football player starring as an athlete.

That's precisely the case with Will Roach of Brooks High School in Killen, Ala., a football player with exceptional instincts for the game who also has the size and athletic ability to play anywhere behind the line on either side of the football.

A starter since his freshman season at the Class 4A school, Roach has played cornerback, both safety positions and outside linebacker on defense. On offense he has started at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

Rated the nation's No. 6 safety prospect by The Insiders, Roach, 6-2, 205, is being recruited as a running back by South Carolina and LSU, as a wide receiver by Tennessee, Alabama and Ole Miss and as a cornerback by Nebraska. Most other schools pursuing Roach project him as a safety, but he could also grow into a linebacker like his brother Freddie Roach, a red-shirt freshman, who starts at middle linebacker for the Crimson Tide.

Roach started as an outside linebacker as a freshman, but his coverage skills were so good he was moved to the secondary. As a sophomore, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and was a physical force at free safety. As a junior, he played mostly quarterback on offense; this year he's played primarily at wide receiver and cornerback. His versatility makes him invaluable to the team, but it hasn't afforded him the opportunity to settle into one spot and develop his skills. Despite this drawback, Roach is pleased because his team is winning. The Lions have a 9-1 mark on the season and earned a spot in the state playoffs.

"Yeah I've been playing a lot of different positions," Roach said."It's not boring, but you don't get a chance to settle in to one position and work on your game. My coach told me at the first of the season, 'you're going to have to do a lot of different things this year, you're going to have to play a lot of different positions.' Hey whatever it takes, as long as we win I don't mind. Whatever he needs me to do, I'll do it. All I want to do is win."

In addition to playing two seasons at Brooks with brother Freddie, (they each rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2000), Roach also benefited from the experience of brother Tim Bowens who played wide receiver at Alabama.

"On the offensive side I learned a lot from my brother Tim," he said. "He played wideout and we used to get out in the yard and do pass routes when he'd come home from school. We'd practice our moves, getting off the ball and we'd catch for about two hours. Just throw and catch, throw and catch. Then we'd run routes without the football. It was fun. He's a big role model for me."

Because they were closer in age, Freddie and Will had a more competitive relationship but he learned one thing from his brother that he took to heart and it has served him well the last two seasons.

"Before he left for college he was like you going to be playing defense this year?," Will recalled. "I said: 'yeah.' He said: "I tell you what there's one thing you've got to do on defense and that's be physical. You've got to be physical. That's just something you've got to do." He said:"if a runner comes to you just make sure you let him know that you're there." That's what I think and that's what I try to do."

Roach has another brother, Quentin Roach, who plays for Jacksonville and on weekends he is usually at a game watching one of his siblings compete in college football.

As to his own ambitions, Roach said he would prefer playing wide receiver but he's willing to do what he has to to get on the field as soon as possible.

"I'm looking for a school with a great football program," he said. "I want to go somewhere where academics are great, a good tradition and a good program; somewhere I know that is going to be a strong team and somewhere that I can help the team. I've thought it over already; I don't what to red shirt at all. Wherever I go I'm going to go work hard and whatever happens, happens."

It's still up in the air as to where Roach will play, but he knows it will be in the SEC.

"I haven't made any official visits yet," he said. "I'll do that after the season. I plan to visit Tennessee and Alabama, South Carolina, LSU and Ole Miss.2

Although Roach runs an ordinary 4.6 time in the 40, his game speed seems to be a stride or two faster. This season he has rushed for over 900 yards and five touchdowns and has caught 17 passes for another 350 yards and five touchdowns. He's also a shutdown corner who essentially takes half the field out of play and a special teams standout.

"He does have a great knack or instincts," said Coach Godsey. "I've never seen him caught from behind. He's not going to wow anyone with the times he clocks, but he'll get it done in a game."

Roach also gets it done in the weight room and classroom. He bench presses 275 pounds and cleans 285. He has his a qualifying core average and is awaiting the results of the ACT which he took for the first time last month.

"He's an outstanding young man," said Godsey. "He didn't miss a single summer workout. He's a quiet young man who wants to be left out of the limelight except on Friday nights."

As to where he'll be spending his Saturdays next fall, Roach has consistently listed Tennessee as his leader but admits that there is a strong pull to follow his brothers to Tuscaloosa. However he indicates his decision won't be based on family tradition.

"Well I have a high interest in Tennessee," he said. "I have a high interest in Alabama. It's not a big factor It's like I told Freddie, and he's asked if I'm coming, I said: "well Alabama's not for everybody." I like everybody down there, the coaches and players I know well. It's kind of home, but it's not for everybody. Alabama and Tennessee are kind of neck and neck right now. I'll take the visits and see."

As to his interest in Tennessee, Roach describes it as love at first sight.

"I went to Tennessee I guess two years ago with one of my teammates, Zack Woodard,"he recalled of his first visit to Knoxville. "We went up there and I walked into the stadium and I don't know what it was; it was just all of a sudden I said this may be where I want to play ball. It's beautiful. It's beautiful.

"We talked to the coaches and players and they were good guys. They didn't have anything to say other than positive things. As we went on they started calling me and it's been great."

The young man known as "Will The Thrill" would, no doubt, look great in orange, and given a chance to play three games against his older brother, he could raise sibling rivalry to a new level.

Editor's Note: Be sure to check next week's issue of Rocky Top News for an in-depth feature on Will Roach along with other recruiting news.

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