There was nothing abnormal about the play, just a run to the right side by Washington State’s Max Borghi, which Arizona’s defense stopped after a 2-yard gain. But in the chaos that ensues on almost every snap in a football game, Jerry Roberts found himself at the bottom of a pile of players after several had crashed into his left leg.
Then the pain came.
“Yeah, I knew,” Roberts said when asked if he thought he’d broken his leg. “I was like yeah, I’m done, probably go get the cart.”
Roberts had just made his sixth consecutive start for the UA at middle linebacker, registering 31 tackles in the previous four games with four for loss and 1.5 sacks. But on the first play of that November game at WSU, his first season with the Wildcats was over.
“It was frustrating, because I felt as if I was finally starting to put together a few good games,” said Roberts, who transferred to Arizona from Bowling Green.
A little more than four months later, Roberts is back on the field and a full participant in most of Arizona’s spring practices. He competed in Saturday’s scrimmage, saying that was the best he’d felt since the injury.
“I would say I was probably about 95 percent,” he said Monday. “I did basically the whole scrimmage. I wasn’t supposed to do that but I was feeling good out there.”
Roberts was more limited during Monday’s workout, going through some individual drills before getting pulled out to keep him from overdoing it.
“We’re not going to play for a while, so I’d rather have those guys full go in the fall than now,” defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen said. “He’s been doing some good things. He’s got a long way to go. I’m counting on him to help us out this year.”
The 6-foot-2, 227-pound redshirt senior likely would be Arizona’s starting MLB for in Nansen’s 4-2-5 defense had he not gotten hurt. Instead Malik Reed has been getting the most snaps with the first-team defense alongside Michigan transfer Anthony Solomon at Will linebacker.
Assuring playing time is not on Roberts’ goals for the spring.
“To basically show my teammates that I can continue to compete after an injury, and to continue to be a leader,” he said.