SPORTS

John Robert­son has a shot at the NFL af­ter his fi­nal col­le­giate football sea­son

201 Family - - EDITOR’S NOTE - WRIT­TEN BY DAR­REN COOPER

Para­mus High School alum John Robert­son is a ris­ing football star at Vil­lanova

his last high school football game for Para­mus High School, John Robert­son ac­counted for eight touch­downs and al­most 600 yards of to­tal of­fense. And lost. Since then he’s proven to be quite a win­ner. Robert­son, now 22, has gone on to great fame and ac­claim as the start­ing quar­ter­back for Vil­lanova Univer­sity. He won the Wal­ter Pay­ton Award in 2014 as the top player in the Football Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion (bet­ter known as Di­vi­sion 1-AA) rush­ing for 1,078 yards and 11 touch­downs as a ju­nior, while throw­ing for 2,846 yards and 35 touch­downs.

This year will be his third as the starter for the Wild­cats, a le­git­i­mate threat to win the FCS na­tional cham­pi­onship, and per­haps a pro ca­reer beck­ons.

But the first ques­tion for Robert­son if you are from North Jersey is, how much does he think about that 63-56 loss to Old Tap­pan in the 2010 North 1, Group 3 semi­fi­nals? It’s easily one of the wildest high school football games ever played in North Jersey and the high­est scor­ing play­off game in state history.

“I do have a lot of peo­ple who bring it up, even in col­lege,” says Robert­son, whose fam­ily has lived in Para­mus for al­most 20 years. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I scored eight touch­downs in a game, and we lost, un­for­tu­nately.’ It was one of the cra­zi­est games I have ever been a part of.”

Truth be known, Robert­son never thought he would be a quar­ter­back, and al­most didn’t go to Vil­lanova. But boy, he’s happy with how things have tran­spired.

Football wasn’t his first choice. Robert­son was a bas­ket­ball player grow­ing up, and re­mem­bers play­ing on a team in Elm­wood Park with for­mer Don Bosco Prep and Rut­gers start­ing quar­ter­back Gary Nova. The fam­ily moved to Para­mus from Elm­wood Park when Robert­son was 5. He says nei­ther of his par­ents, or his older sis­ter, is blessed with

ath­letic gifts, but that they were al­ways sup­port­ive.

“My dad was a great sport [when I was] grow­ing up,” Robert­son says. “I would play ball against him as hard as I could for hours and he would be tired. I think I started beat­ing him in bas­ket­ball when I was 8. I was a good bas­ket­ball player… well, I like to think I was.”

Robert­son played football for the first time in fourth grade as a run­ning back, but he went through a growth spurt that made his cleats hurt his feet so bad that he quit af­ter one sea­son.

Will­ing to give it one more try, and cap­ti­vated by the idea of play­ing with his friends, he played in the Para­mus recre­ational pro­gram in sev­enth grade as a quar­ter­back, run­ning the wing-T of­fense.

For those who are not fa­mil­iar with football, we will use a car anal­ogy, the wing-T of­fense is like a Buick, plod­ding and slow. The spread? That’s a corvette baby, plenty of curves and dash.

“I did not like the wing-T,” Robert­son says. “I was ac­tu­ally hop­ing to switch po­si­tions go­ing into high school, but Sa­bella told me that the spread would be much dif­fer­ent. He was right.”

Sa­bella is Para­mus’ es­teemed head football coach Dan Sa­bella, who looked at what he had in Para­mus – scrappy, smart kids – and what he did not – bulk and num­bers – and put in an up-tempo style that played to their strengths.

Robert­son ended up be­ing the cat­a­lyst for the pro­gram’s re­vival. His throw­ing and run­ning skills were a per­fect fit for the spread of­fense, and he won the job as the Spar­tans start­ing quar­ter­back as a sopho­more lead­ing them to a 6-4 record in 2008, 7-4 in 2009 and 7-4 again in 2010.

That 2010 team met its demise at the hand of Old Tap­pan in that now­fa­mous game. The quar­ter­back for the Golden Knights was Devin Fuller, who is a ris­ing se­nior wide re­ceiver at UCLA. Robert­son had a chance to meet Fuller a few weeks af­ter the game, and, much to his sur­prise, Robert­son liked him and has fol­lowed his col­lege ca­reer.

As far as his own col­lege choice, Robert­son had com­mit­ted to Vil­lanova early. At the end of the sign­ing pe­riod, he had a chance to go to Mi­ami depend­ing on what another player de­cided. In the end, that player opted not to go to Mi­ami, but Robert­son stuck with his orig­i­nal choice.

And while its fun to spec­u­late what Robert­son could do for the Hur­ri­canes, he ob­vi­ously made the right choice.

Robert­son is the Vil­lanova poster boy. He grad­u­ated over the sum­mer with a de­gree in eco­nom­ics – he red­shirted as a fresh­man, so he still has a year of ath­letic el­i­gi­bil­ity – and is hop­ing to join the school’s MBA pro­gram.

Earnestly, Robert­son talks about get­ting some good rec­om­men­da­tions to get his mas­ters de­gree – the Wal­ter Pay­ton Award is a pretty good honor to have on a re­sume. It’s the equiv­a­lent of the Heis­man Tro­phy.

“It was one of the most sur­real mo­ments of my life,” Robert­son says. “I thought of it as a credit to my team be­cause you are only as good as the play­ers around you. It was an honor to see the other guys who have won it in the past. I had so many peo­ple come up to me to con­grat­u­late me. It was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence mak­ing ev­ery­one from home and school proud was one of the best feel­ings of my life.”

As far as life af­ter col­lege, Robert­son is pre­pared to hear the NFL talk. There will be ques­tions about whether or not he is re­ally a quar­ter­back at the next level, and a lot of times play­ers asked to switch po­si­tions at this stage don’t al­ways work out. He’s ap­proach­ing it re­al­is­ti­cally, like a win­ner would.

“It is in the back of my mind,” Robert­son says about the pros. “My way of think­ing about the fu­ture is just to not worry, just work hard and I be­lieve if you work hard ev­ery­thing will fall into place. My of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and I had this con­ver­sa­tion and he said he knows my head is in the right place. I am just hop­ing ev­ery­thing works out.”

DUAL THREAT Robert­son ex­celled as a passer and run­ner as Vil­lanova’s quar­ter­back, rack­ing up a com­bined 46 touch­downs.

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