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