Northwestern still has four games left this season, but the Wildcats’ freshman wide receiver Jelani Roberts would be lying if he said he wasn’t looking forward to his trip to New York City in December.
Roberts is one of five 2015 National Football Foundation High School Scholar-Athlete Honorees from across the country that will make their way to the Big Apple to be honored during the NFF Chapter Awards Luncheon, presented by Under Armour, on Dec. 8 at the Waldorf Astoria.
“It was a huge honor just to be honored as one of the winners of that award,” Roberts said. “It feels really good to just have people take notice of me and more broadly just people who are out there succeeding both academically and athletically. It’s great seeing that being noticed and celebrated.
It’s been a little while since I’ve been to New York, so I’m excited to be going back. Just excited to meet some other people who are doing well on the field and in the classroom. It will be a cool experience.”
The 5-foot-8, 160-pounder excelled in both areas at The Gilman School in Baltimore, and he now credits those pivotal high school years with getting him ready to make the transition to college football and college classes.
“My coaching staff really emphasized academics and doing stuff in the classroom first and foremost,” Roberts said. “They ran practices like a college and really ran complex schemes to help you transition to the next level.”
Roberts also points to the guidance and direction he received throughout his life from his parents. They always put an emphasis on being the best he could be in everything he did, and that mindset stuck with the wide receiver.
No matter how tedious his school work got, he found time to get it done while making sure to give attention to all the details that go on with being successful in football. Roberts did it all watched film, lifted weights, and spent time with friends, and it was all thanks to his ability to manage his time.
“My family played a huge role,” Roberts said. “From small stuff like doing my laundry so I could do my homework to just general support and raising me to be the type of person who wants to succeed academically and athletically and push myself to be the best that I can be.”
The other motivation to excel at everything came from his high school head coach, Biff Poggi.
Roberts’ love for football has impacted his life greatly, as it’s taught him important life lessons that have been beneficial in delegating his time to do well academically as well as athletically.
“One of the coolest things about it is to be a part of team, being able to play this game that we love that teaches so many great lessons like hard work and toughness,” Roberts said. “You can definitely take being part of a team and hard work and attitude. That’s around your life when football is done. Those things are just important in life.”
And that’s the thought process that has led Roberts to where he is today.
The Owings Mills, Md., native has already seen some playing time this fall as a true freshman and you know he’s putting in the necessary work in his classes. That’s just who Roberts is, and football is a big reason why.
“Not too much time in your schedule for distractions, so you just have to focus on football and school,” Roberts said. “It’s just takes great values hard work, work ethic, and attitude.”