Roby Aiming to Be One of the All-Time Greats
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Bradley Roby wants to be remembered as one of the best. Good thing too, because he’s already pretty good.
Photo by Dan Harker
A chance to play for a national championship next season was a critical factor in Roby’s decision to return for his junior season at Ohio State, but not the only factor. The one-time Vanderbilt commitment and former high school wide receiver came to Columbus because he wanted to be one of the greats.
Not just this year, all time.
He wanted Roby to be right up there with names like Cassady, Colzie, Springs, Winfield, Plummer, Gamble and Jenkins. After two seasons as a starter, including this past one where Roby led the Big Ten in passes broken up, he was headed in that direction.
Because he redshirted as a freshman in 2010 – remember how close they almost came to using him against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl? – Roby could still have two more years as a starter at Ohio State.
That would certainly be enough time to leave his mark on the program the way some of those other guys did, but Roby also played his way into another opportunity. The opportunity to leave early after just three years in the program, the way Gamble did after the 2003 season.
“It just shows me that I'm on the right path. I'm following my plan,” Roby said towards the end of his redshirt sophomore season.
“This is all part of my plan I came to Ohio State with. So just the fact that it's discussed is good for me, knowing I'm doing things I'm supposed to be doing.”
It’s remarkable to think Roby didn’t even contribute as a freshman for a team that won 12 games, especially considering he is probably the fastest – or at least of the top two or three – players on the current roster.
Then again, Roby walked into a situation where the Buckeyes already had two seniors starting at corner, including first-team All-American Chimdi Chekwa. Converted wideout Devon Torrence was the starter on the other side, and the Buckeyes’ No. 3 corner was a young sophomore named Travis Howard.
The Buckeyes also had another young corner that year named Dominic Clarke, who many expected to win the starting job across from Howard heading into last fall. By the time camp was over, just about everyone knew the name Bradley Roby. Clarke would end up starting on the other side in place of Howard, who was serving a two-game suspension, but Roby would quickly solidify himself as a mainstay on the back end of Ohio State’s defense.
He was raw, at first, and Urban Meyer would say later that he had a tendency of playing down to his competition. His technique was flawed, but not fatally. It would just take some time, but everything he lacked in training, Roby more than made up for with his dynamic 4.3 speed and remarkable closing ability.
“I love playing corner, but I can get so much better at playing the position,” Roby acknowledged this past spring.
“My potential is sky-high at corner. Technique-wise, I’m still a real raw corner. I’ve worked hard on my technique over the past year, so I’ve gotten better with that. I feel like I’m going to be so much better this year, it’s going to be crazy.”
Roby was right. It was crazy at times. He was often the best player on the field for Ohio State, leading the country with 1.73 passes defended per game while recording 17 pass breakups in only 11 games.
It earned him a second-team All-American selection from the Associated Press, while ESPN named Roby to its first-team All-America squad. He was tabbed as a first-team all-conference performer by both the media and coaches in the Big Ten, but there is still a sense about this kid that he has only begun to reach his potential as a cornerback.
“I think his best days are ahead of him,” first-year cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said.
“I think he's going to be a great player. I think even just to look at the progress he made from March ‘til November, but even September to November, gives you an indication of how good he can be.”
Against Wisconsin, with the Buckeyes desperately clinging to a small lead late in the second half, Roby made one of those plays most corners will never make in their lives. They simply can’t. The ball wasn’t even thrown to his man, but Roby came out of nowhere to virtually steal the game-tying touchdown away from Badgers’ fullback Derek Watt.
It’s those kinds of plays that made Roby an attractive option for the NFL, but another year at Ohio State could turn this kid who was once headed to Vanderbilt to play receiver into one of the top cornerbacks in all of America.
“If Bradley is not a first-round (NFL) draft pick down the road, that would be a shame,” said Coombs, who came to OSU from the University of Cincinnati, where he coached the defensive backs for the past five seasons.
“It will only be a result of failure to stay diligent in his craft, and I don’t think he will (let that happen). I think he’ll be very diligent and I think that’s exactly who he should be and what he should be.”
Just not until next year.
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