Winning the NFL draft is all about maximizing value, and defensive success in today’s NFL starts with an effective pass rush. Northwest Missouri State’s Sam Roberts hopes to bring both to the next level.
One of the best under-the-radar prospects heading into this college football season, Roberts recently spoke exclusively with MCM about how he’s staying prepared throughout the pandemic, his pass rush arsenal, and why the Senior Bowl would give him a huge opportunity to prove himself.
JM: This is a big season for you. This pandemic has unfortunately brought many challenges. How are you finding ways to work out and stay in shape?
SR: It’s business as usual for me. I’m planning as if this thing isn’t even here right now. I’m hoping that we’re ready to go in August.
JM: What are you hoping to achieve as a defense this season?
SR: We’re trying to get back to the Bearcats standard. Nobody has higher expectations for us than us. We want to be the best defense in the nation. We’ve done it before and we believe we can do it again. We dropped the ball a few times last year but we’re confident that we can get back to that point.
JM: What can you tell me about the scheme you plan to run on defense this year?
SR: It’s one of a kind, I can definitely tell you that (laughs). Not too many people can execute our defense the way we can. The coaching staff has a plan. I don’t think too many people can do it how we do it.
JM: What’s your favorite part about playing on the defensive line?
SR: I love hitting people (laughs). Nobody wants to get hit. The defensive line has a special bond. Our position room is like no other. As the season goes on, we get closer and closer. I don’t think there’s another group like us. It’s tough to put into words. I love my brothers.
JM: What are three traits a successful D-linemen must possess in order to be successful?
SR: We have to be selfless first and foremost. You also need to have some endurance about you. It’s a long, tough game and you have to be well conditioned in order to play it at a high level. You can’t let up or take your foot off the gas. You also have to know ball. People sometimes underrate that aspect. As a D-linemen, you have to understand the game at a high level.
JM: I love that. What can you tell me about your pass rush arsenal?
SR: I enjoy a good power move. I’m blessed with excellent size so I naturally have a lot of power to my game. I always use my size to my advantage. I throw in some finesse moves here and there, but I really love those power moves. The bull rush, a push-pull, a rip, I use all of those power moves.
JM: Which of those moves do you consider your go-to?
SR: I love using different moves that eventually turn into a bull rush. I like to play some mind games with the offensive linemen. I try to get them off balance and then use the bull rush to push them back into the quarterback.
JM: Do you feel as if you’re more developed as a pass rusher or run stopper at this point?
SR: I can do both. I can definitely do both. I’m 100% confident in my ability to stop the run though. I can take on a block on any given down, I could push that O-linemen back and win my assignment. Being a powerful guy definitely helps me in the run game.
JM: This is your senior season. As you go through the pre-draft process a few months from now, some analysts will label you as a “small school prospect.” I can promise you that. How will you handle that?
SR: I’ve always treated things as if I was at any other school. I’m not gonna let that deter me from achieving anything. I’m gonna continue to play and act as if I’m at the biggest school in the nation. I work just as hard as those guys, if not harder. I’m not gonna let that label or criticism deter me from anything. Some great players have come out of small schools. Check the records.
JM: That’s great. Jim Nagy recently mentioned you as a potential candidate for the 2021 Senior Bowl. How big of an opportunity would that be for you?
SR: That would be tremendous. That would be so great. It would open up a lot of doors for me. I would appreciate the opportunity to gain some exposure. It would give me a chance to compete with some prospects from a quote on quote “bigger school.”
Small-School Saturday. Northern Iowa EDGE Elerson Smith is long and flashes power. WR Changa Hodge is one of many legit Villanova seniors on our list. @seniorbowl noticed Lenoir Rhyne WR Dareke Young last fall on campus while meeting Kyle Dugger.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE #SSS pic.twitter.com/jaScW9rdqZ— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) June 6, 2020
JM: We hope to see you there. In closing, what can Northwest Missouri State fans expect from Sam Roberts this year?
SR: They can expect me to continue to be a hard worker. I’m always gonna work my tail off. They can expect us to have a great season. We’re putting our best foot forward to get back to that Bearcats standard. We’re trying to win a National Championship.