ONA — Cabell Midland two-way lineman Nehemiah Roberts is named for a biblical figure who was adept at accomplishments others said couldn’t be done.
That’s appropriate, as Roberts, nicknamed “Nemo,” consistently proves other people wrong. Some think they can block the 6-foot, 275-pound defensive tackle, but usually they’re wrong. Others believe they can maneuver around the senior center, but rarely does that happen. Some say Roberts is too small to play college football, but that’s where another biblical figure, David, comes to mind. To the astonishment of all who saw him, David killed the Philistine giant Goliath. Roberts figures he can prove doubters wrong.
“I just respond with my play,” Roberts said of how he responds to those who question his size. “I can show them my highlights. I go against kids bigger than me every year. It’s nothing new, and I’ve learned to use my size to my advantage.”
Roberts leads the No. 5 Knights (11-1) into the Class AAA semifinal showdown at top-seeded Huntington High (12-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bob Sang Stadium. The Highlanders defeated Cabell Midland 21-17 on Sept. 10 at home. Roberts said he looks forward to the rematch.
“This week definitely is a must win,” Roberts said. “I’m very excited for us to get a chance for revenge from earlier in this season, and it being a rival will make it all the more better.”
Huntington High will have no problem finding Nemo. He’s in the center of both lines making plays. Roberts, whose brother J.J. plays defensive back at Wake Forest, said he has improved in areas that can benefit him against Huntington High’s strong passing attack.
“My get off and my pass rush moves,” Roberts said of what he has improved the most since last season. “My hand placement is elite now because I’ve worked on it for so long hitting the sled and other drills.”
Roberts said he’s not satisfied with his statistics this season, especially his sacks total, but has recorded a large number of hurries and tackles for losses.
Roberts also said he knows the Knights will have to play well against Huntington High. He often will match up with Highlanders center Max Wentz, who committed to play at Dartmouth.
Cabell Midland coach Luke Salmons said earlier this season he figured at some point college offers would pour in for Roberts. Salmons was right. Last week, Glenville State offered a scholarship and West Virginia University a preferred walk-on spot. Air Force is showing increased interest.
“I expect he’ll get offered more,” Salmons said. “He’s good. He’s tough and he’s fast. He can play.”
Roberts said he’s noticed the pickup in recruiting intensity.
“It’s going well,” Roberts said. “After the WVU PWO, it started to get better. More schools are starting to reach out to me. You just have to stay patient, and your time will come.”
Roberts, who said he enjoys playing tennis in his spare time, said he is similar to biblical Nehemiah in that his faith is strong.
“I just put all my faith in God and trust his plan for me,” Roberts said. “I know he’s going to work it out, and I give him all the glory for any accomplishments and achievements I’ve had in the past.”