Following his calling

More news about: St. Thomas
Jordan Roberts had a scholarship at South Dakota, but had to work his way up from the bottom of the depth chart at St. Thomas.
Photo by Caleb Williams, d3photography.com

A scholarship to play football led Jordan Roberts to the University of South Dakota. But a series of events, some personal reflection and a call to the priesthood led him to the St. John Vianney Seminary and the University of St. Thomas.

Although his path in life has adjusted, his ability on the gridiron has remained steady. And with 1,105 rushing yards through Saturday’s game at Concordia-Moorhead, Roberts and the Tommies are in control of the MIAC with a perfect 8-0 overall record.

Roberts’ journey to the Twin Cities and the St. Thomas football team began in Wyoming, where he attended high school. After a successful senior season, he had a number of scholarship opportunities. He accepted a full ride to South Dakota.

In 2012, during his redshirt freshman season, Roberts endured a number of devastating moments. The most tragic was the death of his best friend from childhood, Nicholas Bazemore.

“That was the hardest thing I ever went through. And my parents also got divorced right in the middle of that,” Roberts recalled. “The year after that was really just kind of a healing process.”

During that time, Roberts felt a calling to pursue a life as a priest.

“And that’s how I started to look at St. Thomas,” Roberts explained. “The people from the Sioux Falls diocese send their seminarians to the University of St. Thomas.

“I applied, and I got in.”

UST head coach Glenn Caruso first learned that a former scholarship running back was on campus when a seminary director contacted the football office.

“They told me that they had someone coming to school here at St. Thomas and that he was a football player,” Caruso said. “We’ve had several football players in that past who had played from the seminary, but maybe a third-string corner or a backup punter – no one of this magnitude.”

Roberts joined the team. But despite his experience at the Division I level, the running back was told he had to earn his spot in the starting lineup.

“Like anybody else on his team, he was going to have to work his way up from the bottom of the depth chart. That’s just how we do it,” Caruso explained. “When he got his reps, he made the most of it, climbed the depth the chart and became a starter.

“It didn’t take too long during spring ball to realize what he could do for the team.”

Taking a humble approach, Roberts quickly fit in with his new team.

“The guys welcomed me in right away. It’s really gone smoothly,” the running back said.

Roberts’ impact on the team has resulted in more than 1,100 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He piled up 230 yards and four scores in a 35-14 win over St. John’s earlier this season and chipped in 180 yards rushing, 74 yards receiving and two total touchdowns Saturday in a win over Concordia-Moorhead.

Those victories over ranked MIAC opponents has the Tommies in the driver’s seat to win their first conference title since 2012 – the same year they reached the Stagg Bowl.

“He’s a real tough matchup,” Caruso said, noting Roberts’ excellent speed and superb strength. “If you’re going to give him a hole and you’re going to give him enough green, he’s intuitive and thoughtful enough to take it. But if you’re going to bear down and try to take him at the thighs or waist-high, he can impose a lot of force on defenders.”

In addition to his own personal success, Roberts has allowed the Tommies to shift talent to other positions. With Roberts in the backfield, players like Nick Waldvogel – who previously ran the ball – can now serve as wide receivers.

“It expands our offense, exponentially,” Caruso said.

The Tommies’ goals of a conference title and a deep playoff run are in reach. “We’re very determined right now,” Roberts said. “We’re very excited and we know how good we can be.”

Caruso is excited about the position the team is in and is thrilled to have Roberts on the team. In addition to the running back’s play, Caruso is inspired by Roberts’ journey to St. Thomas because of the player’s ability to overcome setbacks in his personal life and make positive choices.

“I not only see Jordan as a role model that our team can look toward, but I see Jordan as a role model that my own children can look toward, that our coaches can look toward, that I can look toward,” Caruso said. “He’s a guy that made a very conscious decision to highlight and prioritize things that are important to him in his life.”

Roberts is as pleased to be where he is today, too.

“It’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made. I’m having the time of my life. This place is really good for me,” Roberts said. “I’m loving every minute of being here and being on this team.”

St. Scholastica secures share of UMAC title

Kyle Stepka led St. Scholastica to a 48-12 win over Westminster (Mo.), completing 26 of 36 attempts for a school-record 453 yards and four touchdowns. Additionally, Hunter Thompson set a program record with 297 receiving yards, hauling in 10 catches on the day.

The win gives the Saints a share of the UMAC conference championship. Additionally, the Saints, who have won at least a share of the league title for five consecutive seasons, clinched the UMAC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division III playoffs.

The Saints can win the league title outright this weekend when they wrap up their conference schedule at Greenville.

Number of the week

8 – as in the total number of points scored in Puget Sound’s 6-2 win over Pacific Lutheran Saturday. The Lutes led 2-0 at halftime thanks to a sack by Isaiah Watkins in the Puget Sound end zone. That lead lasted until the final minutes of the game when Brennan Schon caught an 18-yard touchdown pass with 4:25 to play to put Loggers in front. The low-scoring affair featured a combined eight punts, three turnovers and two missed field goals.


The rest of the West

UW-Whitewater gained 582 yards on offense while holding UW-Eau Claire to 39 total yards in a 63-0 shutout. Chris Nelson completed 11 of 14 passes for 291 yards, throwing touchdown passes to four different receivers. … La Verne defeated Chapman, 49-42, to remain atop the SCIAC standings. Travis Sparks-Jackson rushed for 197 yards and three scores, Dallas Parent added 126 rushing yards and two scores and Billy Livingston ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns to lift La Verne to the win. Chapman’s Jeremiah McKibbins rushed for 210 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Leopards. … Alex Hoff recorded a team-high 12 tackles, including 2.5 sacks. He finished with 4.5 tackles for a loss to lead Linfield’s shutout over George Fox, 24-0. … Nick Martin threw three touchdown passes and Sam Sura rushed for three scores as St. John’s cruised past Augsburg, 42-14. … Chris Bagley hauled in 11 catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns to propel Dubuque to a 42-7 win over Loras. … Iowa Wesleyan snapped an 11-game losing streak dating back to last year. The Tigers’ defense intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles in the 27-14 victory over Martin Luther. … UW-Oshkosh gained 658 total yards and rolled to a 57-12 win over UW-River Falls. Brett Kasper completed 16 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Titans’ big day on offense. … Brandon Domeyer and Jake Haberman scored two touchdowns each and the Wartburg defense picked off two passes in a 55-0 shutout versus Buena Vista. … Justice Spriggs threw four touchdown passes, including the game-winner to Jamian Maes with 20 seconds remaining, to rally Hamline past St. Olaf, 31-30. Spriggs finished with 259 yards through the air. … Andrew Segre rushed for a career-high 213 yards on 41 carries. His three touchdowns led Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to a 42-21 win over Cal Lutheran. … Northwestern (Minn.) scored 21 points in the first half, and despite being shutout in the second half, held off Greenville, 21-19. Caleb Couwenhoven caught two touchdowns to lead the Eagles. … Tom Kelly fired five touchdown passes, including three to Quinn Buschbacher, in UW-Platteville’s 43-10 win over UW-Stout. Buschbacher caught 12 passes for 156 yards in the win. … With starting quarterback Riley Gray injured, Central used a tandem of Nate Boland and Kohle Helle under center. The pair came through as the Dutch racked up 519 total yards and topped Simpson, 24-14. … Bryan Scott threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another score to pace Occidental in a 23-14 win at Pomona-Pitzer. … Ian Kolste accounted for 454 yards of offense in Whitworth’s 50-33 win over Pacific. Kolste completed 25-of-46 passes for 386 yards and a touchdown in addition to rushing for 68 yards and three scores. … Tyler Winders kicked the go-ahead field goal in the third quarter and Eureka went on to top Minnesota-Morris, 10-7. … Coe defeated Luther, 44-22, behind Sam Lahr’s four touchdown afternoon. Lahr racked up 239 yards on 25 carries. … Bethel outscored Gustavus Adolphus 19-7 in the second half to pull away for a 33-24 win. Marshall Klitzke carried the ball 38 times, picking up 228 yards and a touchdown for the Royals. … Aaron Mandell returned an interception for a touchdown, sparking Redlands’ 59-7 win over Whittier. … Austin Jones caught four touchdown receptions in Willamette’s 49-14 win over Lewis and Clark. Jones finished the day with six catches for 95 yards. … Crown scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes, but MacMurray held on to win, 27-25. Chaz Middlebrook gained 143 yards and scored a touchdown on 32 rushing attempts. … Matt Sosinski caught seven passes for 148 yards and a touchdown to help UW-Stevens Point top UW-La Crosse, 31-3.

Rank ‘em

Nine teams in the West Region were listed among this week’s Top 25 teams.

Linfield remained ranked No. 2, receiving six first place votes. UW-Oshkosh moved up two spots to No. 3. St. Thomas and UW-Whitewater rose one spot each to Nos. 5 and 6, respectively.

St. John’s dropped one position to No. 13 while UW-Platteville climbed two places to No. 14. Wartburg spends another week at No. 21, Concordia-Moorhead fell nine places to No. 23 and Dubuque made its debut in the Top 25 at No. 24.

Whitworth (50) and La Verne (4) received votes this week.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, breakout players or any other storylines in the Region. Or just drop me a note to let me know what you think of the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter @By_Josh_Smith.

Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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