When Donovan Roberts was a freshman, Norman coach Greg Nation knew there was no reason to hold him back.
“There wasn't anybody else on our team better than he was that year,” Nation said. “So we moved him up. The way he accepted that role, though, as a 14-year-old, is when I knew I had a really special player.”
Roberts didn't disappoint.
As a senior this year, he ran for 1,595 yards and 23 touchdowns. For his career, Roberts set school recording in rushing and scoring with 5,394 yards and 76 touchdowns.
His efforts earned him Oklahoman All-State honors.
“I really wanted to hit that 2,000-yard mark again,” Roberts said. “I think if I would've been completely healthy I could've done that, but overall I was pretty pleased.”
For much of the season, a leg injury bothered Roberts, but he didn't show it much outwardly.
In the season opener against Norman North, he ran for nearly 200 yards. Against Broken Arrow in a game where Norman nearly pulled the upset, he ran for 176.
Then there was the first-round playoff game against Owasso.
Owasso coach Bill Patterson got a look at All-State backs in back-to-back weeks to start the playoffs.
The Rams got out of both — against Roberts' Tigers and a second-round meeting with Midwest City and James Flanders — with wins but came away impressed with the differing styles of both.
“They're both such competitors,” Patterson said. “The more you give it to them, the better they get. Donovan is a between-the-tackles runner. He might not have the speed that Flanders does on the corner but he's got incredible instincts when he's got the ball.”
Roberts, just a week after missing much of Norman's game against Jenks with an injury, rushed for more than 200 yards against the Rams.
Even on the sidelines just after his injury, Roberts told Tigers coach Greg Nation not to worry.
“He just kept saying, ‘I'm going to play. No matter what it says, I'm going to play,'” Nation said.
Roberts, like fellow All-Stater Keon Hatcher, had long been committed to Arkansas. Postseason transfers and Roberts' numbers this season were enough to draw an offer from Oklahoma but Roberts is sticking with the Razorbacks.