NORMAN — Donovan Roberts was easily identifiable Wednesday morning at his high school, even before he sat down behind a library table to put pen to paper and, as his coach joked, “sign his life away.”
Roberts was wearing red, and not the shade that is extremely popular around here. The Norman High running back's sweatshirt was red in its purest sense, bright and distinguishable. So was the “Hog Head” hat in front of him.
Roberts committed in April to Arkansas. Even with a late run by the hometown school, Oklahoma, Roberts held firm to his vow.
“Once I made my commitment, my word was my bond,” he said just after his 8:15 a.m. signing ceremony. “I never felt like I wanted to change, to go with the school down the street. I felt pretty solid and comfortable where I was at.”
Two Sooners running backs, Jermie Calhoun and Jonathon Miller, decided in September to transfer. So, when Brandon Williams joined them, leaving in December for Texas A&M, OU decided offering another back would not hurt. The Sooners did, just before Christmas.
“By that time, I was pretty confident with my decision and everything,” Roberts said. “I mean, I still thought about it and talked it over with my parents and my coach. I just felt really, really – it was my gut instinct to stay where I was at.”
Norman High's stadium to Owen Field is literally 1 ½ miles. Walking or biking would be a breeze. So, anytime there's a high-caliber player at Norman, the presumption to some extent is that he will become a Sooner. Roberts broke the mold, even with recent OU successes from the high school such as Mossis Madu and Ryan Broyles.
“I think each kid is different,” Norman coach Greg Nation said. “Some kids grow up, and all they want to do is their whole life is wear OU on the side of their helmet. … He really liked Arkansas.”
Nation said Roberts made a giant leap forward between his sophomore and junior years, in terms of work ethic and dedicating himself to becoming an all-around player. The results indicated that his labor had paid off.
Roberts rushed for 2,002 yards his junior year. Nation first heard from Arkansas – former OU quarterback and then-Hogs-offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, actually – during the middle of that breakout season.