It’s not often that a Brockton Boxer is literally a boxer.
Austin Roberts, though, a junior Swiss Army knife for the Division 1 powerhouse and No. 5 team in the state, actually puts on gloves and hits people when he’s not doing it in shoulder pads.
Roberts lives in East Bridgewater, but is able to attend Brockton because his father Ralph -- an assistant coach with the Boxers -- is a sophomore English teacher at the high school. He started boxing in his early teens at Eddie Bishop’s Gym in West Bridgewater.
“I’ve definitely became tougher because of boxing,” said the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder, who is 2-1 in three amateur bouts. “It’s an awesome experience sparring with people a lot better than me. It teaches you to remember to stay in the ring no matter how much you’re taking a beating. It made me a better foottball player in that sense.
“I love being an underdog. I’m, you know, a smaller person. I’m only 5-8. Going against taller people bigger people, you have to out-tough them every chance (you) get.”
“He loves it maybe moreso than I thought,” noted Ralph. “He does like getting in the ring with people.”
He got one such chance earlier than expected in 2009, when a suspension to starting quarterback Sam Previte forced the freshman, then only around 5-6 and 150 pounds, into action against Waltham on Thanksgiving and a date with unbeaten Xaverian in the Division 1 semifinals.
Against Waltham, Roberts completed 9-of-16 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown in an 18-11 win.
Facing unbeaten Xaverian the following Tuesday was a different animal. Still, the freshman didn’t go in to the situation intimidated.
“I was just thankful for the opportunity to get the experience as a freshman,” he said. “I was more excited than anything.”
When Xaverian took a 21-6 lead deep into the fourth quarter, the game looked finished.
But Roberts led the Boxers on a two-minute drill that culminated in a 28-yard strike over the middle to Dominique Williams, now a safety at Boston College. Williams ran in the two-point conversion out of the Wildcat and it was 21-14 with 1:28 to play.
The Boxers nearly recovered an onside kick, but Xaverian was able to hold off the comeback bid and eventually win the Super Bowl the following Saturday.
“Yeah, I mean I’ve thought about that (onside kick) over and over thinking what could have happened,” Roberts said.
By the time his sophomore year rolled around, Roberts was first on the depth chart at quarterback before Paul Mroz eventually overtook him. However, that didn’t keep Roberts off the field. His strength as a quarterback to this point in his career has been running the option, so he did that in spots and also held for extra points as well as other various special teams duties.
“Obviously I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the starting job,” Roberts said. “But I was contributing and I wanted to have a good attitude by just getting better and waiting my chance.”
This season, those chances are abundant. While he still comes in and runs the option, he also starts at outside linebacker and slot receiver and rarely comes off the field.
“Auggie comes in and immediately runs the option as well as any high school quarterback I’ve seen,” said coach Peter Colombo. “That’s good to know we have that. He’s also playing on defense, playing at wide receiver, showing his versatility.
“Guys that play multiple positions are intelligent players and they wouldn’t be able to do that without that and I think it showed on defense; he’s just always around the ball. If the ball hits him in the hands, it’s going to be our football.”
“As a freshman and sophomore game the game was very fast,” Roberts said. “This year we’re able to get to the plays faster. I know the plays a lot better. I also got work last year at the J.V. level and now I can crank it up to the next level to varsity.”
So far, the whole defense has cranked it up to another level in that respect.
“(The defense is) tougher than last year,” Roberts said. “We had to be. We’re smarter, too. We’ve got a lot of smart kids on the field. I don’t know. We’ve got to clean it up before (the BC High) game. I think we know we’ve got work to do.”
Sounds like he’s ready to rumble.
Coach: Peter Colombo (9th season, 72-23-1)
Last year: 8-3
Key returnees: Paul Mroz, QB, 6-2, 195, Sr. (64-of-130 passing for 1,322 yards, 12 TD, 7 INT, 398 yards rushing on 59 carries, 6.75 yards per carry, 8 TD); Josh Brewster, RB, 5-9, 175, Sr. (177 yards on 34 carries, 5.21 ypc); Dino Hyppolite, DT, 6-0, 250, Sr. (30 tackles, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries); Jesse Monteiro, WR/CB, 5-8, 170, Sr. (16 catches for 271 yards); Lucas Depina, WR/K/P, 6-2, 180, Sr. (4 catches, 162 yards, 3 TD); Khahleell Alcide, LG, 6-0, 220, Sr.; Jerrod Shelby, WR/TE/OLB, 6-4, 190, Sr.; Devante Cartwright, CB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; D.J. Brown, DB, 6-0, 190, Sr.; Austin Roberts, OLB/QB/WR, 5-8, 175, Jr.; Ryan Kelley, ILB, 6-2, 210, Jr.; Joe Previte, OT/DT, 6-2, 260, Jr.; Anthony Davis, G/DE, 6-0, 250, Jr.; Micah Morel, S/QB, 5-11, 175, Jr.; Moise Eduard, OLB/RB, 5-8, 225, Jr.
Strengths: Quarterback, speed, offense, young talent.
Weaknesses: Inexperience on defense, pass rush.
Outlook: Offensively, the Boxers have the potential to be better than a year ago despite losing speedy wideout Albert Louis-Jean (Boston College) and shifty running back Trevon Offley (Suffield Academy). Mroz, with a year of experience under his belt and a deep group of weapons to spread the ball around to in Brewster, Depina, Monteiro, Depina and Cartwright. Brewster will get to run behind an offensive line that includes three three-year starters in Alcide, Previte and Davis. The defense has strength on the defensive line but has lacks a pure pass rusher off the edge. The linebackers are sure tacklers and the secondary has excellent corners and a safety in Morel that is already drawing FBS interest despite not having started a single varsity game yet. The schedule offers no favors with BC High, Xaverian and St. John’s Prep in the first four weeks. If the Boxers survive that stretch relatively unscathed, there is nothing holding them back from their first appearance at Gillette Stadium since 2008.