Shaq Roland quietly does it all

LEXINGTON, S.C. -- The only attention four-star athlete Shaq Roland likes is the attention he gets on the football field. When it comes to recruiting or news conferences, he prefers his coach, Steve Early, do the talking for him.

So imagine how Roland felt when the 80-stop American Family Insurance presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour stopped by Lexington High School to present Roland his game jersey.
Well, he let Early tell everyone.

"Shaq is not into individual honors," Early said from the podium. "But we all know what an honor it is to be involved in this game. It's one of the highest honors in high school football. Shaq thanks you. I thank you. And Lexington High School thanks you. We will make sure we make you proud on our way to Florida."

Roland, No. 46 in the ESPNU 150, didn't speak in front of his teammates and local media. That's typical Shaq. He's about winning and doing whatever the Lexington coaching staff asks of him to help out his team and teammates. Right now, with Lexington 8-0, Roland is letting his play on the field do all the talking.

"That says it all," Early said. "We are 8-0. Shaq is about the same as last year. He's that great of a player. He's so humble and all about the team. He does whatever we ask of him and he's not so worried about the individual stuff. That's just him."

Roland, 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, has played wide receiver, running back, quarterback, cornerback, safety and kick/punt returner for his Wildcats this season. The South Carolina commit has done everything but run the chain gang and sell programs.

"Whatever position he's playing he just makes it happen," Early said. "But if I am coaching him at the next level I think he has to be a wide receiver. He just has too good of ball skills. You can't afford not to have the ball in his hands."

"Shaq has all the intangibles to be the next one at South Carolina," said David Bundrick, Lexington's wide receivers coach. "He's faster than Alshon [Jeffery] and much more like Sidney Rice or even A.J. Green. He has those same attributes. People don't realize that he's only played two years of receiver and he's going to get so much better. He's very good already and just a natural with very good instincts."

Roland, a basketball standout who averaged 19 points per game last season, has the talent to play in college, but knows to become like Jeffery, Rice or Green, he has to put all his effort into football.

"I have to develop as a football player and for me to try and play basketball at South Carolina will be too hard to do," Roland said. "I am really leaning to giving football all my focus. I want to learn and develop as a football player."

That is music to the Gamecocks coaching staff's ears because a focused Roland can develop into another weapon for Steve Spurrier to use. Roland, for one, thinks he will be a perfect fit in that offense.

"I am a good athlete playing this position and I think I can do a lot of things," Roland said. "I can go up and get the ball and make that big play. I have speed, too. I just want to get there and help the team. I want to play and will do whatever those coaches ask of me."

Perhaps his greatest attribute is his competitiveness.

"First, Shaq is so enjoyable to coach," Bundrick said. "He enjoys being around his teammates and all that camaraderie. But what sets him apart is the challenge people present in each game on each play. It doesn't matter if it's in coverage or blocking or teams trying to minimize his play, he wants to beat you. He's so adaptable and he utilizes his skills. Shaq doesn't like to lose and doesn't even like to lose an individual play. And he doesn't like to lose the game."

Despite his shyness and constant habit of deferring the praise to his team and teammates instead of talking about his individual accomplishments, Roland is excited to be a part of the fifth Under Armour All-America Game.

"It's a great honor," Roland said. "To be considered in the same game where Julio Jones and A.J. Green played is special to me. I am excited about the opportunity."

That's about all you will get from Roland. But just like he does every week, once practices start in Orlando leading up to the UA Game, he'll let his play do all the talking.

"Shaq may not like the attention," Bundrick said. "But when the lights are on he loves that spotlight. And for Shaq, he likes that game ball every Friday night."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.