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Athlete of Year ran to success in football, track

The easy thing for Laurel senior Joel Roberson to do would have been to quit football.

The wide receiver, who only played in two games during his junior season because of a concussion, saw track as his path to college — not football.

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So he wanted to focus solely on running.

"I was going to stick with track because that's where the (scholarship) money was going to be," Roberson said. "At one point (last summer) I said I wasn't going to play football."

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Roberson's teammates and coaches, however, were able to change his mind. Everyone is glad he did.

The 2012 Laurel Leader Athlete of the Year led the Spartans in catches (34), yards (523) and touchdown receptions (5).

"I definitely think he should be playing college football somewhere," Laurel football coach Todd Sommerville said. "I really don't know why teams haven't taken a shot on him. (Although) I think he was more interested in track."

He has been offered track scholarships to both Coppin State and Morgan State universities.

The 18-year-old Roberson said he will make his college choice after the New Balance Outdoor Nationals, June 14, in Greensboro, N.C.

He hopes a strong performance there will attract other offers, and that isn't far fetched, considering he has also been recruited by East Carolina, Clemson and South Carolina.

This spring for the track team, Roberson competed in the 400 and 200 meters and ran legs on the 1,600 and 800 relay teams.

If track rules had allowed him to sign up for more events, Roberson would have done it.

"He is definitely a workhorse," Laurel assistant track and field coach Corey Quaintance said of Roberson, who has competed on three Class 4A indoor and outdoor state championship relay teams since 2010. "He also volunteered to run the hurdles, but we had to tell him, 'No thanks.' We could have put him in anything and he would have excelled at it."

All the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Roberson wanted to do his senior year –- his fourth on the varsity in both indoor and outdoor track — was "go out with a bang."

He ran the first leg of Laurel's 1,600 state championship indoor relay team while finishing fourth in the county, region and state in the 400.

Roberson also placed second in the 400 in the Marine Corps Invitational in New York City.

This spring, there was even more success.

Roberson, his twin Jovan, Christian White and Jonte Miles ran a blazing 3:15.65 in winning the Waldorf Track Classic.

"It was the seventh-best time in the country at the time," Laurel head track coach Keon Broadhurst said.

That clocking made the group the top seed in the 1,600 at the state championships at Morgan State, where they finished second (3:16.43).

Joel Roberson also took fifth in states in the 400.

His leadership skills were just as impressive. Roberson worked as captain of the Spartans' outdoor track team the past three seasons and the indoor squad the last two years.

"I consider myself the leader of the group," Roberson said. "I make everybody work harder in practice."

Quaintance agrees.

"He is pretty vocal," the coach said. "The coaches weren't allowed at (runners-only) meetings. He orchestrated a lot of that stuff. When we got on the track, we (the coaching staff) didn't have to say much. He did and helped out a lot of the young guys."

On the gridiron last fall, Roberson began the season at quarterback, but Sommerville decided to move him to wide receiver.

"We felt with his athletic ability, he would be better suited as a receiver-type of guy," the coach explained.

"He was phenomenal. It worked out pretty well. He caught a lot of balls and made some people pay."

Roberson, who played 10 years in the Laurel Wildcats youth program before joining the varsity as a sophomore, also finished with 137 rushing yards on 13 carries.

He proved to be instrumental in Laurel's two victories, grabbing two passes for 74 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 75 yards on three carries in a season-opening 49-0 blowout of High Point.

"I was trying to get to the open areas," Roberson said. "I used my speed to run past everybody."

He also hauled in three touchdown catches for 147 yards in the Spartans' 41-14 thrashing of Oxon Hill on Oct. 1.

"He was double- and triple-covered," Sommerville said. "He really can avoid defenders. His biggest assets are his speed and athletic ability."

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