Leg work runs in family

Junior Eric Roberts is following in his older brothers' footsteps by serving as the place-kicker for John Carroll's football team.

September 28, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Eric Roberts knew that kicking was in his genes, and last winter he began the conversion from soccer player to place-kicker.

He wanted to take over as John Carroll's kicker, a position previously held by both of his older brothers. He started kicking regularly and then spent the summer trying to learn the intricacies of the job that many try, but at which few succeed.

His brother Dean was the Patriots' kicker last year while playing soccer, and his other brother Chris worked as the kicker before that. Chris, a sophomore at Maryland, now serves as the Terps' kickoff specialist and worked endlessly with Eric to teach him the skills.

The two brothers often went to John Carroll and worked on the mechanics of kicking. Eric Roberts kept trying to learn the basics, things like going back three steps and over about two or 2 1/2 steps before coming to the ball at about a 45-degree angle and kicking it. The work has paid off so far, as Roberts is 2-for-2 in both field goals and extra points and is settling in as the Patriots' kicker.

"The history preceded him, so he wanted to pick up the torch," said John Roberts, the father of the three kickers. "This is really the first time he's ever done it."

Eric Roberts, a junior, isn't built like most kickers. He's 6 feet 2, 190 pounds, and is strong and multi-talented. Roberts is one of the fastest runners on the John Carroll team, and coach Sean Ireton has already been gently pushing him to try other positions.

But Roberts is working hard at trying to become a good kicker.

"My brothers did it, so it was like instinct for me," he said. "I'm pretty comfortable with it."

Chris Roberts said he was pleasantly surprised by how fast his younger brother learned the kicking game.

"He got the basics down a lot quicker than I thought he would," he said. "I think he can be really good [because] he's got a strong leg. He is learning really quickly and keeps improving."

Ireton has worked with all three Roberts brothers and likes how his new kicker is coming along. Roberts has shown his leg strength on all four of his kicks this season for John Carroll (0-3). He made a 27-yard field goal in Bel Air's 33-3 win over the Patriots, a kick that would have been good from 40 yards.

"It's hard to compare the three, but I think he's got a very strong foot," Ireton said. "I've worked with all three, and he can hold his own."

Roberts had some of the basics down before he started. He played defense in soccer and could kick the ball to midfield from the goal line. Still, there were things Roberts needed to work on.

Roberts said he has practiced repeatedly on getting the fundamentals straight, taking the right number of steps and hitting the ball at the right angle. Kicking a football is different from soccer because players don't really count steps in soccer. But kickers always do.

"For field goals, you've got to do the same thing every time," Eric Roberts said. "I've got a lot of confidence, and I've just got to get focused on every kick."

Roberts struggled early on. Chris Roberts said brother Eric was missing his kicks and growing frustrated.

"I was doing badly," Eric Roberts said. "I was thinking [that] I can't do this."

But he slowly came along and eventually turned the corner. Eric and Chris worked on field goals and kickoffs throughout the summer, and John Carroll found itself with a solid kicker by the time training camp started.

"He just needs repetitions and needs to get some kicks under pressure," Chris Roberts said. "By the time I left for camp, he was making things from all over the field."

Eric Roberts said he isn't worried about the legacy his brothers left at John Carroll. His main concern is developing his own skills.

"I think he handles that pressure very well," John Roberts said. "He played on many elite soccer teams, and Eric is the type of kid [who] likes being perfect. He'll do whatever it takes."

John and his wife, Jeanne, try to get to both of their sons' games whenever possible, or split it so that at least one of them is in attendance.

On the day of the Bel Air game earlier this month, John Roberts watched Eric kick at John Carroll while his wife went to College Park to see Chris kick for Maryland against Clemson.

Eric is certain he'd like to follow his brother in another way -- by becoming a college kicker.

"I just want to do this in college also," Eric said. "I'm pretty comfortable with [everything] now."

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