Brad Roberts not only made an impression the first time he stepped on the field at Falcon Stadium, he transformed the fullback position.
As he prepares to play his final home game, his impact for Air Force football has scarcely slowed.
“The game that he had against Navy in 2020, it truly changed the way going forward evaluation-wise what we’ve done with that position,” coach Troy Calhoun said of the season-opener in the COVID-shortened season in which Roberts ran for 103 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. “For so long we were just looking for thick, thick guys who were able to plow forward.
“Now he’s shown us … how important running skill is.”
While Air Force had routinely taken former linebackers and converted them to fullbacks, in Roberts they found a former track star and plugged him into the spot. The result has been a 5-foot-11, 215-pound runner with 17 100-yard games — a program record — in 27 career appearances. He even has four more games of 90-plus yards to go with that haul.
This season — with three games remaining — Roberts would need to average 84 yards per game to catch Beau Morgan atop the program’s single-season rushing list. Roberts currently has 1,241 yards. Morgan ran for 1,494 in 1996.
This next game figures to be interesting. Roberts, a Ralston Valley graduate from Arvada, received no offers from Colorado or Colorado State. He has repaid those schools by rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns last year in his first meeting with the Rams, then putting up 174 and three touchdowns against the Buffaloes in September.
The Falcons (7-3, 3-3 Mountain West) host Colorado State (2-8, 2-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“I do,” Roberts said when asked if the performances in in-state games are a particular source of pride. “Just a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. But at the end of the day our team has to come through and get the win.”
Air Force has won five in a row over Colorado State and beat Colorado in 2019 and 2022, the first meetings between the programs since the 1970s.
Roberts — despite playing just four games as a sophomore in 2020 — ranks fourth on Air Force’s all-time rushing list with 3,054 yards. He needs 325 yards (108.3 per game) to catch Beau Morgan at No. 3, 540 (180 per game) to match Asher Clark at No. 2 and would need 558 (186 per game) to tie Dee Dowis atop the list.
He’ll have a cheering section of at least five — the linemen in front of him.
“Without a doubt, definitely,” said guard Isaac Cochran. “Obviously, o-line doesn’t really have measurable stats, so the only way to gauge your performance is how the guys around you are doing. To see Brad have the success that he has is really cool for us. It’s like a payoff for what we as an o-line do.”
The numbers will tell much of Roberts’ story. The change in the personnel at the position as a result of his performances will tell even more.
But Roberts said he remains focused on finding more wins, as his class still has a chance for a third season with 10 or more wins during its four years — something no class has accomplished at Air Force.
“Honestly, the win column is the biggest thing for me,” Roberts said. “We’ve talked the month of November and just winning the month of November. I want to finish my career on a strong note and I want to help my team be able to win November.”