- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma’s latest verbal commit - almost never had a chance to play college football.

In fact, the junior-to-be from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M; is fortunate to be alive.

While a senior in high school, the Warner Robins (Georgia) Northside student was shot in the back, an innocent bystander to a heated argument in his neighborhood. He was walking home from his aunt’s house when it happened, the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1JIasF1 ) reported.

“He was just standing out of the way and gunshots rang out,” said his father, Jimmy Roberts. “The Good Lord was with him and the bullet went in on one side and went out the other. It didn’t touch an organ. Jesus had His hand on him.”

Said Austin Roberts, “(The bullet) went straight through me. I sat out one game for that, but I could have been dead. I started thinking about football 24/7 because it could have been taken away from me so quickly.”

Roberts recently announced he committed to OU. The Football Brainiacs website was the first to report the news.

Roberts, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end, expects to join his new teammates in August. He has to graduate from NEO to qualify and is taking two online courses from Georgia.

“My biggest deal with Austin is putting him in position so he can graduate,” NEO football coach Ryan Held said. “That’s been my focus - his classes and all that.

“He’s as talented as there is. There are just a few hurdles academically. He’s got the stretch run here, but it’s definitely doable for him to get it done.”

Roberts committed to Alabama out of high school but didn’t have the grades to get admitted. He played one season at East Mississippi Community College, where he made friends with former OU wide receiver Lacolton Bester and current offensive lineman Jamal Danley. After playing behind D.J. Pettway (Alabama), he searched for more playing time.

Enter NEO in Miami.

“Everything ended up working as it should have and as it was planned,” said Austin Roberts, who had a pre-existing relationship with NEO assistant and Warner Robins native Maurice Gray.

Held was asked about Roberts’ on-field abilities.

“The thing about Austin is he has that length that everyone is looking for. He’s 6-6 with long arms and can really run. He can get to the edge, and in today’s college football you have to have those edge guys,” Held said. “I’m not going to compare him to Randy Gregory at Nebraska, but lengthwise, he’s like him. He can run like him. He’d have to go up to that level and make the plays like Randy did to be like that, but that’s who he kind of reminds me of, that kind of player.

“He is very, very talented. He just needs to get into a really good program like OU and get into their system. I think he definitely can help the Sooners and their program for a couple of years to come.”

Roberts chose OU over Nebraska, and praised first-year defensive line coach Diron Reynolds for the work he did in the recruiting wars.

“Coach Reynolds, every question that I asked, he always gave me feedback right away and always gave me the truth right off the bat,” Roberts said. “He never recruited me ‘just because.’ He recruited me because he wanted me and wanted me to come to OU. I really liked that.”

Held, NEO’s second-year coach who has current OU target and talented cornerback Maurice Chandler on his roster, said he hopes to continue to build a relationship with the Sooners’ coaching staff.

“We obviously want a great relationship with OU but we have to have a reason for OU to come here. I have Maurice Chandler and other guys. . I think OU and us can have a great relationship because we’re two-and-a-half hours away,” Held said. “You have to have players for them to come to. It’s at the point where it’s worth coming to.”

The pipeline may begin with Roberts.

“I’m very excited to be a part of the OU nation,” he said.

___

Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com


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