Despite not always seeing action, these players mean plenty to teams
They put in the same bulk of time at practice as many of the other players.
The hours are just as long. While other high school students are heading home to grab something out of the snack cupboard or sitting in front of their computer, these guys are out on the practice field, often until dark, doing drill after drill.
For most senior football players, their payoff comes on Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Win or lose, they’re the ones getting playing time.
For a select few seniors, being in the starting lineup isn’t in the cards. Athletic ability, size or talent hasn’t tapped them on the shoulder like some other players.
What keeps them heading out to the practice field every afternoon, often being on the wrong end of the tackling drills and running on the scout team?
“Football’s the greatest sport,” Jordan Williams explained.
“I love the sport,” Tanner Roybal said. “It’s all about dedication.”
As a Grand Junction High School senior, Williams played his final prep game on Thursday when the Tigers closed out their season with 42-22 victory over Palmer.
Williams had a key block to free Tyler Winder for a 75-yard touchdown on a reverse after a kickoff.
Roybal is a senior defensive lineman at Central, which lost 49-7 on Saturday to Chapparel.
Williams began high school at Central. By the start of his sophomore year, he had transferred to Grand Junction.
“I wouldn’t want to go to any other school,” he said.
And this fall, he didn’t want to be anywhere other than on the football field, even though he didn’t get much playing time.
“My friends are here,” he said.
That, Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said, is what draws Williams and a number of other players to the program.
“I think the kids are out there to learn about friendships and that bond,” Owens said.
“Sometimes it’s (about) just having them on a team,” Central head coach Vern McGee said.
Earlier in the season, Williams made brief appearances late against Cherry Creek and Durango.
“It’s just exciting,” he said.
Williams spent much of his practice time playing on the scout team offense and defense.
“I might not get out there but hopefully I could give them a look they could use,” he said of helping the Tigers’ offense and defense get a peek at what to expect each week from the opposition.
Owens said that is Williams’ contribution to the program.
“Jordan’s a guy you can rely on,” Owens said. “His game is every day.”
Roybal got some select time as a defensive tackle this season but most of his playing time came on special teams. He lined up on the front line on both the kick return and punt return teams.
As with Williams, “I’m out there to help make the team better,” Roybal said.
Roybal didn’t go out for high school football until last season.
“I did it when I was younger and wanted to try it out again,” he said.
Being two years behind the other juniors last year was a challenge.
“Starting out it was pretty hard because I didn’t know a lot about what was going on,” he said.
His teammates and defensive coordinator Tony Santy were patient with him and helped walk him through things.
Ah, those teammates. Those were the guys that really kept Williams and Roybal coming back night after night, week after week.
Roybal made a lot of new friends through football.
“People will help you with your homework,” he said.
“He’s a good kid and the other kids like him,” McGee said of Roybal fitting in well with his teammates.
His two years with the Warriors have given Roybal a sense of discipline.
“(I’ve learned) self-control, and it’s kept me in shape,” he said.
“Not all those kids start,” McGee said of a Central program that has 120 players out this season. “You hope as an activity that he’s getting something out of it.”
“Football is a microcosm of life,” Owens said.
With Owens completing his first season as the Tigers’ head coach, Williams got his reward in other ways.
“You’re in on the ground floor of something that’s going to last a long time here,” Williams said, predicting good things for the Tigers’ program in the future. “And I was a part of it.”
No matter whether they’re starting or coming off the bench, one thing kept them out all season.
“It goes back to loving the game,” Owens said.