By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
When Wyatt Roberts transferred to Louisville High School in the middle of his eighth grade season, he was looking for an opportunity to grow on the football field. Not even he realized how quickly that would come.
“We didn’t have a quarterback at that time and Wyatt had just come in from the (Winston) academy and he was throwing the ball pretty good (in spring practice) and I’m a throwing coach,” said LHS head football coach M.C. Miller. “So we worked with him and talked to his parents and decided to start him as a ninth grader.”
That turned out to be a pretty good decision by Miller, as Roberts has gone on to be one of the most prolific passers in Mississippi High School Activities Association history. Roberts, who led Louisville to its eighth MHSAA State Championship in school history on Saturday, will be trying to add to his resume this Saturday when he plays quarterback for his home state in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic.
“To represent the state of Mississippi in a football game is a huge honor for me,” he said. “I can’t wait, It’s going to be a great challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Roberts, who passed for 2,986 yards and 38 touchdowns this season while only being intercepted five times, is certainly used to a challenge.
“I got thrown into the fire as a freshman (at LHS) and it turned out great,” Roberts said. “I remember I was nervous before that first game against Northwest Rankin. I go from playing against a junior high team to playing against a 6A public school team. It was overwhelming, but it was a great experience.”
While the experience may have been great, it was also painful at times. He broke his left (non-throwing) arm against Starkville early in his freshman season and had to miss four games.
“I got hit and my hand just went numb and sure enough it was broke,” Roberts said. “I told them I was coming back and that they needed to put me in a cast I could play in as soon as they could.
“I came back and played Noxubee County and got a ;concussion. I thought I just wasn’t going to be able to catch a break.”
Roberts returned again to help lead the ‘Cats to an eight-win season and a spot in the playoffs.
“He got his butt whipped in the ninth grade because we didn’t have much of a line,” Miller said. “But he hung in there and it has paid off.”
The 6-foot, 205-pound Roberts aid the early faith Miller had him really helped him be able to grow as a quarterback and a football player.
“When he came (Miller) that spring I started taking reps with the high school and he came up to me and told me ‘you are going to be the starter and we are going to build this program around you for the next four years,’” Roberts said. “We just ran with it from there.”
Winning football games at Louisville is nice, and expected, but winning championships is what is important.
“If you come to Louisville and play for four years you have a pretty good chance to win one, or at least have a shot at it,” Roberts said, who also noted the expectations are high.
“Everybody wants to talk to you about football,” Roberts said about the community’s interest in the team. “Its awesome to win on Friday night and then to go to the Wal-Mart on Saturday,” he said. “The game is all anybody wants to talk about.”
Roberts has committed to sign with Jacksonville (Ala.) State University, a successful NCAA Division i-AA football program, during the spring signing period and says he is firm on that decision, although he said the coaches at JSU said they would understand if an SEC team came calling.
“Playing college football is all I have wanted to do and now that I have got that opportunity I can’t wait,” he said.
Roberts will get the idea of what it’s like to face college defenses when he takes the snaps against the Alabama team on Saturday. Kick-off for the game is at noon at the Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m ready for it. I’m excited to play with and against some guys who can play at that level.”
The game will be shown locally on WCBI in Columbus, WTOK in Meridian and WTVA in Tupelo.
Winning runs in Roberts’ family as well. His father Steve was an outstanding athlete, something Wyatt said his father likes to poke at him about..
“He has always reminded me about how good he was in basketball,” the younger Roberts said. “He won a state championship in basketball. He shows me the ring and has always hounded me about not having one.”
That changed on Saturday afternoon when the Wildcats beat Hazlehurst 30-28 to win the MHSAA Class 3A State Championship and it’s for sure Wyatt Roberts won’t miss a chance chance to let his father catch a glimpse of his new jewelry.
Kevin Hudson/ Image Works Photography