It’s safe to say no one’s ever accused Bradley Roby of being shy or buttoned-down when it comes to expounding on his thoughts. In college, Roby quickly became the Columbus media’s favorite interview for his uncensored, off-the-cuff remarks. So it came as little surprise when he spoke with conviction at the NFL combine about why college players should be paid, among other things.
The subject of paying players has once again jumped to the forefront of discussions, thanks in large part to Northwestern players’ attempts to form the first union in intercollegiate athletics. During his four years at Ohio State, Roby received a monthly stipend that was part of his athletic scholarship. But he would have liked more and feels like major college athletes deserve it.
“How these colleges are running football programs now, it’s just like the NFL,” Roby said. “It’s about results, it’s about winning. That’s what the game is about.”
Roby’s statements are true. The ever-growing salaries for coaches, rising ticket prices and pressure to win all point to the professionalization of college sports. So too do the state-of-the-art practice facilities and multimillion dollar stadium renovations.
Football and men’s basketball might generate the most revenue, but sports such as volleyball, lacrosse and soccer also mimic full-time jobs. Class, studying, practice, workouts and games are part of the weekly grind for athletes. Sure, many would sacrifice to have that college experience. It’s indisputable, though, that the time constraints for athletes carry a heavy burden. Plus, there’s the offseason, which really doesn’t exist.
Still, athletes aren’t likely to receive much sympathy.
“There’s a lot to deal with as a college athlete,” Roby said. “You do all of that and you come home and may not have much to eat. You just think, ‘Where is the money going to?’ The scholarship isn’t enough. You can get a scholarship as a regular student. That’s not enough. The sheer amount of money that athletes make for the universities, something more than just a scholarship should be done for student-athletes. You can have a scholarship, but not have food. Not everyone comes from a decent background. Some guys don’t have good funding from their family.”
“How these colleges are running football programs now, it’s just like the NFL. It’s about results, it’s about winning. That’s what the game is about.”– Bradley Roby
Come May, Roby will be an employee and he’ll also put food on his table. As one of the top cornerback prospects in this year’s draft, he could go in the first round. Roby’s junior season at Ohio State did not go as planned. The team fell short of the national championship and he didn’t accomplish his personal goals.
Instead of the Thorpe Award, there were question marks. Blown coverages and missed tackles became a common sight. Then Roby received criticism for not playing in the Orange Bowl. There was a perception that he quit on the Buckeyes to protect his draft stock, opting to forego a matchup with Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
“That was very frustrating. A lot of people decided they wanted to make up things saying this or that,” Roby said. “Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But at the end of the day, I just couldn’t get back. I look forward to opportunities like that. The fact that I couldn’t end my career in a game of that caliber hurt me.
“I had a decent season. First half of the season didn’t go as well as I expected. Things happened, and I have gotten a lot better from it. Not playing that first game, my mindset in camp wasn’t where it should have been.”
Roby was referring to a suspension stemming from an incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar. It will have virtually zero impact on his draft status. Roby’s confidence hasn’t waned. He believes he’s one of, if not, the top cornerback available to the NFL’s 32 franchises.
At the combine, the proof started to materialize. Roby ran a 4.39 40, one of the fastest times seen in Indianapolis. And that was only the beginning. He had a vertical of 38.5 inches, broad jump of 124 inches and 4.04 shuttle time. All together, some believe the performance could have solidified Roby’s place in the first round.
Shutdown cornerbacks are a valuable commodity in the pass-happy league. Signing up for that chore is Roby, who believes he can match up against the top wide receivers and quarterbacks. Athleticism, speed and determination are intangibles that make him such a coveted player.
“That's definitely what I can do,” Roby said. “And I plan to show that to whatever team drafts me.”