Braydon Roberts never felt like he was challenging any superstition when he chose his jersey number — 13 — after he reached the Denison varsity as a junior. The receiver only wanted to emulate Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr.
“That’s my favorite receiver. People can say Julio Jones is the best, Antonio Brown but Odell is my guy,” Roberts said. “During the season I’ll have to dye my hair again.”
When it came to feeling lucky, there were few moments better than when Roberts signed his national letter of intent with Wayland Baptist University on Wednesday morning.
Roberts chose the NAIA program in Plainview over Bacone, Mary Hardin-Baylor and Texas Lutheran.
“I went to Wayland Baptist and they made me feel at home. This could be the place,” Roberts said. “It was better than the other places I visited.”
The opportunity to continue his football career was not lost on him. Roberts was a back-up as a junior after transferring from Sherman, where he was basketball-only his first two high school seasons. He feels blessed that despite getting a late start on the gridiron he turned into a college-caliber player.
It’s kinda shocking,” Roberts said. “If you put in the work you’ll get it done.”
As a senior, Roberts finished with 13 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He led the Yellow Jackets in yards and tied for second in both catches and receiving touchdowns.
“They understood I came from a running team but they liked what they saw and wanted to give me a shot,” Roberts said. “They kept saying how they were 60-40 pass. I like that.”
His big game of the season was three catches for 70 yards and his first varsity touchdown in a 55-21 victory over Wichita Falls in the District 5-5A opener. The Jackets went on to a second-place finish in the district standings and an 8-3 overall record — the program’s best season since 2009 — after a bi-district loss against Saginaw Boswell.
Roberts joins a pair of rival standouts but also former friends on the roster. Sherman’s Jalyn Cotton and Austin Bindel signed with WBU earlier in the month.
“That was the first thing that popped in my mind was Austin and Jalyn were going there too,” he said. “I kinda got the feeling I was back in Sherman. I was reuniting with my homeboys.”
There will be considerable competition in Roberts’ quest for playing time. There are 16 returning wideouts on the roster and Roberts is one of seven newcomers to the program. He isn’t worried about that, just eager to have a chance. And since 14 Pioneers caught a pass last season, there are snaps and receptions to go around.
“If you work hard and do what you’re supposed to, you’ll beat them out,” Roberts said. “It’s all about how serious you take practice.”
Wayland Baptist went 0-10 last season and 0-8 in the Central States Football League after it had to forfeit four victories due to the use of an ineligible player. On the field the team went 4-6 and 4-4 in the conference.
It was a slight dip after WBU went 7-3 overall, 4-2 in conference and was ranked as high as 22nd in the country in 2016.
The Pioneers will be joining the Sooner Athletic Conference starting this season.
In addition to the Sherman duo in his class, Roberts will be joining Sherman’s Brayln Kirby, who will be a junior receiver in 2018.