All you need to know about why Jake Roh is a beloved member of the Boise State football team is that the man can handle a joke.
Sure, the senior tight end has been ultra-productive this season, but his teammates love to give him compliments that seem just a little backhanded.
Junior quarterback Brett Rypien describes him as “very sneaky good.”
“I think a lot of teams underestimate him, he’s one of those finesse guys ... it’s like, ‘How’s he making guys miss?’ ” senior quarterback Montell Cozart said.
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Said senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson: “He doesn’t really look like a football player.”
But Roh gets it. Even though he has scored eight touchdowns (six receiving, two rushing) — a total that is No. 1 among tight ends in the Football Bowl Subdivision — he rolls with the punches.
“I get called ‘old man,’ but I’d like to think my athleticism is deceptive,” Roh said. “I guess I look like your average Joe, I don’t know.”
He’s not your average Joe, or Jake. He’s been a major part of Boise State’s offense all season.
The huge brace on his right arm seems to get bigger every week, making it maybe appear bulky enough to slow the “old man” down.
He first put it on following a minor elbow injury he suffered Sept. 9 at Washington State and scored three touchdowns Sept. 14 against New Mexico. He said he possibly could play without it, but to be safe, he keeps it on, and adds, “It’s kind of its own thing now.”
“He’d tell you his arms are getting bigger from lifting, he’s been in there doing a lot of curls,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s the ultimate team guy. He knows he’s going to get the ball in the game plan ... but he’s also going to be in there in protections, in the run game, doing all these things no one pays attention to until he catches a ball.”
OK, but even if the 6-foot-3, 227-pounder doesn’t look like your typical tight end, it should not be a surprise he can make things happen.
Roh comes from a family full of athletes. One older brother (Craig) plays in the Canadian Football League for the BC Lions, and another (Luke) played college basketball at Colgate. The best in his family, Jake says, is his younger sister, Madalyn, who is an All-American volleyball player at Pepperdine.
Roh’s 279 receiving yards are second-best among all Broncos. Last season, Boise State tight ends combined for 29 total receptions. Roh has 29 through eight games.
“I feel the best I ever have, I’m really enjoying it,” he said.
Considering how 2016 went, it has made this season all the more special.
Roh had 68 receptions his first two season with the Broncos. But as a junior, he played in 11 games and had just 10 catches for 113 yards. In the regular season, he caught four passes.
A knee injury he suffered in fall camp lingered throughout the year and slowed him down.
“For me, being out there to contribute, it’s a lot more fun this year, being able to be more of a part of it,” Roh said. “There were times last year when it got really tough. I’d never had a serious injury. But I couldn’t be like ‘why me?’ because it happens to most guys.”
Maybe it is that intangible quality that allows Roh to make up for what some may perceive as a lack of athleticism. Harsin noted how he made multiple small adjustments on his first of two touchdown catches last Saturday at Utah State.
Roh’s six receiving touchdowns are the most by a Boise State tight end since Kyle Efaw had seven in 2011. He has 20 catches on second or third down, 14 of them going for first downs.
“Jake has a knack for getting himself open,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “... He battles. He’s a tough kid.”
Then the 25-foot poster outside Albertsons Stadium’s east side is fitting. Roh is one of the players featured, with the word “toughness” next to his photo.
So what if he doesn’t look like a tight end? Whether it’s trying to score on a short touchdown run or block for the Broncos’ running backs, Roh is going to do it. Rypien said what’s impressed him most with Roh has been “his ability to overcome adversity.”
“He’s Jake Roh again, doing everything we expect him to do,” Rypien said. “He’s a hell of a player.”
Five questions with Jake Roh
What’s your music of choice?
“I listen to a lot of EDM, electronic dance music. I don’t really have a favorite type, I like some well-known ones, some that people haven’t heard of: Marshmello, Tiesto, Sam Feldt. It’s a wide spectrum.”
Idaho weather vs. Arizona weather?
“It’s very different. You have seasons here, but you don’t in Arizona. It’s as cold right now as it would ever get there. I never struggled with it. I’m a fan of the cold. It’s just too hot there.”
What was your recruiting like, coming to Boise State?
“I was deciding between here and Iowa. They wanted me to play linebacker at Iowa, tight end here. I took my recruiting trips over a long weekend. Loved both places, but the culture here was just second to none, really drew me to being with this team and the city.”
What are your hobbies outside of football?
“Music has always been an interest of mine. I played a couple instruments growing up, I like to dabble in that still here and there. I try to read whenever I can, the entrepreneurship stuff.”
Did you ever pick up beach volleyball skills from your sister?
“She could beat all of us. But I’d play a lot in the summer with guys like Thomas Sperbeck, (Alec) Dhaenens. I don’t think she’s ever been up here, but I know she and a bunch of my family will be for senior day.”
Nevada at Boise State
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPNU (Clay Matvick and Kirk Morrison)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 6-2, 4-0 (beat Utah State 41-14 last week); Nevada 1-7, 1-3 (lost to Air Force 45-42 on Oct. 20)
Series: Boise State leads 28-13 (Boise State won 51-46 in Reno on Oct. 4, 2014, in last meeting)
Vegas line: Boise State by 21
Kickoff weather: Low 40s, partly cloudy