Despite last playing football as a sixth grader, Capital’s Coby Roberts decided to turn out for football as a senior.
He attended winter weightlifting sessions with the Eagles, squeezing them in between baseball workouts. He was so excited to receive his pads for spring camp that he donned his entire uniform to show off for his parents.
But the rust of five years away from the sport extended to the wardrobe as his parents quickly pointed out his pants were on backward.
“It was just different, for sure, because I’m just used to putting on a baseball jersey and pants,” Roberts said. “All this other stuff on me, it’s different, but I love it.”
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Roberts is one of four Capital athletes readjusting to life on the gridiron, signing up for football after at least one year away from the sport. All four have filled major roles for Capital (6-1, 3-0 5A SIC Pod A), which has won five straight and remains in control of its own destiny for a pod championship ahead of a 7 p.m. game Friday at Meridian High.
“This is rare,” Capital coach Todd Simis said. “This is really rare. I think back to my 26 years of coaching football, you might get a senior somewhere along the way that comes out and helps a little bit.
“But to have all-conference caliber players — three of these guys are playing at an all-conference level, an all-SIC level — to have that happen is pretty special.”
All four share a similar road and similar struggles back on the gridiron. Here are their stories.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior last played on a football team as an eighth grader. He attended a summer camp at Capital the summer before his sophomore year, lining up as a safety. He said his true passion is basketball, so he quit football to focus on the hardwood.
Simis approached Ashby last winter with an admission. He put Ashby at the wrong position and asked how he’d like to catch the ball instead? A smile broke across Ashby’s face.
The move paid off as Ashby has hauled in 19 catches for 260 yards and three TDs this fall. But the transition came with plenty of bumps along the road.
Ashby attended the team’s summer camp on the Oregon coast, and after three years away from the game, he found himself adjusting to life in the program like a wide-eyed freshman.
“The first couple days was all new,” he said. “I didn’t know all the traditions and stuff they have. Like, what do you do before practice? Where do we go?”
But after a couple days, he started to enjoy himself and Simis knew he was hooked.
The 6-5, 225-pound senior didn’t leave the game voluntarily. Grades forced Godeny to sit out all of last fall and part of the basketball season.
But Godeny raised his grades, and now teams with Ashby to give Capital a pair of tall, athletic tight ends who can set up on the line in double-tight end sets, flex into the backfield as a wing or split out as wide receivers.
“Capital hasn’t done that for a while,” Simis said. “It was a matter of getting them to the point where we had them for sure. And then we knew it was going to be good.”
Godeny played a key role as a sophomore on the junior varsity team and served as a backup on varsity. Simis said his absence hurt the Eagles last season. After getting back up to speed, he’s emerged as a weapon, catching 15 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
“The year that I took off, it kind of hit me that I should have taken care of my grades,” Godeny said. “But coming out here my senior year and being able to play, I feel the same as my sophomore year. It feels good, and it’s fun to have a family around like this.”
Like Ashby, White never played a down of high school football until this season, opting to leave the sport after eighth grade to get a job. He worked 50 hours a week during the summer as a landscaper and 20 hours during the school year, leaving no time for football or any other sports.
At the end of last school year, he started showing up to the weight room and enough teammates convinced him to give football another shot.
“I regret not playing all four years now,” White said.
Also like Ashby, summer camp provided a wake-up call. The 6-2, 200-pound defensive tackle recalls being slow, stiff and sore throughout the camp. It was all worth it, he said.
“It’s been really fun,” White said. “We have really good team chemistry because everyone is friends with each other. I’ve made a lot of new relationships just because of football.”
I wish I would have played all four years.
Topher White, Capital senior defensive tackle
Simis recruited Roberts for years, but Roberts wanted to protect himself from injury and focus on a college baseball career.
The move paid off as the senior has baseball scholarship offers from Utah, Arizona and a handful of junior colleges. But college recruiters extolling the benefits of multi-sport athletes and a touch football game with friends at the Optimist Youth Sports Complex convinced him to give the sport one more shot.
“I just figured senior year, why not?” Roberts said. “And I’ve loved it since.”
Once the 6-foot, 225-pound defensive end figured out how to put his pants on, he provided an instant boost to the line, where his four sacks rank second on the team and tied for seventh in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference.
“Coby, he hadn’t played a lot of football,” Simis said. “But some guys have that ‘it’ thing, and you can just feel it.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT YEAR
Simis jokes that he and his coaches have already started discussing which non-football players they should target. After the success of Ashby, Godeny, White and Roberts this fall, the coach has a ready-made pitch for why they should give the sport a shot.
“You’re always trying to do that and get the multi-sport athletes out,” Simis said. “But very rarely do they come out.
“So we’re going to use this with the other guys. ‘Look what can happen if you do this.’ ”