Villanova's Robertson on a run to FCS all-time great
(STATS) - Don Cherry held his hand out and then moved it forward. Then he stopped for a split second, whipped his hand to the right, then forward again.
Zig, zag … boom!
More animated than John Madden with a telestrator.
Cherry, the FCS All-American linebacker from Villanova, was demonstrating some of the moves of Wildcats quarterback John Robertson, who has dazzled teammates and opponents alike for the last three years and now heads into his senior campaign with an opportunity to become only the second player in FCS history to be named national offensive player of the year a second time.
"I think Robertson is as good a football player as been in this league," longtime New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said.
Robertson is on pace to be not only one of the most accomplished players in CAA Football history, but in the FCS period. He enters fourth-ranked Villanova's season opener Thursday night at Connecticut with a school-record 10,273 total yards in his career, and, if he stays healthy, stands only a few games away from the No. 2 spot on the conference's all-time list.
A dual-threat, he's rushed for over 1,000 yards three different times, was named the FCS freshman of the year in 2012 and won the Walter Payton Award as national offensive player of the year last season.
Barely a day goes by without him being asked about repeating as the top player in the FCS, which only Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards accomplished in 2008 and '09. Robertson was the first-team quarterback on the 2015 STATS FCS Preseason All-America Team.
"It comes with a lot of pressure, but you want that pressure," he said.
"I think one of the big things is I put pressure on myself more than anyone. I know when I play well and I'll be able to look myself in the mirror and say I did all I can. But along with that pressure, it kind of makes it for the whole team as well. Everyone has that pressure and I think it's good - you've got to have pressure on you and you have to be going into the season expecting to win yourself."
Villanova's team goals are immense. Last year's squad finished 10-3 and reached the national quarterfinals. Their three losses were by a combined five points, and the Wildcats might have gone further in the playoffs had Robertson not sat out a tight loss to Sam Houston State with a concussion.
Coach Andy Talley, who guided 'Nova to the 2009 national title, plans to be careful with Robertson this season. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound standout is instinctive, and sidesteps a lot of would-be tacklers - as Cherry would explain - but he's taken a lot of hits over 634 carries and 801 pass attempts in his career. He's rushed for 3,505 yards and 45 touchdowns, and thrown for 6,768 yards and 62 touchdowns on nearly 65 percent accuracy with just 17 interceptions.
"I think he's mature enough, he's a fifth-year kid," Talley said. "I think he knows (the national offensive player of the year award) might be a one-time deal. We left him in a game probably a little longer than we should have - stat-wise because you wanted him to stay up there with the touchdown throws and the running. He had a concussion at the end of the year and missed the game. I think we need to protect him a little bit more, so I'm not sure he'll be running quite as much as he has in the past."
As a redshirt senior, the Paramus, New Jersey, native says he wants to have more of a fun approach this season, step into each and every stadium and embrace the atmosphere as he makes his way around a final campaign.
With each big performance, he's hoping it moves him one step closer to an NFL career. Robertson might be known for his moves with the ball, but there's only one position he truly wants to play at the next level.
"Looking into NFL teams, I'd play for any team. It's a great job to have, playing football," he said. "Switching positions, I think that I'd definitely consider it. But I also think that, off of last year especially, I've proven that I can throw the ball and be efficient enough that I could go and play pro and be a quarterback rather than maybe just an athlete. I think that I'm a good quarterback who is athletic rather than an athlete that's playing quarterback."