A tale of two linemen
On a team that featured an ample supply of size, Reagan Roberson and Dawson Hughes were especially large in the roles they played for the Douglas High football team last fall.
Roberson (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) was the Sierra League’s Defensive Player of the Year, plus he was a first-team all-league tight end and linebacker. Meanwhile, Hughes (6-4, 315) was an honorable mention all-league offensive lineman who helped the Tigers rush for 2,700 yards during their 6-5 season.
And now both intend to play college football, although they will take different routes to pursue their dreams: Roberson as a preferred walk-on at the University of Nevada in Reno and Hughes on the community college scene at Butte College (near Chico, Calif.).
“I think they both have great upside,” Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said. “Reagan was a great leader for us and I think he has a great opportunity to be successful at UNR. Dawson has that same kind of opportunity, I just think he’s going a different route to get there.”
Roberson’s goal is to turn that opportunity as a preferred walk-on — which means he will have a spot on the team when the fall season opens in August — and work his way into a position on the field.
“I chose Nevada because it’s close to home. That’s the team I grew up watching, and I think it will be cool to represent my community,” Roberson said. “I grew up watching Brock Hekking and Colin Kaepernick and all those guys play, so I just want to be able to go there and play, too.”
The Wolf Pack begins spring practice on March 27 and the Silver and Blue Spring Scrimmage is set for April 29 at Mackay Stadium in Reno.
“I’m looking forward to that … to be pushed to play at that higher level,” Roberson said.
That door opened with some help from Douglas alum Jeff Nady, who played for the Wolf Pack and is now a graduate assistant coach.
“I know Jeff believed in him and (head coach Jay) Norvell is going to give Reagan an opportunity,” Monfiletto said.
Hughes is preparing to join a Butte team that is traditionally one of the best in Northern California. The Roadrunners won national and state community college championships in 2008 and 2013, and among their former players are Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and NFL Hall of Famer Larry Allen (Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers).
“I’m excited just to go out and play football,” Hughes said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Hughes spoke with Nevada and San Diego State, however, he decided to go the community college route.
“It was cool talking to those guys, but I think I need to hone my skills before I’m ready to play D1 or even D2,” he said. “I’m a good player, but I think I need to improve. Butte is a great next step to help me get to my goal to play Division 1.”
A formidable offensive line paved the way for the Tigers to finish second in the Sierra League and advance to the region semifinals. That line included Smokey (6-2, 270) at center, guards Hughes and Cody Lewis (5-10, 240), plus tackles Danny Rich (5-11, 205) and Matt Goode (6-2, 250).
Monfiletto believes Hughes has the potential to build on that senior season and continue to play as a guard at Butte.
“I think that’s where they see him, too. I think he is a prototypical guard … 6-4, 315 pounds … he’ll fit there nicely,” Monfiletto said. “Dawson has a lot of potential and I think he will do a great job.”
Hughes noted that he is working to get leaner and meaner before next season.
“I want to get faster, work on my feet and, just in general, get bigger, faster and stronger,” Hughes said.
Roberson, a three-year varsity starter for Douglas, expects to play fullback in Norvell’s Air Raid Offense.
“They use a fullback for swing and check down passes,” Roberson said, adding that he could also play defensive end. “It depends on where they need me. I just want to get on the field and contribute.”
He had nine receptions for 109 yards in seven games, good for two touchdowns. Both scores were important in wins at McQueen to open the season (20-14) and at Carson (31-17) to end the regular season.
One disappointment to Roberson came when he missed four games early in the season after his sustained a shoulder separation against Reed. He played basketball, however, he was not at 100 percent and opted for surgery in January.
“He’s already lifting in the weight room,” Monfiletto said. “He should be in great shape to be a full go.”
Both players expressed their gratitude to coaches who helped mentor them.
“Mark Jackson in Pop Warner and coach Lance Hartzell were two big influences who made a big difference for me,” Roberson said. “Coach Hartzell put me at middle linebacker in a role where I was a leader.”
Added Hughes: “There wasn’t any one coach. My freshman year, coach (Austin) Glenn kind of set the base for me. Then my sophomore year, coach (Ed) Garren put me in a mentality to be more aggressive and more technical, rather than just relying on my size like I had been doing before. Then coach Andrews and coach Hartzell pulled it all together and helped me become the player I am today.”