ULM L Club Sports Hall of Fame Spotlight: Dave Roberts

By ULMWarhawks.com Online Columnist Paul Letlow

Dave Roberts lived up to his press clippings.

In 1986, Sports Illustrated named Roberts one of college football’s top five scouts. The intriguing roster included Roberts with Bo Schembechler of Michigan, Joe Paterno of Penn State, Barry Switzer of Oklahoma and Terry Donahue of UCLA.

So when ULM (then Northeast Louisiana University) had to hire a coach after Pat Collins resigned, she turned to the known Western Kentucky head coach for talented players. Five years later, Roberts left ULM with the highest winning percentage of any football coach in school history.

“I think sometimes coaches think that because you’re at Louisiana-Monroe you can’t have players,” Roberts said. “Baloney. There are a lot of players out there. You can get them. You just have to cast your net wide enough and have a plan to do it all.”

Head football coach from 1989 to 1993, Roberts won big by recruiting some of the greatest players in school history. Starry lineups filled with future NFL players were a hallmark of the Roberts era. These teams produced future pros like James Folston, Jeff Blackshear, Roosevelt Potts, Greg Robinson, Irving Spikes and more.

“This is what it all comes down to,” Folston said. “Find the right athletes and train them. “

For his contribution to a successful and memorable era of football, Roberts is part of the 2020 ULM L Club Sports Hall of Fame class.

“I thought it was really cool,” said Roberts in response to his selection. “Mainly because there are a lot of players and coaches out there who have made this possible for me. They will probably tell you that the head coach can set the vision and work on the recruiting. But the coaches have to train the players. That meant the tome world. “

Originally selected in 2020, the L Club Sports Hall of Fame class includes former baseball coach Ray “Smoke” Laval and assistant track coach Robert Williamson. Their induction was delayed last fall due to COVID-19 protocols.

Roberts got over a rough start at Monroe. He replaced a popular coach at Collins, who won a national championship in 1987. Locals were divided over who they wanted as a replacement, with several Collins staff assistants vying to replace him.

His first team finished 4-6-1, followed by a revolt from the players with some alleging Roberts had overworked them.

Still, Roberts continued to work and find athletes who made a difference. The results speak for themselves.

“It started out a bit rocky,” said Roberts. “But it went really well. We had a good thing going on.”

Roberts led the team to 37 wins, 20 losses and two draws for a 0.644 winning percentage. Its last four teams were nationally ranked, and its 1990 and 1992 teams won the Southland Conference Championships. His 1993 team was 9-3, made the NCAA playoffs, and finished the regular season fourth in the nation by Sports Network in the final year of school in Division 1-AA ( subdivision of the football championship).

Roberts’ team in 1990 was 7-5, won the SLC title, made the NCAA playoffs, and was ranked No. 14 in the nation. His 1991 team was 7-3-1 and ranked No.18 nationally and his 1992 team was 10-3, reached the NCAA quarterfinals and finished the regular season tied for No. 1 nationally.

“We have had great football players,” said Roberts. “We had a very strong period of very good players who did well at this school. I enjoyed it immensely.”

Roberts was ahead of his time when it comes to player acquisition. Before today’s transfer portal allowed easy movement of players in college football, FCS programs (I-AA programs at the time) could add athletes from FBS (IA) level programs and they were immediately eligible to play.

“We assigned coaches to talk to colleges to see who was leaving,” Roberts said. “We recruited the colleges and we recruited the junior colleges. And of course, we recruited the high schools. But we knew who was transferring.”

If Roberts could change anything, he might have taken a slightly different approach to preparing his team over the long season.

“Because I coached the guys so hard, we were probably tired at the end of the season and it probably cost us a few games,” said Roberts, whose teams made first-round playoff outings in 1990 and 1993. “But that was my choice. We trained very physically, we were very hard and it probably cost you towards the end of the season because you are tired.

Roberts was the National Coach of the Year in 1992 by the NFL Draft Report, as well as similar honors in the Southland and Louisiana Conference. Overall, his teams produced 18 All-Americans and many professional players.

“You have to set a vision,” Roberts said. “I told them we would be the toughest, even if we weren’t the most talented. Ultimately, we would be the most talented. But we were going to be the toughest, and I think it was true. we’re going to recruit some really good football players that fit this college and we’ve done it. The vision has to be set, and then you have to do it. “

Folston, who played for the NFL Raiders, thanks Roberts for pointing him in the right direction.

“I’m in Cocoa, Florida, and had never heard of Monroe in high school,” said Folston, who will be presenting Roberts for the induction. “I was originally supposed to go to the state of Florida and got a phone call from him. In about 15-20 minutes he convinced me to come to the University of Northeast Louisiana. back then. The way I see it, his competitive football practices made the National Football League easier for me. “

Roberts turned his success at ULM into a new opportunity when he left after five years to become Lou Holtz’s offensive coordinator at Notre Dame. He went on to be head coach at Baylor and eventually joined Holtz as an assistant in South Carolina. But he never forgot his experience with Monroe.

“I thought this was the best place I have ever been,” said Roberts. “The friends we made over there in Monroe are still friends. It’s an experience that I enjoyed because we were able to build something and accomplish something. And the players were just amazing.”

Go: Hall of Fame Weekend begins with a social evening on Friday night at the L Club House on October 15 and is highlighted by the Consecration Brunch at 10 a.m. on Saturday October 16 at Bayou Pointe on the ULM campus. . The inductees will also be recognized at ULM’s home football game against Liberty University later today.

Induction tickets cost $ 25 and can be purchased online at ulm.edu/alumni.

For more information on attending the ULM L Club Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, please contact the Alumni Association at (318) 342-5420 or by email at [email protected]

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