By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — No one knew much about John Robertson before he ran onto the field the second half of Villanova’s season opener against Temple back on August 31. Wildcats’ coach Andy Talley, and perhaps, even Robertson himself, a red-shirt freshman quarterback, didn’t know much, either.
Looks like everyone learned a happy lesson—that Robertson is something special—as Villanova’s season unfolded.
Robertson was the recipient of the prestigious Jerry Rice Award, named after the NFL Hall of Famer to honor the top freshman of the year in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (formally Division I-AA).
In 12 games, Robertson completed 152-of-253 passes (60-percent) for 1,965 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He became the first quarterback in Villanova history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season, finishing with 1,021 yards on 189 carries (5.4 avg.) and a team-high 14 rushing TDs. Robertson also led the Wildcats in scoring with 84 points and total offense with 2,986 yards.
Robertson was named the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Offensive Rookie of the Year, in addition to being a third team All-CAA selection.
And on Monday night he had all-time great Jerry Rice talking about him.
“The FCS right now is making a statement that, hey look, you don’t have to go to a large school and you still can be successful by going to a smaller school,” said the all-time great Rice, in Philadelphia to honor all of the FCS award winners at the Society Hill Sheraton in Philadelphia Monday night. “By me going to Mississippi Valley State University, being able to come out of there and have success on the football field I think that sends a message. You look at the players today, like John Robertson, and what he was able to accomplish this year, being a red-shirted freshman, running like a crazy man over 1,000 yards, and almost threw for over 2,000 and 14 touchdowns. It’s also what he’s doing off the football field, he’s a great leader and he’s going to be real successful.
“It’s so cool having an award named after you, it’s a testament to how I played the game. You play the game, there are a lot of accolades that you get, you break so many records, but you have to love the game. To have an award named after me, along with Buck Buchanan, Eddie Robinson, Walter Payton, just to be in that group is amazing. I loved playing the game. The kids at this level love the game. You look at so many guys who that are having so much success in the NFL right now, RG III [Robert Griffin III], Andrew Luck, all of these young guys, love the game. I look at John Robertson as one of these young guys that can be successful at that next level and play good football.”
Robertson was taken aback from the swirl around him Monday night, and having his name placed on the Jerry Rice Award, and even having a Hall of Famer like Rice utter his name in the company of Robert Griffin III and Luck.
“This has come as a little shock,” Robertson admitted. “Coming into the season, I always had high expectations for myself, just because you have to. But looking at the award and seeing the name on it, it’s hard to comprehend, just because of how great a player he was. I’m real excited about getting this award. It shows the hard work is paying off, but it’s definitely made me hungrier. I felt that if I got a shot to play, looking at my teammates around me, and a lot of them are coming back, I could have a great season.”
Talley has Robertson for another three years—and Talley found out fast after the Temple game he was the Wildcats best chance to win.
“We looked at John and said he was our best chance of winning this year, a dual-threat guy who can do both; we hoped his passing would come along and he can do the reading in our pass offense,” Talley said. “He just took it over, and became very accurate, the kind of quarterback you really hate to play against, the kind of guy who can run and throw. We have a great team coming back, and we’ll build everything around John.”