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Kanye Roberts takes the next step toward college stardom

Landon Williams
Redshirt freshman running back Kanye Roberts rushes up the field against Georgia Southern Nov. 25. Roberts averaged 5.7 rushing yards per attempt on 123 attempts in the 2023 season.

App State has been home to talented running backs, including NFL veteran Darrynton Evans, Camrun Peoples and Marcus Cox. Redshirt freshman Kanye Roberts seems to be next in line with an opportunity to add his name to the Mountaineer history books.

“I’m proud of Kanye,” said head coach Shawn Clark. “He’s in a good spot right now, and he’s got his life in the right direction.”

Roberts displayed these characteristics on a late-game 61-yard touchdown on Homecoming weekend that erupted Kidd Brewer Stadium as he found the open hole and sprinted away to take the lead against Southern Miss Oct. 28. 

“We’re gonna rely on Kanye,” Clark said. “Just the way he’s getting better, the way he’s a team player, the way he does anything he can for his teammates to be successful, speaks a lot about his character.”

From the small town of Teachey, North Carolina, with a population of 376, Roberts attended Wallace-Rose Hill High School. He played for their football and basketball teams as a dual-sport athlete.

On the football field, Roberts made a name for himself, rushing for 1,382 yards and 19 touchdowns on the varsity team his freshman year in 2018. He continued to start for Wallace-Rose Hill, playing for head coach Kevin Motsinger and had a historic senior season in 2021. 

Roberts rushed for a nation-leading 3,511 yards and 58 touchdowns, averaging 219.4 rushing yards per game and 12.3 yards per carry. His senior year efforts helped lead his school to a 13-3 record and the 2-A state championship game. He continued his dominant 2021 year with 253 yards and five touchdowns in the state championship. 

Roberts’ 58 rushing touchdowns rank second all-time in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s single-season rushing touchdowns record.

While Roberts set records his senior year, he only received offers from South Carolina State and App State as a two-star 247Sports recruit in part due to playing for a smaller high school. On Oct. 28, 2021, Roberts committed to the Black and Gold  and enrolled on Feb. 3, 2022, going on to play for Clark.

“He’s a great coach, he’s a kind person, he cares about us and cares about what we do in school, not only just on the football field,” Roberts said. “He’s going to pay attention to the little stuff that everybody do.”

Roberts breaks through a tackle against Southern Mississippi Oct. 28. Roberts finished the season with seven touchdowns. (Leah Matney)

In his true freshman season in 2022, Roberts decided to redshirt as he only appeared in three games, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns. With this decision, Roberts gained another year of eligibility. 

The lack of playing time was due to a loaded backfield featuring senior running backs Daetrich Harrington and Peoples. During that time, Roberts bulked up from 190 to 200 pounds, adding to his 5 feet 11 inches frame. 

With a new void in the backfield in 2023, Roberts had an opportunity to earn a spot in the running back rotation during the off-season. While junior running back Nate Noel was expected to receive the majority of carries, Roberts competed with the rest of the running back room for any amount of touches.

Noel shined to start the 2023 season with five straight games with over 100 total yards, but Roberts’s numbers increased as the weeks went on. He received six attempts for 42 yards and one touchdown against East Carolina Sept. 16, the first appearance of his redshirt freshman season. 

While Roberts worked diligently for  opportunities on the field, he also worked hard off the field as a professional studies major. 

“He’s got straight A’s,” Clark said. “He doesn’t miss anything as far as study hall.”

Roberts continued to see at least six attempts in the next two games, but everything changed when Noel suffered a lower leg injury on his first carry against Coastal Carolina Oct. 10. This left an opportunity up for grabs as Noel’s absence extended for the next two games. 

Roberts started those two games and led the team in rushing each game. Against Old Dominion Oct. 21, he rushed for 109 yards on 26 attempts. 

Then in front of a Homecoming crowd against Southern Miss Oct. 28, Roberts rushed for another 109 yards on 13 carries, including a 61-yard touchdown to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. While running lanes were hard to come by throughout the game, Roberts made the most out of his opportunity when it mattered most. 

“They were telling me on the sideline to be a little more patient, so that’s what I did,” Roberts said. “I stayed behind our guard and just waited for the open hole. As soon as I seen the open hole, I just burst out and kept going.”

While the keys to the backfield were handed back to Noel when he returned against Marshall Nov. 5, Roberts showed promise of what his future brings in the black and gold as a starting running back. 

Unexpectedly, Roberts was given another opportunity as Noel’s previous injury hampered him again, and the Teachery native saw an increased workload again.

In the final regular season game against Georgia Southern Nov. 25, Roberts rushed for 109 yards and one touchdown, guiding the Mountaineers to a senior day victory. The same day, his No. 14 was being retired for former App State quarterback Armanti Edwards. Roberts was allowed to finish the season with the number across his chest and back. 

Following his senior day performance, Clark continued giving Roberts the ball in the Dec. 2 Sun Belt Championship Game against Troy. On the biggest stage he’s seen, Roberts totaled 53 rushing yards and two touchdowns. While it was a losing effort, Roberts put together a solid performance against a top-ranked Troy defense. 

In his second season in black and gold, Roberts rushed for 696 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the team in rushing touchdowns. 

After the game against Troy, Noel announced he would be entering the transfer portal Dec. 7. Noel totaled 834 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 2023. In his departure, those numbers will be up for grabs in the 2024 season, leaving Roberts with a clear path to become the No.1 running back on the depth chart during this upcoming offseason. 

“There’s a correlation; when you have your life in line, the football gets better and better,” Clark said.

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About the Contributors
Chance Chamberlain
Chance Chamberlain, Associate Sports Editor
Chance Chamberlain (he/him) is a senior journalism major, media studies minor. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
Landon Williams, Photographer
Landon Williams (he/him) is a Junior majoring in Commercial Photography from Winston Salem, NC. This is his second year with The Appalachian. 
Leah Matney
Leah Matney, Photojournalist
Leah Matney (she/her) is a junior with a digital marketing major and photography minor from Lincolnton, NC. This is her first year with The Appalachian.
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