Joe Riggi has seen plenty of gifted running backs.
Riggi has spent the last 19 seasons in various coaching capacities at J.P. Stevens and Governor Livingston. This season he’s signed on as the running backs coach at J.F. Kennedy where he believes he’s inherited quite possibly the most talented ball carrier he’s ever mentored.
Enter 6-foot-3, 200-pound back Anthony Roberts. Roberts, a senior, transferred from St. Anthony in Jersey City to Kennedy before the start of last season. When he became eligible after sitting out the NJSIAA mandated 30 days for transfers, Roberts hit the ground running hard and fast.
He made his 2012 debut in Week 5 and rushed 14 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns helping Kennedy to its first victory of the season and ending a four-game skid.
Roberts followed that up the very next week with 25 carries for 212 yards and three touchdowns in a another victory — coincidentally the only other occasion Kennedy won a game last season.
Unfortunately, Roberts season came to an end the following week when he sustained an injury that nagged him for the final three games, thus leaving many to speculate whether he was just a flash in the pan or really the player who averaged 8.8 yards on 39 touches and scored five touchdowns in two games.
“I’ve seen a lot of great running backs in 19 years, and I put (Roberts) right up there with any of them,” Riggi said. “He’s a hybrid runner, meaning he has explosive speed and extreme agility. When he cuts, he glides and easily goes from an outside runner to a downhill runner without breaking stride.”
Kennedy’s rookie head coach Andrew Maurizio, a 1992 graduate of Kennedy High, thinks Roberts has the ability to become a Division I scholarship player.
“Nobody knew who he was when he transferred in from Jersey City, and many people may not know who he is right now,” Maurizio said, “but there’s no doubt in my mind if he stays healthy this season everybody is going to know about him.”
Maurizio has installed the pro set offense — Kennedy ran the option previously under Rich Nyers — and Riggi believes the new system will further showcase Roberts’ talent.
“There are a lot of zone blocking concepts, so your giving (Roberts) the freedom to utilize his skills,” he said. “His cutback ability is tremendous and he moves great laterally.
“Watching him on film from last year is making me excited because he’s a year older and wiser and has adapted to the system,” Riggi added. “He’s a smart runner — like a coach running with the ball — and I’m looking forward to watching him play in a game that counts.”