ANNA – Surrounded by family and a host of well-wishers on May 13 at Anna High School, senior defensive standout Jerrod Roberts signed his letter of intent to continue his soccer and educational career at Austin College in Sherman.

As a center-back defender in 2019, Roberts was a key contributor in the Coyotes’ first-ever district championship season, a campaign that featured an undefeated run through district play and a thrilling bi-district playoff win. Overall, Anna also rolled to its most wins in program history (13) and suffered its fewest losses in a season (5).

For his effort, Roberts earned First-Team All-District and Second-Team All-Region honors and was named the team’s Defensive MVP.

“He’s been a varsity player for four years,” Coyotes head coach Matt Ellis said. “So he’s literally been a part of everything we’ve built since I’ve been here. And he’s been an integral part of this senior group. … Without him this year, there’s no way we have the success that we had. He was definitely the leader back there. He helped get everything organized and made sure we were in the right shape. He’s going to be a tough kid to replace.”

The NCAA Division III Austin College Kangaroos are members of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.

“I loved the school, I loved the campus,” Roberts said of AC, a private liberal arts college located in Sherman since 1876. “It just feels like home and it feels like it’ll work for me.” He plans to major in business and minor in athletic performance.

Asked what he’s learned as an athlete at Anna, Roberts said, “Just to keep growing as a person, never give up and fight for what you love. That’s pretty much it. If I have one word for anybody who wants to doubt themselves, it’s to ‘believe.’”

As for that first-ever district title, Roberts said, “It’s means more than anything. I’m glad I was able to be a part of the program and help them win it. I’ll never forget the memories we made. … [Coach Ellis has] helped me grow as a person, he’s helped me grow as a player.”

“I know that the last four years of high school and select have now paid off,” Roberts’ mom Lisa Drinkwater said. “He has worked hard through those four years.” She said she was pleased with Roberts’ choice of AC. “I like the education that they produce for the students. I like the mentor program that they have for the students. And the soccer coach [Mark Hudson] is wonderful. … Nothing can replace the high school years, so I’ve enjoyed every game to the fullest – tears of joy and tears of sadness. And we have enjoyed being with Coach Ellis.”

“We’ve been looking for this for a while now,” Roberts’ step-father Duncan Drinkwater said. “I’m glad to see him going to play at the next level. He deserves it. … The [AC] soccer coach, he seems like he’s all about giving everybody a chance. I like that. Some of the coaches, they’re not going to play the freshmen and they’ll tell you that. But he looks like he’s going to give everybody a chance to earn a position on the team.”

Ed Puskarich has coached Roberts for five years on his select team, the Texas Spurs.

“It’s an absolute dream to have him,” Puskarich said. “Our team calls him ‘Smalls.’ From the movie Sandlot? ‘You’re killin’ me, Smalls.’ He’s been killin’ it for five years.”

Puskarich added that Roberts’ signing event was “almost like a father moment” for him. “I get to see him go the next step, to Austin College - a good program, a good coach and stay close to home. I’m real excited for him.”

Roberts traveled to Europe in 2016 with Puskarich’s international travel team, Stars and Stripes – a three-week adventure that included matches in Sweden, Denmark and The Czech Republic. While in Sweden, Roberts competed in the Gothia Cup, also known as the World Youth Cup - the biggest youth world cup in the world. The event draws as many as 1,700 teams from 80 nations.

“It’s life-changing,” Roberts said of the trip. “It’s a different opportunity that not a lot of people get. … It’s crazy to be able to play something that you love in a different country. It’s totally different than here. You learn how to live over there and play like they do. It’s a whole different world and society.”

Roberts was also joined at the signing by step-brother Kody Drinkwater, brother Joel Roberts, sister Savannah Roberts and Roberts’ girlfriend Hannah Morland. In attendance as well were Roberts’ grandparents, Earl and Sylvia Brantley, and Ron and Alice Jean Flick.