With just a single play, senior corner and electrifying return man Tarence Roby caused quite a stir. His 100-yard interception return for a touchdown equaled GPAC and NAIA records in last week’s 24-6 victory over Ottawa University. As a result, the GPAC selected Roby as the league’s defensive player of the week. The native of Rockford, Ill., compiled 222 all-purpose yards in the home opening win.
This isn’t the first time Roby has burned an opponent with a game-breaking play. Roby has found the end zone five times during his career, scoring in a wide variety of ways (fumble return, kick return, punt return and interception return). But this one was different.
“It wasn’t shock and surprise,” said head coach Patrick Daberkow. “That was one of the best plays I think I’ve ever seen in football, especially live with how many tackles he broke. That shows how dynamic of an athlete he is. He’s just a really great football player and good kid.”
Everything about the play screamed SportsCenter top 10 highlight. ESPN’s signature program recognized the play’s wow factor and featured it on the program both Saturday evening and Sunday morning. According to ESPN’s calculations, the actual distance Roby traveled, while working his way across the field and then sprinting to the end zone, covered 139 yards.
The play had it all – from the leaping pick that started it to the act of eluding the entire Braves offense to the Shane Scott pancake block to the exuberant call of Tyler Cavalli on 104.9 Max Country. Color commentator Roger Fitzke didn’t hesitate in exclaiming, “There will not be a better play in all of college football today.”
Fitzke was impressed by Roby’s ability to “shake and bake” out of trouble. Cavalli referred to Roby as a “bad, bad man.” Roby himself explained what he saw on the play during a postgame interview.
Said Roby, “When I picked it, I didn’t know I was in the end zone initially. I thought I was on the one. I just ran out and I saw a guy, so I ran back into the end zone. I figured I had to get out of the end zone as soon as possible. I just made a few moves. I only saw linemen so I figured if I get past them I’m off to the races.”
The play has now been seen by thousands of people around the country. A video of the play has been retweeted well over 200 times and has been viewed more than 1,000 times on YouTube. That’s not even factoring in the people who watched it on ESPN. Former Bulldog quarterback Kurt Earl tweeted a video of Roby as shown on a SportsCenter highlight.
Many people likely had the same reaction as running back Ryan Durdon, who watched from the sidelines as Roby produced one of the top plays ever seen at Bulldog Stadium.
“I don’t think I could describe it,” Durdon said. “I was hopping and hollering. The defense came through for us. Tarence Roby made an insane return.”
According to the GPAC records, only one other player has returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in league history. Vince Martinez performed the same feat against Dordt in 2009. In the NAIA record book, the longest interception return of 100 is listed as having been accomplished by “several.” In both NAIA and NCAA football, only the yardage from goal line to goal line is recorded statistically. (In other words, the longest possible return is 100 yards). The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision record book states that 101 players have returned interceptions 100 yards since 1941. Two NCAA DI FBS players had 100-yard returns in 2016.
Roby career touchdowns
9/20/2014 – 46-yard fumble return vs. Midland
10/18/2014 – 90-yard kickoff return vs. Northwestern
10/24/2015 – 12-yard blocked punt return vs. Doane
9/10/2016 – 91-yard kickoff return at Ottawa
9/9/2017 – 100-yard interception return vs. Ottawa
Roby and the Bulldogs will open up the conference season with a trip to Northwestern (2-0) on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT from Orange City, Iowa.