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Roberts: "I'm a Pirate'

Kenny Roberts decides against attending Wesley Chapel High.

Days after he considered transferring to Wesley Chapel High, Kenny Roberts returned to the Pasco High campus Wednesday. He walked into Pirates coach Ricky Thomas' office. They hugged. They sat down. They talked.

It's not official yet but he's back.

"Yeah, I'm a Pirate," Roberts said.

Indeed he is, Thomas said.

"He told me he's a Pirate," Thomas said. "That's what he told me. We sat down, we talked, we hugged. He told me he's a Pirate.

"I love Kenny like a son. He's been with me since the sixth grade, and he's been with me in a lot of wars down in the trenches. So I have a lot of admiration and respect for the kid. Obviously, it goes without saying I'm pleased and I'm happy."

So is Roberts.

"I just felt like that's where I should be playing football," he said. "And it wasn't just football. Most of my friends are there, too.

"When I walked in, he told me it didn't matter what school I went to. He was still behind me 100 percent. He said he wasn't mad at me. He said I would be welcome at Pasco any time. He was all right."

Wildcats coach John Castelamare could not be reached for comment.

Roberts is one of the county's most promising players, a starter at linebacker last season at Pasco, where the sophomore also was a backup tailback and quarterback. As a junior this season, he would have contended for the Pirates' quarterback job with senior Nick Trehuba.

But when football camps opened up throughout Pasco County on Monday, he was at Weightman Middle School, watching the Wildcats' first practice in school history.

Under school choice, Roberts' younger brothers, Kenny and Chris, will attend the new high school this fall. That, and improving his grades, Roberts said, had him seriously considering a move to Wesley Chapel. He registered there for classes, according to school officials, but his transfer was never finalized. His mother did not sign the school choice form.

The family never took that final step, though. So Roberts never practiced with the Wildcats, which meant he could still suit up for the Pirates. He didn't show at Weightman on Tuesday.

Wednesday, he said he changed his mind.

"The moment (I decided) was today," he said, "and I really do want to play with my brothers. I just wanted to play with them. I may never get that chance again."

Roberts said he was pleased Thomas was not upset with him.

"Yeah," he said, "I was relieved a little bit."

Last season, Roberts was named this season's quarterback _ until a strong spring by Trehuba. Those two will compete for the job as soon as Roberts steps onto the field, Thomas said, and he also will have to battle for a defensive position, perhaps linebacker or cornerback.

Roberts promised he would be at practice this morning, but Thomas said he was unsure of the procedures or paperwork needed to smooth Roberts' return.

Thomas said the whole situation disturbed him but wouldn't specify why.

"(There) are some things I'd rather not comment on," Thomas said.

Before Wednesday, Thomas said Roberts' vacillating neither surprised nor upset him. But late Wednesday evening, after their afternoon makeup session, Thomas was happy.

"Obviously, I'm pleased about it," he said. "Kenny is a Pirate. And not only a Pirate, he's like a son to me. He's like family to me, so I've got to be pleased by it. When you feel like one of your own wants to do something else, it bothers you to a certain degree. It seemed out of character for him. Then again, by the same token, it didn't really surprise me.

"I guess he had to get some things clear in his mind. He told me he's got it all cleared up, and now it's time for us to rock 'n' roll."