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Audition gets Roberts a chance with Rattlers

For this, Kenny "Junior" Roberts skipped graduation with family and friends. Instead, he headed to Jacksonville to compete in a difficult two-day event he never had tried, the decathlon.

He did it for the chance to impress colleges coaches and maybe find a place to compete in the fall.

Everything worked according to plan.

Roberts is close to being accepted to Florida A&M, and the school is preparing to offer the former Wesley Chapel track standout a scholarship to compete as a decathlete for the Rattlers.

"It feels pretty good," Roberts said. "I'm pretty relieved right now. I'm just worrying about working out and training and getting ready for my school work."

Roberts has a way to go, but he's much closer to his goal of attending FAMU. He recently cleared his last hurdle to admission: a qualifying SAT score.

Wesley Chapel coach Brian Colding said FAMU coaches will push Roberts' application through the admissions process, then he will be a student.

"As soon as that happens, he'll be officially accepted," Colding said. "Then it's a waiting game for the clearinghouse to clear up his name."

The NCAA clearinghouse will take four to six weeks to approve Roberts before the school can grant him an athletic scholarship. That will be the last piece of his financial aid package.

Roberts was in Tallahassee this weekend with his family, helping his brother, Chris, through orientation and class registration. Chris Roberts plans to walk on as a linebacker for the Division I-AA Rattlers.

Keeping the brothers together in college was important for their mother, Princess Cowart, who Monday arranged for them to live together in the FAMU dorms.

"Yes, that's what I was praying for," Cowart said. "I'm just happy they'll be together up there so they can help each other and encourage each other.

"That's what I was praying for, that Junior and Chris would get up there together."

Roberts auditioned at the first annual Heptathlon and Decathlon State Championships at Jacksonville Bolles in May.

He scored 5,278 points, finishing third among seniors and fifth overall despite being rusty in the jumps and never having tried the pole vault or thrown a javelin.

Roberts was a multisport athlete at Wesley Chapel, excelling in football and track. The past two seasons his forte has been the hurdles. This season he was voted Sunshine Athletic Conference runner of the year by coaches and was seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles at the Class 2A state meet. His best time in the event this season was 14.58 seconds.

For the Roberts brothers to attend college together and compete as athletes is a special achievement for them and their family, Colding said.

"I think they've got a great opportunity ahead of them," Colding said. "To get an education, first and foremost, he and Chris will be the first of the Roberts family to attend college, and that in itself is a big deal.

"Then you throw in the fact that Kenny has the opportunity to compete at the Division I level in track and field, and it just says a lot about his hard work through school and his talents."