For much of his senior season as a defensive end for the Clayton High School football team, LaMont Roberson’s most reoccurring view was that of looking down at ball carriers on the ground whom he had stopped in their tracks.
Earlier this spring, Roberson’s football prowess led to a much different perspective, however, as the soon-to-be Comet alum participated as a member of the United States American Football Worldwide Elite squad that traveled to Italy.
USA-AFW ELITE was a team recruited and organized by American Football Worldwide and consisted of high school seniors representing 23 different states.
The team’s trip included a game against the Italian U19 national team in Milan, one that Roberson’s squad won 73-7, but some of the trip’s greatest memories were found in touring the country, outside of any stadium.
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Instead of looking down at opposing players, the six-foot-seven defensive lineman, who registered 70 tackles and eight sacks in his senior season, was instead in awe, looking up at the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo displayed his craft.
For Roberson, who recorded a tackle for loss in the second quarter of the game, the experience was about way more than football.
“My trip to Italy was an awesome experience,” Roberson said. “I got to share this experience with not only the 39 other HS Select Elite team members, representing 23 states but with my mom (Karlotta), too!”
The team converged in Rome, where the players and coaching staff met for the first time. During eight days in Italy that included four three-hour practices, the group of players and parents traveled the width of the country taking in the culture, food and sights.
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum, the Statue of David and St. Peter’s Basilica were among the highlights for Roberson who also developed a keen interest in “real” espresso, the type of prosciutto that “melts like butter in your mouth” and pizza that challenged the American’s prior understanding of the food.
Another main function of the team’s trip was to serve as international ambassadors of “American football”, a term used around the world to differentiate the sport from their version of “football” which Americans refer to as soccer.
More than 60 countries have Federations for American Football and Europe has the longest such history in the American game outside of the states. The European clubs often see the opportunity to play against American teams as a way to get better and learn the game.
That appreciation for playing an American team was clear to see for Roberson, who was amazed at the Italian team’s character displayed after the lopsided defeat.
“I learned a lot more about sportsmanship,” Roberson said. “The Italian team, even with the big loss was in very high spirits and told us that they were just grateful to have had the opportunity to have played against us.”
Roberson, who was named all-conference in the Greater Neuse River Conference as a senior, will continue to play the sport he loves, as he will attend the Atlanta Sports Academy Prep in the fall. ASAP is a post-graduate academic-athletic program that will allow Roberson more time to prepare on and off the field to chase down his dream of playing collegiate football.
Roberson returned from his trip with a slightly new perspective on football, one that will most certainly serve him well on his journey: “The Italian team’s attitude, even after losing the game, showed me how to just be grateful for the opportunities to play such a great sport. The entire trip was an experience that I will never forget.”