Just call it a dress rehearsal for Josh Roybal.
It has been nine months since the Santa Fe High graduate put on football gear, but this week is merely the warmup for what the next four years will be like.
Roybal will play his final prep football game Wednesday as a member of the North squad in the annual Class AAAA-AAAAA North/South All-Star Game at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque.
In nine days, Roybal will report for the first day of camp for freshmen at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where he will be a running back for the Division II Skyhawks.
The one thing he won’t have to adjust to is the feel of familiar equipment.
“The way I see it, being here for the all-star game is like a warmup for college,” Roybal said. “Running around with the helmet and the shoulder pads, it was fun. At least when I get to college, it won’t be a whole year since I’ve done that.”
Roybal is already re-acquainting himself with the camaraderie that comes from being part of a team. Roybal and his North teammates are almost inseparable.
“The North is real united,” Roybal said. “We all eat together, when it’s not mandatory. It’s been amazing, one of the greatest weeks I’ve ever experienced — being on a team with the top players from around the state, making new friends and talking to other people about their high school experiences and where they are going for college.”
Roybal, though, also has the distinction of being Santa Fe High’s first North/South football representative in several years. His inclusion on the team is yet another indication of the progress the program is making under fourth-year head coach Ray Holladay.
“It’s showing that we’re taking steps in the right direction,” Holladay said. “It’s showing that coaches out there are recognizing that we are doing things right and getting better.”
Perhaps Roybal is just the start of something better.
“Maybe I can start a trend,” Roybal said. “I think people are realizing we’ve got some players up there. And coach Holladay is doing a good job of getting us some exposure.”
Roybal might help with the the recognition part, especially if he contributes at Fort Lewis. If he needs any inspiration, he will be teammates of a couple of other Santa Feans — and an ex-teammate.
Terry Begaye, a 2008 graduate of St. Michael’s, is a senior cornerback. Jason Fitzpatrick, who played quarterback at Santa Fe High until transferring to Rio Rancho for his senior year in 2011, also will be a teammate of Roybal’s.
Holladay and Roybal both know that he will no longer be the BMOC at Fort Lewis. Roybal will be on a team of BMOCs now, and that is a big hurdle he will have to clear.
Roybal already is getting a taste of that in Albuquerque.
“Everyone here is talented,” Roybal said. “It’s going to be the same in college.”
If practice makes perfect, then this week was exactly what Roybal needed.
Contact James Barron at 986-3045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.