INSIDE THE AUBURN TIGERS
Renaissance Man in the Trenches
By Guy Rhodes
Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the August 1996 issue of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine.
Jim Roe has some big shoes to fill. Size 19 to be exact.
A pilot, scuba diver, exotic animal lover, computer whiz, wrestling champion and economics major, Roe plans to do everything within his ability to be a productive performer for Auburn at the tight tackle spot vacated by All-American Willie Anderson. The 6-5, 318-pound Anderson, with big feet and loads of talent, left Auburn following his junior year and was the first SEC player and 10th overall selection in this year's NFL draft. Anderson has signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
A young man with a myriad of interests, Roe says he's ready to take on that challenge on Auburn's rebuilt offensive line that returns only two starters-junior tackle Victor Riley, who is moving to guard, and senior guard Leonard Thomas.
Roe, a fifth-year senior, has been a back-up player most of his Auburn career lettering three times behind NFL-draftee Anthony Redmon at guard and Anderson at tackle. However, Roe did play extensively last year against Mississippi State and the started the following week against Florida when Anderson was sidelined briefly with a knee injury. He graded 82 percent against Mississippi State.
"Willie and I would watch each other at practice and help each other if we noticed something that wasn't going right," Roe says. "Willie is such a hard and dedicated worker that I got a lot better just being around him. I wasn't concerned so much with starting, only in improving and being ready when I did get playing time."
While Auburn offensive line coach Rick Trickett rated Roe "a guy with average talent" at the time, he credits the senior with working hard, getting stronger and being a good technician. "He got through the Mississippi State game by being tough and technique sound," Trickett observes. "He made no mistakes and his hat was in the right place at the right time."
Roe worked hard during the spring on refining his technique and nailed down the starting tight tackle job ahead of DeMarcus Curry (6-5, 315, sophomore) and has spent much of the summer working out on campus with his offensive line teammates. He got plenty of practice on his pass against the rushes of AU defenders Takeo Spikes, Marcellus Mostella, Terry Solomon and others in April. "I wanted to have a really good spring," Roe says. "I wanted to go out and establish that the coaches can count on me like Willie to run behind on a fourth-and-one play." Trickett says Roe made progress throughout spring drills.
He has improved his strength, moving up to 405 pounds on the bench press and 500 in the squat. Only Spikes and Riley have higher numbers in the bench press.
Roe is one to take advantage of opportunities and has a tremendous work ethic. Much of that comes from a wrestling background, not unusual for a 6-foot-5, 296-pounder, and from swimming, a surprising sport for such a big man.
Roe was born in LaGrange, Ga., where he lived until he was seven when his father, an Auburn graduate in textile engineering with a master's degree in management, moved to South Carolina. Roe spent most of his early athletic years as a wrestler and swimmer before football came into the picture his sophomore year in high school. However, Roe's earliest athletic endeavor was karate as a youngster in Greenville, S.C., where he did play a couple of years of midget football. "I was always the tallest one in my age group and competed against older people in karate," Roe recalls. "Karate helped me later in wrestling and football with the one-on-one competition, form and technique, and repetitions."
Roe didn't play football in middle school or as a high school freshman in Mauldin, S.C. During middle school he spent most of his time swimming in the winter and summer with much of his training at the Furman University pool with the SAIL club team. His specialties were the backstroke, freestyle sprints and butterfly.
"I don't have problems with two-a-days in football because of the two-a-days I got used to in swimming," Roe says. "I was real disappointed that Mauldin High didn't have a swimming program, but I continued to swim when I could." Mauldin is a Class 4A school, South Carolina's largest classification. That division is divided into a Big 16 and Little 16. Mauldin had 1,200 students and was in the Little 16 while Spartanburg, where former AU running back Stephen Davis played, had 1,600 students and was in the Big 16. One of Roe's classmates as a freshman was Kevin Garnett, who later moved to Chicago where he became a basketball star. Garnett just completed his first professional season with the Minnesota Timberwolves after being drafted in the first round out of high school.
Mauldin did have a wrestling program, which certainly attracted Roe. He didn't make the number one heavyweight position on the team as a freshman, but wrestled there the next three years, going 20-10 as a sophomore, 38-3 as a junior and 35-1 as a senior. The lone loss his senior year came in the state finals by a point against an opponent he had defeated four times earlier in the year.
Roe usually wrestled between 240 and 250 pounds to keep his quickness and used swimming and wrestling during the non-high school season to keep his weight down. Four times he was the state USA freestyle heavyweight wrestling champion for his age group. He placed second in the nationals at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis as a sophomore, attracting attention of college wrestling coaches. Roe also wrestled in major events in Florida, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.
"Actually, I felt like football would keep me in shape for wrestling when I started playing as a sophomore," Roe admits. As a sophomore, he played on the defensive line with the junior varsity football team. Then he moved up to the varsity his junior year, where he also began playing on the offensive side of the ball, although defense was his favorite. "We were 7-4 my junior year and made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years," he remembers. "Playing defense was more like wrestling because you are allowed to do more things. I hadn't really thought much about football until between my junior and senior years when a recruiting magazine contacted me and I was listed. After that, I was contacted by a number of schools." However, Auburn was always his top choice. His paternal grandfather played football for the Tigers during the depression.
"I never met him because he died when my dad was 19," Roe says. "I do remember my dad saying my grandfather had to wear his football cleats to class because there wasn't much money back then." Roe's other grandfather, Randall "Andy" Haver, played football and wrestled at Penn State. He died a couple of years ago.
"He went to Choate Academy before going to Penn State. One of his classmates was John F. Kennedy. My grandfather visited the Kennedys in Hyannis Port and had yearbooks with Kennedys in them. My grandfather was a Miami Hurricanes and Dolphins fan after retiring in Miami, but he became an Auburn fan when I came to school here."
Roe's mother, Pamela Wallace, is from Mobile. She has an elementary education degree from Auburn and teaches in Greenville, S.C. Roe's father lives in Greensboro and is president of Highlands Industries, which specializes in making coated fabric for tires and air bags and insulators to be used on Space Station Freedom. "One of his plants has all the machinery painted orange and blue," Roe says with a laugh.
When Roe filled out questionnaires as a top recruit, he listed Auburn as his first three choices for schools to attend. "If the truth be known, I would have walked on if I hadn't been offered a scholarship," he says. "I had some wrestling offers, including Penn State, but decided it would be better to play football in front of 85,000 rather than wrestle in front of 400 people."
Grades have never been a problem for Roe. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his class and scheduled demanding subjects. Roe visited spring games at Georgia and South Carolina because he couldn't attend regular recruiting visits with wrestling commitments. "But I knew I was going to Auburn," he says.
While football has been his ticket to college, Roe has many other interests. He has owned a Burmese python, an iguana, tarantulas and a cockatiel, which he kept in his dorm room at Sewell Hall before they were banished from the dorm. "Cedric is the python. I had him since he was 24 inches long and he grew to eight feet," Roe says. "It got too expensive to feed him rats and rabbits."
One of his best friends, NFL draftee and former AU defensive back Dell McGee, purchased one of the tarantulas and Norris Sealey, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, bought the iguana. "I have taken some of the animals to my mother's classroom to talk about them with the kids," he mentions. "I didn't have them all at one time. I would keep one for a while and move on to something else."
Roe's father owns an airplane and he frequently flew with his son to the Bahamas and other areas for scuba diving. Now, Roe, a pilot himself, rents planes and flies often. He and McGee flew to Auburn's Outback Bowl with Penn State this past season.
Under a new NCAA rule, dorms can house only 50 percent athletes with the rest of the occupancy coming from the general student body. Most Auburn underclassmen football players are in Sewell Hall with most juniors and seniors living in private housing and drawing stipends for rent and food. That's fine with Roe. "I like to do my own cooking," says Roe, who lives with his brother and former Auburn football player Shay Allen in a house where the only animal around is Allen's German shorthair pointer. "I think I can cook healthier than some of the food in the dorm. I especially like to grill chicken breasts and steaks. I have a lot of nutritional protein shakes."
Roe says living outside the dorm is okay for disciplined upperclassmen, but underclassmen are best suited for living in the dorm because of the structure and adjustment from high school. "There's so much going on at the dorm sometimes," he says. "I like to take a nap or read a book, and I can do that with no problem where I live now."
Roe is also a computer whiz and tests software over the internet for major companies looking for problems in programs. He gets free use of the games for doing the tests. He was in pre-dentistry as a major when he entered Auburn, but changed fields because he had so many labs that conflicted with his football commitments. "I got frustrated and switched to economics," explains Roe, an outstanding student. "I graduate fall quarter and really enjoy economics. I can't wait to get to class."
Roe is also a baseball fan. "I started following the Braves on TBS when they only had a few hundred people at games and they won about every seven nights. I collected all the Dale Murphy cards."
Roe plans on capping off his senior season with an outstanding performance and picking up his graduate degree.