Madison Prep football coach Michael Roach proudly tackled what could have been an awkward question.
“I was at the LSU camp and this man asked me ‘Who’s that big lineman out there with the tight ends,’ ” Roach recalled. “He was another parent who was there watching. I told him ‘That’s my son.’ ”
Roach is getting used to those questions about his youngest son Malcolm, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior-to-be at Madison Prep. Not too used to them just yet, however.
Malcolm Roach has been a tight end for about a year now. And there’s a story behind the move, which is typical for this father and son.
Last summer, the elder Roach wanted his son to attend a prospects camp at Alabama. Malcolm Roach was always a lineman and garnered attention for his defensive play as a freshman at Southern Lab.
Crimson Tide associate head coach Burton Burns offered a suggestion. Burns, who coached Michael Roach as a linebacker at Southern University from 1981-85, said tight end might be a better camp spot for the youngster.
Malcolm Roach hasn’t looked back. Opponents saw Roach’s back plenty as he raced to the end zone while becoming a weapon for the Chargers last fall during the first season at MPA for the father-son duo. He caught 55 passes for 650 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. As a defensive end/linebacker he finished with 82 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and three forced fumbles. The younger Roach also played quarterback in one game and handled the punting chores. A recent 40-yard dash time of 4.75 seconds is also notable for the 16-year-old who likes studying film of NFL star Antonio Gates.
“I just look at myself as an offensive player with a defensive mindset,” Malcolm Roach said. “I like to play rough. I don’t think (high school) linebackers are used to seeing tight ends play as physical as I like to play. So it’s been a good transition.”
The second time around as a tight end on the summer camps circuit has been good, too. He doesn’t have any major offers yet, but has made an impression.
Roach attended an Alabama camp the week before going to LSU and made the All-Saban team, earning a top-15 rating.
“They said I should work on coming in and out of my breaks better,” Malcolm Roach said. “They said I ran routes hard and was a good route runner. They wanted me to work on conditioning and getting stronger.”
It was more of the same the following week at his first LSU camp.
“The speed of the game surprised me at LSU just a little,” he said. “You had the top talent from all over Louisiana, and some of the top talent in the South. I did a well in the one-on-ones. The tight ends coach (Steve Ensminger) said they liked me. It was a whole lot of fun.”
What happened at LSU wasn’t a complete surprise. LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has visited Madison Prep a couple of times, Michael Roach said.
As the 2014 approaches some questions do remain, including one that lingers in Michael Roach’s mind.
Will Malcolm Roach be a tight end or a defensive player on the college level? He’ll once again play both ways for the Chargers, so an immediate answer isn’t needed. But the longtime Southern Lab coach has his opinion.
“I think the thing that intrigues people right now is his size at tight end,” Michael Roach said. “What I’m most impressed by is his discipline and how he handles himself. The biggest thing he’s improved on is his speed. And not just that pure 40 time; I think his quickness overall has improved. In my mind he’s still a defensive player. I remind him that someday he might have a chance to get paid for playing defense.”
Others aren’t so sure. MPA assistant coach James Dartez and others say the younger Roach reminds them of former Southern Lab and LSU star Marcus Spears, who was a top tight end prospect before playing defensive line for the Tigers and in the NFL.
Michael Roach worked as an assistant to former NFL quarterback, Grambling coach Doug Williams, a Zachary native, at both GSU and Morehouse. He sent Williams video and got the opposite response.
“Doug saw him at tight end and was amazed,” Michael Roach said. “He told me, ‘Mike, Malcolm might be a tight end.’ I just tell him (Malcolm) it’s a good problem to have.”