Summer football workouts in Louisiana can find even the most dedicated high school athletes looking for respite anywhere they can find it.
If the coach wants to cut them a break in the intense heat and withering humidity when running their gassers — those grinding spring — so much the better.
University High defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy wasn’t having that. At a recent workout, Roy disputed the sprint count with a handful of assistant coaches. He was sure they were trying to short him one of the 14 90-yard runs to close the workout.
Roy turned out to be wrong, and when it was time for No. 14, he was leading the way in his group, full speed, all 282 pounds.
Ranked the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation and a four-star prospect by Rivals, Roy is fixated on his mission to the point he’s dropped 18 pounds off his 2018 playing weight in an effort to become even better. He’s rebuilding a soft body into a hardened one that he hopes will help the Cubs three-peat as LHSAA Division II champions and launch him into his college career.
“I’ve always wanted to turn my body around,” said Roy, who played at 330 pounds as a sophomore said. “I didn’t want to have a big stomach I had since I was a kid. It was time for me to do that. I stayed dedicated, watched what I ate, cut down on cold drinks, sugars, and put in the work in the gym.
“I wasn’t fat, just big, my stomach, too. I needed to lose some of it. I felt much better, quicker off the ball, more twitch, more bend. I was 330, last year 300. 285 now. I’m building that back up to 300, but more muscle.”
The colleges coaches are already convinced. Last week, Roy narrowed his choices to LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M, and he said he plans to make his final choice before the season. He backed off a commitment to LSU before last season but doesn’t seem stressed by the process as it winds down.
He recently visited Texas A&M and has a July visit to Alabama planned. LSU has been the perceived front-runner, the decommitment notwithstanding, with Roy having grown up an LSU fan. LSU signed only two defensive linemen in the 2019 class, so Roy is a priority.
“I’m enjoying it, taking my visits,” he said. “I want to see new people, coaching staffs, everything nice about it, towns and cities. I’ve pretty much known these were going to be my three from the get-go. I’ve always wanted to play in the SEC, get ready for that next level when I get out of college ball and pursue my dreams.
“I want to commit before the season, to get it over with and have no stress. I want to focus on getting myself better, pushing my teammates, and winning on Friday nights.”
University High coach Andy Martin knows Roy will be a big part of that plan and could see it coming years before when he served as defensive coordinator before being elevated to head coach to replace Chad Mahaffey, now the head coach at Class 5A Walker, in the offseason.
What Martin has in Roy is another one of those freaky athletic defensive linemen with quickness, explosion, strength, speed and a knack for using his hands to shed blockers.
“We knew he had to get rid of some weight, but you could tell he had the build and the quickness,” Martin said. “He’s physically gifted. He just has to work hard and master his craft. That’s what he’s trying to do now.
“He had a great year. With the schedule we play, he was facing some good players. He really started to blossom last year. I can’t wait to see him this year. He’s so much faster, he understands the game so much better.”
Roy’s numbers from 2018 don’t jump out until one considers in several games he rested while the Cubs sat on big leads. He had 42½ tackles, 3½ sacks, eight tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a blocked kick and four pass deflections.
Rivals regional recruiting analyst Sam Spiegelman calls Roy “one-man wrecking crew” with his ability to beat blockers off the ball and deliver punishment afterward. His stock has been surging since last season.
“He has a great first step and gets off the line with a ton of twitch,” Spiegelman said. “He’s agile, bends well, twists well, plays balanced, and has great closing speed which is unique for a defensive tackle.”
In addition to changing his body, Roy said he wanted to change his role as a teammate. Last year he tried too hard as a “rah-rah” player but plans to play a more subtle leadership role, dropping a word on his teammates only when necessary.
He shows that in positioning himself at the end of the spring line where he isn’t as prominent but can watch the rest of his teammates.
“It seems like this offseason he’s really chilled out but still holds us accountable,” linebacker Tony Olinde said. “If he sees you doing wrong he’ll get on you but not all up in your face. He’ll mentor you and make sure you do things right.
“On the field he’s aggressive and dominant. With him in front of me, I know there’s going to be a hole for me to go through. This upcoming season is going to be his best year.”