Dave Roberts, a former University of South Carolina football assistant coach and running backs coach told numerous stories to the Greenwood Touchdown Club on Monday at American Legion Post 20. Among them were stories of his recruiting trips with former Notre Dame and USC head football coach Lou Holtz, and tales about his coaching days. No matter the subject, all the anecdotes ended with the same message: You can accomplish anything if you believe it.
Roberts, who started out at McCormick High School as a Biology teacher, worked his way to the rank of highly respected football coach.
Respect is important to Roberts and believes it is the one thing the student-athletes in attendance should take with them in life.
"The thing I would tell you is back the high schools, back the coaches because the discipline is gone in my opinion," he said. "And that's what made this country great.
"Play hard and respect the people. It's a great country and we need it to be again. Support the school and the administration because its important."
Roberts told one story of how he was driving with Holtz on the way to recruit a player and was eventually pulled over by the police. The cop told Roberts he was going 20 miles past the speed limit.
He then asked the officer, 'Do you like Lou Holtz?' To which the cop replied, 'Yeah I like him OK'.
Roberts proceeded to bargain his way out of a ticket saying Holtz was in the passenger seat and would sign an autograph if he let him go. The officer walked over to the passenger side and asked Holtz, 'Are you Lou Holtz?' To which the former Irish and Gamecock coach replied, 'No, but people tell me I look like him.'
Holtz left an impression on Roberts as he stated respect and having good character were important -- more so than athleticism. On a visit, both Roberts and Holtz left a recruit's home after the prospect looked over at his mother and told her to shut up.
"Today being respectful is important," he explained. "In today this country we've got some issues. It starts with respect for coaches and friends. If you start that way, you'll end that way."
Roberts encouraged the student-athletes to "set your dreams high and go play."
"Respect the coaches, teachers, listen and shake hands," he told the student-athlete award winners. "Look them in the eye, it will make a difference."
There were two instances where persistence in recruiting paid off for Roberts. Once he met with a young man and talked with him for about 30 minutes on why he should attend Notre Dame. He then found out the person he was talking to didn't even play football, instead it was the prospect's cousin. The intended recruit did eventually commit.
Another time a third string quarterback at USC wanted to play and believed he could make a difference. The Gamecocks were getting beaten badly so he eventually played. He went on to throw for more than 300 passing yards and the very next season was named the Southeastern Conference's Offensive Player of the Year.
Roberts said, in crucial situations, Holtz would huddle with his players to see who wanted the ball.
"He wanted people who he thought wanted to make a difference," Roberts explained. "If they felt confident then they usually got the ball."
Given his background Roberts couldn't leave without giving his opinion of the two palmetto state teams.
"South Carolina is not very good, Clemson is very good," he joked. "We understand that."
He remarked that Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has a good chance to win the Heisman trophy and the Tigers have something special going on this season.
Finally he left with his final four playoff prediction of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and was undecided among Oklahoma or Oklahoma State and Notre Dame.
Follow Michael Christopher on Twitter @IJMCHRISTOPHER