Ohio State rising redshirt junior cornerback Bradley Roby could have declared for the 2013 NFL Draft.
After a season in which he ranked No. 7 in the nation in passes defended per game with 19 over 11 games played, Roby was a potential first-round draft pick.
Instead, Roby put his NFL dreams on hold to return to Columbus and lead the Buckeyes’ secondary this season.
Roby said the decision was not easy. He said he felt physically and mentally ready to play professionally, and was “50-50″ on whether to declare before ultimately deciding to return.
“I made my decision, I’m happy with it and I’m glad I took that step because it’s just going to make me better,” Roby said. “It’s going to make our team better as well … NFL can wait.”
Roby said he plans to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, and expects to be a top-10 draft pick.
“I feel like after another year, I’ll be even more ready, so that next year I can start right in and start right away for a team,” Roby said.
Roby said he received advice from his coaches and talked to NFL players, but had to make his own decision.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said he was honest with Roby throughout the decision process, and tried to make it a “business decision” for Roby although he wanted him to come back.
“It’s very hard in a situation like this to not be selfish, because we’re better if he’s at Ohio State,” Coombs said. “He’s a grown man. He’s got to make a grown-man decision. And he can’t make it to please me, he can’t make it to please Coach Meyer and he can’t make it to please the Buckeye nation. He’s got to make it to please Bradley Roby. I think that he did.”
Coombs said he believes Roby made an “outstanding decision,” and thinks Roby can meet his draft expectations next year.
“I think his stock does nothing but go up, and I think it helps him down the road,” Coombs said. “I think next year, or whenever he decides to come out, he’s going to be a first-round pick, a top-10 pick, if he really wants to work. He’s not there yet … I’m going to help him get there.”
Coombs said he has seen significant improvement in Roby this spring from where he was last spring.
“What I’ve learned about Bradley through the course of the season … is how hard he works at studying the game,” Coombs said. “He is a very intelligent player. He’s gifted athletically, but that’s not where it ends, that’s where it begins. He has a great understanding of offense, he studies his opponent, he understand split rules, he knows what’s going on, he looks at formations and he’s making a plan. I don’t think he had that thought process last year at this time. Now he does.”
Coombs added, however, that his expectation for the cornerback to be a first-round pick is not exclusive to Roby.
“That’s the standard in our room,” Coombs said. “Be a first-round draft pick. If you’re not, figure out why not, and get to that point.”
Asked about passing up the money that comes with playing professional football for another year, Roby said his plan for his career was more important.
“Everybody struggles in college, but at the end of the day, I have a vision for the future and I see what’s coming to me in the future,” Roby said. “So I’ll be broke for a little bit longer, it’s OK.
“I told a guy a long time ago I was going to be one of the best corners to ever be here. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished that yet.”
Roby added that he needs to become a better leader in order to accomplish that.
Roby said he felt he deserved to be a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded to the nation’s best defensive back, last season. He said one of his goals this year is to win the Bednarik Award, which is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player, but that the team’s success is more important than individual awards.
“It starts with leadership,” Roby said. “I have to have leadership to make our whole defense better, ’cause you can’t be a Bednarik winner on a bad defense. I just want our defense to be one of the top in the country, and that’s all I’m worried about, I’m worried about everybody else first and all my accolades, they’re going to fall in place.
“I was so worried about myself the first couple years … I was kind of a selfish player,” he added. “I already have leadership traits, a lot of people have told me that … I would go talk to guys one-on-one off the field but I have to have that leadership on the field. That’s what’s going to make other people better, and that’s what I’ve been working on.”
Rising junior cornerback Doran Grant, who is expected to start across from Roby this season, said Roby has already provided him with leadership “like a big brother.”
“He like another coach out there, for real,” Grant said. “It’s crazy, the knowledge of the game he has, and that’s why I try to always be around him.”
With the Buckeyes replacing six starters in their defensive front seven, Roby said he and the other two returning starters in the secondary, rising senior Christian Bryant and rising redshirt senior C.J. Barnett, have to be the leaders of their defense.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys up front and some people are hurt, so we’ve just got to be a leader and show them to play Silver Bullet defense,” Roby said.