Max Roberts wanted to play at a higher level.
After three seasons at Fordham University, where he played on teams that went a combined 14-19, Roberts transferred to the University of Maine.
During last Saturday’s 35-21 win over Colgate, the defensive end saw his first significant playing time this season and registered 2 1/2 sacks.
“There’s still stuff I need to clean up. I need to work on getting my plays down. But that was a good step,” said the 6-foot-1, 250-pound native of Delaware, Ohio.
Roberts, who has two years of eligibility remaining because he appeared in only four games last season due to an injury, registered 74 tackles in 20 games at Fordham, including 13.5 for loss and 6.5 sacks. He forced three fumbles and recovered one.
But the Rams, which play in the Patriot League, went 6-16 the past two seasons.
“I wanted to play better competition at a bigger school and compete for a national championship,” Roberts said.
Fordham assistant Jon Wholley knew UMaine assistant Michael Ryan, and they collaborated to help Roberts transfer.
Roberts said he likes the culture and work ethic at UMaine.
“And everybody is hungry to win,” he said.
The Colonial Athletic Association put a record-setting six teams in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs a year ago. That included UMaine, which won the conference title and advance to the FCS national semifinals for the first time in program history.
League champion Colgate was the only Patriot League team to earn a playoff berth a year ago.
Roberts has appeared in three of UMaine’s four games and has been involved in five tackles.
“He has been explosive from day one,” UMaine senior nose tackle Chuck Mitchell said. “He knocks guys off the ball. Last Saturday was a testament to that. He is very aggressive. He has shown us that he belongs in the CAA.”
UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said Roberts provides speed and energy and knows how to make plays, but needs to keep improving.
Roberts knew it was going to be a process, but was pleased to get significant playing time at Colgate.
“It has been a transition. But the older guys have helped me get accustomed to the new system. Kayon [Whitaker] has taken me under his wing and taught me the plays.”
Whitaker, one of UMaine’s four captains, is a two-time All-CAA defensive and was a preseason All-American.
As a freshman at Fordham, Roberts tied for the team lead with 4 1/2 sacks and was second in tackles for loss (9 1/2). He also played some as a linebacker with the Rams and logged 19 tackles in four games last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
His presence helps provide depth on the defensive line, where the position often takes a physical toll on players. Roberts, Josh Lezin and Skylar Bowman have contributed up front.
“When you have depth and can rotate people in, you can get a good pass rush,” Roberts said.
UMaine junior quarterback Chris Ferguson said Roberts is a hard worker.
“There’s a lot of [quality] guys in that [defensive line] room. But he got his opportunity and he took advantage of it,” he said.
Roberts, who was a wide receiver and defensive back in high school, said the move from the urban setting of The Bronx, New York, to rural Orono has not been difficult.
“I’m from Ohio so this is more my element,” Roberts said. “You’ve got three major cities in Ohio in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, and everywhere else is kind of like this.
“I’m glad I made the choice,” Roberts said. “And the competition has been good.”
The 2-2 Black Bears, ranked 12th in one national poll and 16th in another, travel to Philadelphia on Saturday for an important CAA game against No. 8/12 Villanova (4-0).