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NFL DRAFT

Meet Sam Roberts, the Division 2 defensive tackle whose ‘fairytale ending’ was to be drafted by the Patriots

Sam Roberts was invited to Hula Bowl after his final season at Northwest Missouri State.Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

After drafting for speed and adding players at the skill positions for six straight picks, the Patriots went back into the trenches in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

New England selected Northwest Missouri State’s Sam Roberts at No. 200 overall.

Here are three things to know about the interior lineman.

He won a top award for his 2021 season.

Roberts emerged as one of the best defensive players in Division 2 football over the last few seasons.

In 2018, he recorded 50 combined tackles (13 for loss), six sacks, and a forced fumble over 13 games. A year later, he had similar stats, posting 49 combined tackles (10 for loss) and five sacks.

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The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season for Northwest Missouri State. But when Roberts came back for a sixth season in 2021, he put up monster numbers. He had 61 combined tackles (18 for loss), 6.5 sacks, and a forced fumble over 13 games.

Roberts earned first-team All-American and first-team all-conference honors for his season. He also won the Cliff Harris Award, which is given to the best defensive player from a small college each year.

When it was announced in December that he had won the award, Roberts didn’t get the news right away as he left his phone in his car that was shipped off to Las Vegas.

“I had shipped my car off at like 7 a.m. on Thursday, and I was looking for my phone,” Roberts told the Maryville Forum’s Jon Dykstra. “I looked on ‘Find my iPhone’ and I realized my phone is on its way to Vegas without me. And I’m just laying there on my iPad, and I get a Snapchat ... saying ‘congratulations, the best in the nation.’ I was like ‘What man? What are you talking about?’

“Then I got on Twitter and it was blowing up and then somebody else Snapped me and the Snaps kept rolling in. I was like, ‘This is crazy, I won the Cliff Harris Award.’ Then I just got up and did a little happy dance, you know.”

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He had a side job in college that’s much different from football.

Just as dominant as he was on the field, Roberts was dominant off it, too. The defensive tackle was also selected to the conference honor roll three times.

That wasn’t the only impressive thing Roberts did when he wasn’t playing football at Northwest Missouri State. Roberts also worked as a certified nursing aide at a local nursing home.

“I feel like the Bearcat community pours so much into us and I think it is only right that we pour back what we can in the free time that we do have,” Roberts told the Maryville Forum. “I have a heart for the elderly and my initial goal in life was to become a physician’s assistant.”

Roberts was also quite popular at the nursing home.

“The residents all loved him, they called him Big Sam,” Traci Garner, who supervised Roberts at the nursing home, told the Maryville Forum. “He was a very good worker and they all absolutely loved him. … Every single time, their faces would light up when he would walk into the room because they liked him that much.”

He’s a big Patriots fan.

If Roberts’s Twitter page is to be believed, he’s been brought to tears – in a good way – by the Patriots before.

“💍💍💍💍💍💍 #6rings I could cry right now,” Roberts tweeted out on the night the Patriots defeated the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

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A couple weeks prior to that win, Roberts had a message for Chiefs fans during the 2018 AFC Championship Game.

Roberts also appears to still be a fan of Tom Brady even after the star quarterback left New England, sending out multiple tweets in March celebrating Brady’s unretirement.

Outside of Brady, Roberts’s other favorite Patriot was Vince Wilfork. He told reporters that he was a big fan of Wilfork’s growing up.

When he got the call from Bill Belichick on Saturday, Roberts said he lost his breath for a second due to excitement.

“It’s a fairytale ending,” Roberts said. “You grow up watching the team and they end up picking you in the draft.”