Penn Hills senior Noel Roach ready to take physical mindset to Akron

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Sunday, January 10, 2021 | 9:01 AM


Penn Hills’ Noel Roach has known for months where he wanted to continue his football career at the collegiate level.

Roach finally made it official when he put pen to paper and signed his national letter of intent to play at Akron during the NCAA early signing period Dec. 16.

Roach was mulling offers from Navy, Western Michigan and Toledo before deciding to sign on with the Zips. Roach received an offer from Akron on Feb. 5 and verbally committed to the Zips on June 19.

Bowling Green, Kent State, Buffalo, Lehigh, Furman, Richmond, Holy Cross, Fordham, Penn, Army, William & Mary, St. Francis (Pa.), Duquesne and Albany gave offers to Roach.

“Committing to Akron was based off of academics and athletics,” Roach said. “I think they have a good mix of both. It’s like a family atmosphere, and I like the culture they’re building there as it’s getting better.”

The senior safety was one of six players from Penn Hills to receive first-team all-conference honors in the Northeast Conference from the Western Pennsylvania Big 56 this season.

Roach, who was a first-team selection in his junior season, finished third on the team with 35 tackles and second with three interceptions.

The 6-foot-2, 188-pound senior was the Indians’ leading receiver with 245 yards receiving with three touchdowns.

Roach will reunite with a couple familiar faces at Akron as safety Corey Thomas finished his redshirt freshman year, while Tony Grimes walked on and made an impact during his freshman season.

With covid-19 playing a huge impact in recruitment process, Roach relied on his former Penn Hills teammates to provide some insight on the Akron football program. Roach said he got valuable information on practices and team meetings as well as classes and dorm life.

“Because of covid, we couldn’t get to campus. I had to go off of other people’s words,” Roach said. “It helped me get a feel for it without actually going there and getting an official visit.”

Akron, which is part of the Mid-American Conference, finished with a 1-5 overall record this season with their only win coming when they defeated Bowling Green, 31-3, on Dec. 5.

Grimes finished his freshman season with 12 receptions for 130 yards, including a season-high 60 yards in a loss at Ohio on Nov. 10.

Thomas finished his redshirt freshman season with 11 total tackles and a fumble recovery, which occurred in the win against Bowling Green.

Roach will look to compete at the free safety position next season. Besides working on his physical skills, Roach believes it’s crucial to work on the mental part, as well.

“It’s a dream come true because every man dreams about playing Division I. I need to keep working to be able to play at a high level,” Roach said. “I need to get faster, stronger and work on my mental skills. I know the next level is going to be faster, but it’s going to be more mental.”

Roach started to play football at age 6 in the Penn Hills Flag Football League. Roach has played soccer, basketball and track and field throughout his years but fell in love with football.

“The physicality. It was fun hitting people and not get in trouble for it,” Roach said. “I was able to show off my athletic skills and be more athletic than anyone on the field.”

With Roach officially committing to play football at the Division I level, he sometimes catches himself reflecting on his journey through his athletic career and uses it as motivation as he moves on.

“I always think back to those times, especially when I look at my trophies in my room,” Roach said. “It makes me remember all the track meets, AAU tournaments or when I played midget football with my friends that went to other high schools. It’s crazy how quickly those times went.”

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