In the FCS Huddle: Robertson did more than become 'Nova starter

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Before the Villanova football season, John Robertson's profile on the team's website read: "Will battle for playing time at quarterback ... Good athlete who has the ability to throw and run."

Now, at the end of an impressive redshirt freshman campaign, it's safe to say there's going to be a lot more to write about over the course of his career. In his first season, Robertson became the second recipient of the Jerry Rice Award, which honors the freshman of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision.

He is the second straight winner from CAA Football. Towson's Terrance West won the inaugural award last season.

"My goals going into this year were pretty much just to become the starter, because I wasn't able to make any other goals if I wasn't playing," Robertson said. "Once I became the starter after Temple, I was like, all right, now I need to actually become a leader and help out this team and win games."

Robertson did just that, playing in all 12 games this season, starting the final 11 games, and helping Villanova to an 8-4 record, a share of the conference title and an FCS playoff berth, just one season after the Wildcats posted a 2-9 mark.

His abilities as a dual-threat signal-caller forced coach Andy Talley's hand into making him the starter.

"It was definitely better for me to redshirt last year because I got to pay attention to the other quarterbacks who were playing," Robertson said. "Trying to mentally learn the game better coming in (this year), my feet were much more grounded. Now that I've gotten a year under my belt, I feel more experienced. Every game that I played this year, the game slowed down progressively."

Robertson rushed for 1,021 yards and 14 touchdowns (936 and 13 regular season) and passed for 1,965 yards and 14 touchdowns (1,830 and 14 regular season). But it was his production which made the offense even better, and the Wildcats led the CAA with 252.8 rushing yards per contest. Their six-win improvement in the regular season was the largest in the FCS.

"It's a great honor. Jerry Rice is such a great player, so just to have my name put on the award is a really special," Robertson said. "I'm really grateful. Looking back at the season, I just want to give a lot of credit to my teammates because if anyone watched our offense, it really was a true team effort. Our O-line did a great job with me as a freshman this year."

The Paramus, N.J., native was honored as the CAA's offensive rookie of the year, but he knows there's room for improvement.

"It's definitely is a little surreal, just even playing," Robertson said, "I was so happy to be on the field again. Once I did get the starting spot, the stats didn't matter. My goal was to win every game.

"Certain times this year, if I felt pressure, I'd run. But going into the future, one thing I want to work on is making second and third reads in my progression and being able to sit back in the pocket and throw the ball around more. ... When we spread out all the receivers in an empty backfield, there's only one linebacker in the box and we run a QB draw and there's really no one around. That's the play I love."

Scary thoughts for a quarterback with three years of eligibility left.