Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
From left, Joe, Wyatt, Kaleb, Karl and Shellie Roth are all smiles after Kaleb signed his National Letter of Intent to play football at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
The plan was set for Kaleb Roth before he even stepped foot on the Liberty High School campus four years ago.
With a rousing speech during eighth grade promotion ceremonies, Roth was someone to keep an eye on to see what great things he could accomplish in high school.
He hasn’t disappointed.
Roth will graduate No. 1 in the senior class. He has raised $10,000 in two years for Valley Children’s Hospital through a program he created called Beyond the Game. He was a three-year varsity football player and wrestler and graduates with a few Hawk football records.
Roth signed his National Letter of Intent to continue his football career at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City on Feb. 7. The Hardrockers are a Div. II school that went 6-5 last year.
“I wanted to go to a four-year right after graduating to get in, get my degree and get out,” Roth said. “I really liked the engineering program. I want to be a mechanical engineer. To have a school complete focused on that, which Mines is, is a big attraction. Their football program looks great. I wanted to be a part of that.”
“It’s a great honor for him, a great honor for our Hawk football family,” Liberty football coach and athletic director Mike Nolte said. “For Kaleb to earn a scholarship is a great honor and tribute to him and our program. I am very blessed to coach a player like Kaleb. I’m proud of him.”
In a search for a school with his education needs, Roth discovered South Dakota School of Mines. He did research on them and made contact.
“I started talking to them,” Roth said. “We’ve been in contact. I made a visit to see the facilities and some of the education sides. I got the official offer and gave my verbal in the same phone call. I was pretty excited to get the offer. I was excited to go there.”
For Roth, going to school and playing football were one in the same. Wherever he was going to school, he was going to play football.
“Football is a big part,” he said. “Something I’ve always wanted to do is play football at the next level. Obviously, education is No. 1. But, football is a very big plus. I’m very fortunate to do that while getting an education.”
Roth said he doesn’t care where he plays next year as long as he’s on the field.
“My first in-person conversation with them was really positive,” Roth said. “The coach said they think I have the ability to play here and want to stay in contact. He asked if I returned at all. I would imagine running back or slot. I would be happy to play anywhere. I just want to be on the field.”
Roth holds the Liberty Hawks single game record for rushing yards in a game with 269 in his final game. He also tied for the school record for tackles in a game with 23. He’s also the only player to have more than one 20 or more tackle games with three. He is also the only player in Liberty history with 1,000 yards and 100 tackles.
“Kaleb is the kind of kid that every coach should get a chance to coach at one point in his life,” Nolte said. “The type of community person he is, the kind of things he does for his friends, the kind of teammate he is comes into play when you talk about Kaleb.”
Roth also placed second in the North Sequoia League in wrestling at 182 pounds.
“This is what it’s all about,” wrestling coach Jay Pumarejo said. “That’s the pinnacle of what we’re trying to do as educators. Kaleb Roth is the best that I’ve seen in my career, academically, athletically and with heart.”
Despite heading halfway across the country to play football, his family, who are at every event, are excited for him.
“They are super excited right now,” Roth said. “I’m sure they wish it was a little closer. It’s not as far as some of the other schools I was looking at.”
However, Roth will now have to start purchasing jackets because he knows it will be really cold in the midwest.
“I don’t really need any in the Valley,” Roth said.
Nonetheless, Roth is happy to be signing and feels a sense of relief.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders to have a plan and have a direction,” he said. “The uncertainty is gone. Now I can focus on South Dakota and preparing for that. Now I can enjoy my senior year a bit more.”
Kaleb Roth football statistics
Categories; Stat; Ranking
Rush yds. (season); 1,663; 2nd
Rush yds. (career); 3,056; 3rd
Rush yds. (game); 269; 1st
Rush TDs (season); 24; 2nd
Rush TDs (career); 42; 3rd
Tackles (season); 138; 3rd
Tackles (career); 278; 2nd
Tackles (game); 23; T-1st
Points (season); 144; 2nd