Young Kendall Roberts wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.
In fact, the son of Kyle and Shelly Roberts confessed to playing hookie and skipping out on Mrs. Fimbel’s fourth grade class at Hook Elementary school just to enjoy it.
As he approached the front of the line with his miniature replica Philadelphia Eagles helmet in hand, the moment Roberts had been looking forward to finally arrived. Sitting just in front of him, patiently taking the time to sign autographs and meet and greet his hometown fans, was Roberts’ hero, former Stephenville standout and current Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb.
“He’s kind of my hero,” said Roberts, 10.
“They went to the same church and same school,” Shelly Roberts said. “That’s really cool.”
Roberts wasn’t the only Kolb fan to skip out on classes and make the cross-town trip to the Bruner Motors GM store on Friday. Nor were all the fans so youthful. Stephenville area residents young and old came out to greet Kolb, who signed various memorabilia including football trading cards sponsored by Bruner Motors to commemorate the first start of his NFL career.
SHS graduate Jake Hodges heard from a friend on Thursday that Kolb was in town. He packed his things, including a brand new football, and made the four-plus hour drive from Midland just for an autograph.
“He graduated just a few years ahead of me,” said Hodges. “I’m glad he’s doing well.”
Kolb, who started in place of injured all-pro Donovan McNabb on Sept. 20 and 27, made NFL history by becoming the first QB to throw for more than 300 yards in each of the first two starts of his career.
But Friday wasn’t about football for Kolb, who has returned each season during the Eagles’ open week. It was about being home where it all started, and touching base with fans who remember him as the teenage gunslinger who led the Yellow Jackets to the 2001 and 2002 area playoffs.
“It’s always nice to come home. Sometimes you get caught up in the big city and it’s just nice to come back here where all the people are so supportive,” Kolb said. “It recharges my batteries.”
Kolb did take a moment to share his thoughts on the last two weeks when he went 55-85 (64.7 percent) passing for 718 yards and four touchdowns as the Eagles’ starter.
He also scored the first rushing TD of his career and picked up his first win as a starter in last week’s 34-14 rout of Kansas City at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.
“It was wild in that first game (a 48-22 loss to New Orleans),” Kolb said. “Then I just tried to block out any thoughts, negative or positive, from the first week. The (Kansas City) game was much better. It’s always better when you win.”
On his first drive as a starter on Sept. 20, Kolb fired his first career TD pass, a 71-yarder to DeSean Jackson.
“I knew we needed a big play early to get the fans on my side,” Kolb said. “There were a lot of people who didn’t believe in me much and that play was big because it kind of turned the crowd around.”
Kolb says the life of a starter in the NFL is a 180-degree turn from that of a backup.
“It’s totally different. As a quarterback it’s not just different on the field, the whole show is different, the way you run practice, film study, everything.”
He also said preparing all week as the starter makes it much easier come game time than being thrown into the fire in the middle of a game as he was when McNabb went down in the season opener against Carolina. Kolb came on in relief and was 7-11 passing but also fumbled twice.
“It’s not a shock like it is when you get thrown out there in the middle of the game,” he said. “It gives you time to get ready and get to rockin’ and rollin’ with the guys around you.”
Kolb knows his role will again revert to that of backup once McNabb returns to the lineup, possibly as early as next week when the Eagles take on Tampa Bay. But that doesn’t mean it will be an easy pill to swallow.
“It will be tough now that I’ve got my feet wet and tasted success,” Kolb said. “But I believe there are good things ahead for me in the future, especially now that I’ve had the chance to prove myself.”
In addition to McNabb and Kolb, the Eagles also now have controversial super-athlete Michael Vick on the roster.
“We haven’t talked about (the future of the QB position) because we’re in the middle of the season. But it will be talked about,” Kolb said. “I just put my faith in God and know he’s going to lead me in the right direction.”
Friday wasn’t about those concerns. It was about the hometown fans. Fans like Roberts and Hodges and so many others.
Some offered congratulations, some just asked how he was doing. And some couldn’t help but ask about the Yellow Jackets.
“How are the Yellow Jackets going to do tonight?” one older fan asked.
“I don’t know,” Kolb answered. “They better win.”
Winning is something Kolb knows well from his days in the high school and college ranks.
And now its something he’s had a taste of on football’s biggest stage.