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Enthusiastic Roth again wreaking havoc for Tribe
The look on his face and the way he flies around the football field tells it all.
Ryan Roth is elated to be playing for Southeast Missouri State University's Indians again.
"I'm ecstatic," he said with his trademark grin. "I was looking forward to spring ball, and this is just a prelude. I'm really looking forward to the season."
It's been a long road back for Roth, who missed all of last season because of a right foot that he broke twice in the span of a few months.
But a healthy Roth has been in fine form at his defensive end position during spring practice, which is in its final week and will end Friday night with the annual spring intrasquad game at Houck Stadium.
"Ryan has done a great job this spring," Southeast coach Tim Billings said. "I think he's really going to help shore up our defensive line."
Roth, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior, has every intention of helping out a unit that proved to be vulnerable much of last season, when the Indians went 4-7.
"I think I can help, but I think we'll all be a lot better," Roth said. "I guess the defensive line has been a question the last few years, but I think we're going to be a lot better. And so is the team. I think we're ready to turn the corner."
Last year was a frustrating one for Roth. Things started out poorly in January of 2001 when he was working out with some teammates and broke his foot during a pass rush drill.
After about eight weeks, Roth was cleared to play and 2001 spring practice appeared to be going well. But in the last contact drill before the spring game, he broke the foot again.
"The bone snapped again in the same spot," he said. "I guess it just hadn't healed all the way."
Roth had surgery over the summer to place a screw in the foot and he redshirted last season, meaning he did not lose a year of eligibility. And now the foot is giving him no problems at all.
"It's fine now. It's tight," he said.
Roth said it was tough not being a part of the team last year, but he stayed as involved as possible, even traveling with the squad on the road as part of the film crew.
"It was hard sitting out. I had to be the film guy," Roth said with a laugh. "Coach let me travel with the team, so I got to be a part of it. But it's not the same. It's different when you're playing."
In addition to his foot problems, Roth's playing career with the Indians has been quite interesting. The Naperville, Ill., native came to Southeast as an offensive lineman and played two games of his freshman season as a backup tackle before being moved to tight end.
As a sophomore in 2000, during Billings' first season at Southeast, Roth caught three passes for 32 yards from his tight end position -- and then was moved to defensive end, where he recorded 20 tackles and forced a fumble.
Roth initially didn't like the move to defense but now he's happy about it.
"I questioned the move at first, but now there's no doubt in my mind," he said. "The position is just so natural for me."
Part of that, said Billings, is because of Roth's exuberant nature.
"I felt like his personality would better suit him as a defensive player," Billings said.
That personality is something Roth is proud of.
"I think I've been blessed with the ability to lead," he said. "I try to get out there and spread that motivation."
Added a smiling Roth, "It's controlled aggression. When I was in high school, it gave me some problems, but I've learned to use it to my advantage."Spring game festivities
Friday's spring contest will begin at 7:30 p.m. and admission is free. There will be a pre-game tailgate party at 6:30 p.m., with free hot dogs, popcorn and soda. Southeast players and coaches will assist in cooking for the fans.
The game will feature honorary coaches from the Zimmer Radio Group and KFVS-12. Erik Sean, voice of the Indians, will be the head coach of the Zimmer team. Steve Sotak, sports director at KFVS-12, will be the head coach of the KFVS team.