Before Tivy’s 2016 playoff game against McCollum, Regan Robertson stood next to his older brother, Ryan Robertson, and grabbed his hand.
Earlier that week, Tivy coach David Jones had moved Regan and several other freshmen to varsity for the 2016 playoffs. Regan knew he had no chance of entering the game against McCollum, but he didn’t care. For the first time in his life, he and his older brother were going to be on the same team; they both even sported the No. 22 uniform.
So, with kickoff slowly approaching, Regan and Ryan emerged from Tivy’s locker room and walked toward the field. It was ultimately Ryan’s final game at Tivy, with the Antlers falling to McCollum, 17-14, in the bi-district round. But nothing could overshadow the memory he shared with his younger brother that day.
“We had a really good time,” said Ryan, who plays safety at Harding University. “It was cool running out with my brother. It was one of my favorite memories, no doubt.”
Regan ranked it as his favorite football story nearly three years later. The memory also highlights why he believes football is the greatest sport in the world — it just has a way of creating timeless memories with loved ones. He doesn’t have any blood relatives on this current Antler team, but he considers his teammates to be his brothers after playing with them since the YMCA League, after trudging through the field house doors with them every morning at 6:30 a.m. for workouts and after enduring countless August practices in 100-degree temperatures.
“I fell in love with football when I was really young just by going to (Ryan’s) games and seeing how well his teams played together — I always wanted to be part of that brotherhood,” Regan said. “Now, that I have that brotherhood, it’s awesome. I love it more than anything. … (Football) has given me so many people I can trust and so many people I can just be myself with. I personally think it’s the best sport for making family.”
Now, Regan is in the same position Ryan found himself three years ago. He’s no longer a wide-eyed freshman making his varsity debut. Now, he’s entering his final season with the Antlers, serving as one of the leaders of Tivy’s brotherhood.
His teammates also are depending on him to produce this year. His position, outside linebacker, is one of the few question marks on Tivy’s defense entering the fall, with the Antlers losing four linebackers with starting experience (James Huff, Kameron Wilson, Caden Villarreal and Trey Layton) from last season. Regan was a contributor last year, recording 27 tackles in seven games. But if Tivy wants to have an elite defense, Regan and his linebacker cohorts are going to have to step up and elevate their performance this season.
“He’s one of the many (defenders) who need to come through for us,” Tivy defensive coordinator Jeremy Hickman said. “It’s going to be important for him to really embrace the opportunity, leave no stone unturned and be the best linebacker he can be. … He definitely has a passion for being part of the team, and a passion for being a member of the blue swarm defense. It matters to him and he cares, and that’s an important part of being the best football player you can be.”
Regan also has the intelligence to excel at linebacker. He admitted that having an older brother helped him learn the sport, but he realized in the seventh grade that he was never going to be the biggest kid on the field. To overcome that, he knew he was going to have to rely on his brainpower to be the first defender to the ball. So, he mastered every aspect of Tivy’s defense. Whenever Hickman gave his defenders quizzes on their upcoming opponent’s offense last year, Regan typically had one of the highest scores.
“Regan has known that defense to a T since he was a sophomore,” Ryan said. “He’s just always hungry to figure out what he could be better at or what he could know better. That’s one thing about him; I bet out of all the linebackers that came through Tivy, he probably knows that defense as well as some of the best of them.”
That allows him to play every linebacker position on the field, giving Tivy some depth in that group. Hickman now is challenging Regan to grow stronger during the off-season. He knows his senior has the football smarts to consistently locate the ball; he just wants Regan to be strong enough to consistently finish plays.
So far, Regan has been toiling to accomplish that goal. He estimates that he’s added 40 pounds to every major lift since his junior year. He arrives at the Field House at 6:20 a.m. every morning during the school year to work out; he trains with Jose Flores, owner of TrueFit Training, during his free time and he has a group message with his teammates where they figure out times where they can all work out together.
“It’s crazy to come back from college and see how much bigger he gets every time I come home,” said Ryan, laughing.
He’s confident all that hard work will pay off for his younger brother this season. At the moment, Regan is just focused on improving every single day. He certainly gave a good performance during Tivy’s 7-on-7 game against Smithson Valley. He sniffed out a screen and stopped Smithson Valley’s running behind the line the scrimmage. A few plays later, he dropped into zone coverage, studied the quarterbacks eyes and jumped in front of a route to intercept a pass.
Ryan is confident he will continue making plays when September rolls around.
“I think he is going to surprise a lot of people,” Ryan said. “This year, it’s his time. I’m ready to see what he does.”