Connection between J.B. Mills, Shane Robles goes beyond football field

  • J.B. Mills, center, of Amherst Regional, carries the ball as teammate Shane Robles, left, handles Northbridge defender Rocco MacNeil during the Division 5 state semifinal, Nov. 23 at Westfield State University. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/5/2019 5:54:39 PM
Modified: 12/5/2019 5:54:28 PM

Once the opening guitar riff hit, everyone in the house knew exactly what it meant.

Every weekday at 5:30 a.m. last summer, Angela Mills turned up the volume and played the Scorpions’ 1984 hit “Rock You Like A Hurricane” to wake up her sons, J.B. and Nate, and family friend, Shane Robles, for the Amherst Regional football team’s summer workouts.

Robles isn’t related to the family, but he might as well be.

“I tell (Shane) to clean the house and pick up the trash. ... You don’t treat him like a guest. … He’s a part of the crew,” said E.J. Mills, father of J.B. and Nate.

Robles grew up in Amherst, but spent the last three years living in Arizona. While living in Arizona, he didn’t feel at home and felt like he needed a change. Since his mother had to stay out there for her job, the Mills family took him in so he could attend Amherst Regional for his senior year.

J.B. Mills and Robles have been friends since the first grade. The two know each other well, but they have learned a lot more about each other since they started living together.

“(Shane) has a diverse taste in music,” J.B. said. “He got me into a lot of new music and I got him into some old school stuff, classic rock. He’s a big Aerosmith fan now, some AC/DC. I don’t think he was before living with me. He likes a lot of different stuff. He’s got a different style. ... I don’t like a lot of the stuff he listens to, to be honest.”

Mills is a big fan of Notre Dame. Robles has learned to steer clear of Mills’ Fighting Irish memorabilia.

“One of the main things is that you can’t touch his Notre Dame stuff,” Robles said.

Robles played football at school in Arizona, but stuck to playing kicker and punter because his parents didn’t want him getting a head injury.

When he moved back to Amherst for his senior season, his parents relented and allowed him to pursue other positions.

J.B., who is the Hurricanes’ quarterback, and Robles used to play football on the playground together when they attended Crocker Farm Elementary School from second to sixth grade.

Robles ran routes while J.B. threw him deep balls.

When Robles was given permission to try different positions coming into this season, playing wide receiver seemed like a good fit.

“He’s a natural athlete,” J.B. Mills said. “Playing games at recess growing up and playing 7-on-7 in the summer, you can tell he has a natural feel for wide receiver.”

Once Robles committed to playing wide receiver, he and Mills got to work.

The duo spent last summer on the Amherst Regional football field running routes and getting their quarterback-receiver timing down.

“We would go up to the field every single day for like two hours until we were drenched in sweat,” Robles said. “We had a good connection over the summer, but we have always had an unspoken bond.”

E.J. Mills is the head football coach at Amherst College. Although he was busy coaching the Mammoths this season, he has still taken time to help Robles with any football related questions he has.

“He is really supportive,” Robles said. “At first I didn’t really know how to do defensive stances, I looked really goofy. He helped me with my fundamentals. ... The first week I was here and learning the defensive playbook he was giving me pointers. It’s awesome living with him. If I ever have any questions I can ask him.”

Since transitioning to wide receiver, Robles has been a quick learner. In his first season at the position, he has become a go-to receiver for the Hurricanes. He has also gotten playing time at defensive back and rushes the passer in some defensive packages.

But sometimes mistakes can happen. Since J.B. is the quarterback and Robles is a receiver, the two have to be in sync and know what the other is going to do on the field. Sometimes when the connection isn’t there, the two can get frustrated with each other, but they always find a way to sort things out.

“It’s a brotherly love thing. Tough love,” J.B. Mills said. “Earlier in the year, coach (Chris ) Ehorn called me out because I was going in on my brother Nate. ... I kind of feel the same way about Shane because when you’re around someone so much and live with them and do certain things annoy you, you can get frustrated with them, but it’s nothing. You move past it. … He is like a brother to me. I treat him the same as Nate. We’re all brothers.”

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