Senior Shane Robles takes long road to the Amherst Regional football team

  • Shane Robles, right, of Amherst Regional, tries to get past Jamonte Beckett, of Ludlow, after catching a pass in the second quarter, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. He scored on the play. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shane Robles, left, of Amherst Regional, stretches out and scores in the second quarter, despite the effort of Jamonte Beckett, of Ludlow, Sept. 27 at Amherst Regional High School. Robles, who spent his youth in Amherst before moving to Arizona, returned home for his senior year. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shane Robles, right, of Amherst Regional, evades Adrean Martinez, of Putnam, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 at Springfield Central High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shane Robles, front, of Amherst Regional, catches a pass by J.B. Mills, left, during their win against South Hadley on Oct. 25. Robles left Arizona after three years and moved back to Amherst to be his friends, including Mills, whom he lives with. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional players CJ Woodfine-Holmes, left, and Shane Robles celebrate their win against West Springfield in the Western Massachusetts Division 5 championship, Nov. 16. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 11/22/2019 8:21:04 PM

AMHERST — As scraps of light began to permeate the morning sky, Chris Ehorn Jr. stood on the inside of the school’s gym.

Outside, as the rest of the East coast’s alarm clocks blared their first note, the Amherst Regional football team stood ready, waiting for their head coach to open the doors for their daily, preseason workout to get underway.

But this day was different.

Ehorn opened the doors when the clock struck 6 a.m. and standing front and center was a tall, lanky kid he’d never seen before.

“Hey, I’m Shane and I’m new to the school,” said the newcomer to his future coach.

His full name was Shane Robles and it was impossible for Ehorn to know at the time but opening those doors to the new player standing on the doorstep represented a lot more than just welcoming him into a workout.

Robles’ doors had swung open for the opportunity of his dreams. And it wasn’t just on the football field.

Heartbreaking move

Shane Robles’s life has taken him many places. This weekend it takes him to Westfield State University where the Hurricanes (10-0) will play Northbridge (6-4) in the state Division 4 semifinals. But the trip there took some time.

Robles was born in Los Angeles then moved with his family across the country to Amherst – his mother’s hometown – when he was around 6 years old.

He was drawn to soccer because his father, who is Guatemalan, loved the game. He also played lacrosse, baseball, basketball and ran track.

“Shane was born an athlete,” Angela, his mother, said. “His identity is an athlete.”

But when Robles completed eighth grade, Angela got a new job at Arizona State University as an English professor. As the new opportunity appeared on the horizon for Angela, it was hard for Robles, who left all his friends back home just as he was entering high school.

“(It) was really tough,” Robles said of that first year. “I didn’t really know anybody. So instead of hanging out with friends, I’d just go home and play video games and do my homework.”

Added Angela, “It was one of those things that was a heartbreak for him from the beginning.”

The biggest thing at his new school was the football team. Robles spent his freshman year going to the games and watching from the stands. All the team did was win and even though Robles had never played organized football before, he knew what he wanted.

“I always wanted to be a part of that team,” Robles said.

But Angela didn’t want her son in a position to get injured. She had just watched the movie “Concussion” with Will Smith and the thought of her child getting blasted by a much bigger player made her own head hurt.

So, Robles used his soccer background to his advantage and became the kicker for the next two seasons – that’s all Angela would let him do.

Robles wanted to play other, more prominent positions. The coach consistently told Robles that he had so many more talents that he should persuade his parents to get off special teams.

His parents still said no.

“This was me being protective, but it ended up not being a good thing,” Angela said.

“You can’t hold someone back – a caterpillar has to become a butterfly.”

Robles became withdrawn. His grades began to drop. He told his parents about how the situation wasn’t right, they knew that something had to be done.

The decision: Send Robles back to Amherst to be with his friends and extended family for his senior season. He’d stay with the Mills family. Even more important was that he’d be with his lifelong best friend J.B. Mills – the quarterback of the Amherst football team.

Breaking free

When Robles returned to his true hometown this year, he was surrounded by a football family at the Mills house – quarterback brothers J.B. and Nate, their dad E.J., who’s been the head coach at Amherst College since 1997, and their mom Angela.

This only meant one thing: Robles was going to play any position he wanted on the football team.

But this time, for Shane’s mother Angela, there was a sense of trust.

“I kind of knew inevitably that he was going to end up playing whatever position he was good at and I was OK with that,” she said. “I had to just accept that. It’s almost like when you just come to the point where you have to let go as a parent and that was me. I had to let go as a parent and trust that he would be safe. There’s a million people that play football and they don’t get hurt.”

So, Robles was free to play what and where he wanted.

He showed up to those first team workouts in July and was there almost every day. During the summer, the team plays in a 7-on-7 league that’s driven mainly by the players and the community. The day of that first workout, he also traveled with the squad to their 7-on-7 match.

“He just dominated,” Ehorn said. “So, we were happy.”

One thing that helped Robles fit in was his chemistry with J.B. Mills that went all the way back to their elementary school days in Amherst.

In the Hurricanes’ first scrimmage of the season, that bond was on full display.

“I threw him a fade ball for a touchdown right here at our first scrimmage against Minnechaug,” Mills said. “I could feel right away we had a connection there and it grew throughout the summer and throughout all those games growing up.”

The Mills-Robles connection became a mainstay throughout the regular season. Between the regular season and through two playoff games, he has eight touchdowns and nine two-point conversions. On defense, he has two sacks and seven tackles.

The way Robles fit into the offensive game plan couldn’t have been any smoother. The idea devised by his coaches was for his speed to really be used to throw off opposing cornerbacks.

“He’s fast and he stretches the field,” offensive coordinator Stewart Handel said.

On the other side of the ball, Robles has become a solid cornerback. He actually was trained to be a safety in Arizona when he was just trying to dip his toe in playing a position outside of special teams.

And once again, those childhood influences proved to be imperative.

“What separates him is not just his talent,” Ehorn said. “I don’t think he’s missed a practice. He’s never been late. He’s always ‘yes, coach’ and he leads by example as well. It’s all that together.”

The late bloomer has adapted well.




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