Aaron Roundtree, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound defensive back from North Dakota School of Science, will be a preferred walk-on at Minnesota this fall. Roundtree played at Eagan and will have three years of eligibility remaining. Gopher Hole caught up with Roundtree at the Minnesota Signing Social, which attended as a fan along with his father, Elmore, to learn more about his decision.
Gopher Hole: What was it that made you decide that Minnesota was where you wanted to continue your playing career?
Aaron Roundtree: Coming out of high school, I had some offers from Division II schools and some Division I-AA schools, but I am from Eagan, Minnesota and growing up here in the Twin Cities, watching the Gophers growing up, it has always been a dream of mine. It kind of sounds cliché, I guess a little bit, but it truly is growing up, hearing the band play. Seeing all the different players and NFL players come through the Gophers, just why not. After my junior year, they gave me the opportunity as a preferred walk-on and I ran into some difficulty with academics, which forced me to go to junior college, which they kind of helped me set up. I played for the North Dakota School of Science Wildcats for one semester of my freshman college season and it went very well and they still liked me and they wanted to keep my dreams alive and I am forever grateful to them. They wanted me to walk-on this fall.
Gopher Hole: So you will have three years, right?
Aaron Roundtree: I’ll have three years of eligibility, because I was an academic qualifier coming out of high school.
Gopher Hole: That was to be nice having that extra year that most junior college players would not have. Is that an advantage?
Aaron Roundtree: Definitely. That was the big thing, too, to get my academics online, which I am doing right now. I have a 4.0 GPA right now, so I am handling that. I am excited to have three years over two. A lot of my friends go to the “U.” A lot of the family is here. I know that they are going to be happy to watch me.
Gopher Hole: When will you enroll? In June?
Aaron Roundtree: Yes. I will start workouts this summer, so I will enrolling this summer.
Gopher Hole: Is it a weight off your shoulder now that you know where you are going to be or has it not been that bad since you had the idea of hopefully ending up here?
Aaron Roundtree: The idea of being here was always kind of there. There was always something kind of in the back of my mind, like maybe not. I always had a Plan B or a Plan C, but now that I know for sure where I am going and now that I have gotten my grades together, I just couldn’t be happier. I am pretty excited to get things going.
Gopher Hole: What position are you going to play at Minnesota? I know that you are a defensive back. Are you more of a cornerback or a safety?
Aaron Roundtree: In junior college, I played cornerback the whole entire season. I started every game for the Wildcats, but anywhere they need me, honestly. Anywhere, I’ll fit into their scheme, whether it is cornerback, safety, gunner on punt coverage or kickoff, special teams, anything. Anything where I can help and fill a void, I am going to do that.
Gopher Hole: What do you see as your strengths as a player?
Aaron Roundtree: Probably for a defensive back, my height. Usually, the typical corner is shorter and faster. I’m a little taller. I’m 6-2 and my speed as well. I am kind of a long strider. I did pretty well in track in high school. I was All-State my freshman year and dealt with a few injuries (after that). I would probably say my height and my speed and my football I.Q., I would say. I am a smart player and I think that works to my advantage.
Gopher Hole: You mentioned your height. A lot of defensive backs are 5-11, which is tough going up against wide receiver who are 6-4 or 6-5. Do you think your height helps you against bigger wide receivers?
Aaron Roundtree: Oh, yeah, especially in the Big Ten. The Big Ten is known for having big receivers, 6-3, 6-4 and even 6-5 guys. To me, being over 6-feet, is definitely going to play to my advantage and my reaching ability. It is definitely a good matchup. It all comes down to how well your football I.Q. is. Whether you are 5-10 or 5-11 or over 6-feet, a good cornerback or a good safety is a good safety. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day, but it definitely plays to my advantage.
Gopher Hole: What things are you going to continue to work on to make the jump to playing at a Big Ten school?
Aaron Roundtree: Definitely, just getting stronger and cutting my speed down. You can always work on cutting your speed down. That is always going to be a big help, but mostly getting my upper body strength to be able to handle those bigger wideouts and my overall strength.
Gopher Hole: What others schools were you looking at besides Minnesota after you freshman year?
Aaron Roundtree: It was pretty much Minnesota. I always had Winona. I had St. Cloud, Mankato. A lot of Division II schools still were there after my senior year in high school. I just felt that the U was always the right fit for me and it really is just a once in a lifetime opportunity to play at a Division I school, let alone your hometown home school and I couldn’t pass it up. Not only am I going to being play the sport that I love for the school I love, but I am also going to be getting a great, quality education. The U of M is one of the best public colleges in the country and they also have one of the best law schools, too. I am looking to maybe take the plunge into law school, too. So why not. Everything is here in my backyard and it couldn’t be better.
Gopher Hole: How nice is it going to be that your friends and family will be able to see your games?
Aaron Roundtree: Thankfully, I was blessed with great parents. They made it every one of my games except for one this past season. They went up every trip, including my grandparents and aunts and uncles. They love to watch me play, but by me staying in the Twin Cities, that is just huge because like I said, I have a lot of friends who go to the U of M and a lot of friends who would still want to watch me. That will take a lot of pressure off my parents and my grandparents, too who all live in the Twin Cities. Just to come down here on a Saturday and come watch me play.
Gopher Hole: North Dakota School of Science has a good reputation in basketball and football. How much do you think that one year of junior college has helped you as a player?
Aaron Roundtree: It helped a lot. When I found out I was going to have to take the junior college route, the U put forth some junior college choices. JoJuan Harper. He plays running back (for the Gophers). He was there last year at the same school that I was at. I talked to him. I asked him how his experience was and he said that if you are an academic qualifier, like I was, if you go there, do your work, buckle down and work hard, it is a good school to go to. I trust him. He is just like me. He has three years as well. A Minnesota kid, too and he was there for one semester and actually enrolled early in January last season. I decided to try to do the same thing that he did and I did it and it worked out in my favor.