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The Naaman Game: St. Joe's quarterback Naaman Roosevelt earns Player of the Year

The name "Naaman" has its roots in the Bible. It refers to a highly respected warrior, a mighty man of valor.

When it comes to high school football, Naaman Roosevelt sure had the game to back up the name.

"At church, people say they've seen my name in the Bible," Roosevelt said, "and they'll tell me that it means 'strong leader.' "

The St. Joe's quarterback was certainly that, throwing a Western New York single-season record 35 touchdowns in helping lead the Marauders to one of his school's finest seasons. The all-purpose all-star's huge arm and blazing speed made him an extremely quick pick to be 2005 Buffalo News Player of the Year.

"When he would get in the huddle, everyone would shut up and listen to him," said senior Luke DeLuca. "He certainly led us to victory."

Roosevelt highlights the 48th All-Western New York team, selected by The Buffalo News and Dick Gallagher of Western New York High School Sports in consultation with the Trench Trophy Committee as well as area coaches and officials. Roosevelt is the 29th News Player of the Year and also is a finalist for the Connolly Cup, which will be awarded today to Western New York's most outstanding player.

In the biblical tale, Naaman is the skilled army commander of Syria who becomes stricken with leprosy, then is miraculously cured once he follows a prophet's instructions and learns humility. Despite one of the most prolific seasons in Western New York football, that's a lesson Roosevelt doesn't appear to need to learn.

Asked if excelling at his sport's leadership position means he's lived up to his name (which is pronounced NAY-man and also means "pleasant"), he quietly says, "not exactly . . . maybe. Our goal was to win the championship."

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Roosevelt is the third player of the year from St. Joe's, following Sandro DeAngelis (1998) and Kevin Deakin (1985). With a potent fleet of receivers and hard-charging DeLuca at running back, Roosevelt headed one of the area's most potent offenses ever. The Marauders, who went 9-1 -- winning the Monsignor Martin Association League AA championship and losing only to undefeated Ohio Division III state finalist Steubenville, 35-28 -- had four players on the first team: Roosevelt, running back/linebacker DeLuca, junior wide receiver/defensive back Domonic Cook and senior lineman Jeff Papia.

Colleges began recruiting Roosevelt at defensive back and wide receiver, but St. Joe's coach Bob O'Connor thinks Roosevelt has what it takes to be a major Division I quarterback. Division I-AA power New Hampshire has had a scholarship on the table since the season started, Boston College has become very interested, and O'Connor even dropped a tape off at San Diego State during a trip out West.

No records have been kept in Western New York for all-purpose yardage, but one would have to think that Roosevelt owns the single-season mark. With fast feet and elusiveness so outstanding that he was St. Joe's return man, he could scramble for ground gains or just buy more time to use his rocket arm.

His single-season totals of 2,112 passing yards and 144 completions are second only to St. Francis grad Mike Radon's 2001 totals (2,408 and 163) in the WNY record book. He gained 721 yards on 72 rushes, 479 yards on kick returns and 141 on interceptions. He accounted for 44 touchdowns: in addition to the record 35 passes, he had six rushing TDs, two kickoff returns and an interception return. He threw 13 touchdowns to Cook, seven to senior John Greer, seven to junior DeMario Johnson, four to senior Devon Dawson, three to DeLuca and one to sophomore Phil Scaffidi.

Asked about his favorite play this season, Roosevelt's answer wasn't even a pass. It was a 93-yard kickoff return against Aquinas. "I thought I was going to get tackled five times," he said, "but my teammates kept giving me blocks."

DeLuca's favorite was a touchdown pass against Timon/St. Jude.

"I swear he must have been scrambling for 15 seconds before he found Greer in the end zone."

Cook thought his quarterback's best attribute was his vision, being able to pick out the best option from among the often four wide receivers speeding down the field.

"He sees everything," said Cook. "Before the play, he would know if someone was on me and I could get by him, and I knew that if I was open he would get it to me."

Cook's favorite play?

"Almost every other play was a touchdown," he said, "so it's like every play stood out."

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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>News Player of the Year

2004: Zak Kedron, St. Francis

2003: Mike Blocho, Grand Island 2002: Jehuu Caulcrick, Clymer

2001: Dustin Ross, Salamanca

2000: Aaron Leeper, Jamestown

1999: Joe West, Lackawanna

1998: Sandro DeAngelis, St. Joe's

1997: Frank Pavicich, Niagara-Wheatfield

1996: Frank Pavicich, Niagara-Wheatfield

1995: Malik Campbell, Turner-Carroll

1994: David Hinson, Jamestown

1993: Warren Miles, Lackawanna

1992: * Teddy McDuffie, Grover Cleveland

1992: * Anthony Scott, Grand Island

1991: Bob McDonnell, Grand Island

1990: Randy Smith, Lockport

1989: * Kevin Mason, West Seneca East

1989: * Cliff Scott, Grand Island

1988: Jim Snyder, Medina

1987: Mark Anderson, Orchard Park

1986: Ray Braxton, Lackawanna

1985: Kevin Deakin, St. Joe's

1984: Dan Mettica, Williamsville South

1983: Daryl Johnston, Lewiston-Porter

1982: Ken Johnson, Jamestown

1981: Shane Conlan, Frewsburg

1980: Ron Pitts, Orchard Park

1979: None

1978: * Carl Chase, Canisius

1978: * Alan Copeland, Lancaster

1977: Mike Wallace, Fredonia

* co-Players of Year.

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>Naaman game-by-game

St. Joe's senior quarterback Naaman Roosevelt, the Player of the Year, accounted for 44 touchdowns, including a Western New York-record 35 through the air.

Week One: St. Joe's 46, McKinley 8

Scored the first time he touched the ball in rout of eventual Harvard Cup champions. 90 kickoff return, 1 run, 15 pass to Johnson, 15 pass to DeLuca, 25 pass to Greer.

Week Two: St. Joe's 29, St. Francis 27

Last-second first-half pass to Johnson allows for early-season statement. 6 pass to Scaffidi, 30 pass to Dawson, 20 pass to Johnson

Week Three: St. Joe's 48, Aquinas 8

Had 498 all-purpose yards and scored four different ways against Section V power. 21 pass to Cook, 81 interception return, 62 pass to Johnson, 95 run, 93 kickoff return

Week Four: Steubenville (Ohio) 35, St. Joe's 28

19 of 30 for 304 yards and four TDs as Joe's led Ohio superpower most of the game. 41 pass to Cook, 24 pass to Dawson, 79 pass to Cook, 19 pass to Cook

Week Five: St. Joe's 41, Burgard 7

Had four first-half TD passes in rout of eventual Harvard Cup runner-up.
8 pass to Greer, 9 pass to Greer, 41 pass to Johnson, 28 pass to DeLuca, 14 pass to Johnson, 10 run

Week Six: St. Joe's 12, Victor 3

Accounts for both TDs to win at Section V Class A finalist in a rainstorm so severe St. Joe's Athletics Director Joe Wolf said "it was like staring into a fire hose." 4 run, 19 pass to Cook

Week Seven: St. Joe's 27, Timon/St. Jude 14

All four TDs came in the first half as he completed 15 of 23 passes for 171 yards. 23 pass to Cook, 15 pass to Johnson, 10 pass to Cook, 11 pass to Cook

Week Eight: St. Joe's 34, Canisius 8

Passed for 229 yards and three TDs while routing rivals in rainstorm. 36 pass to Dawson, 31 pass to Cook, 37 pass to Cook, 79 run

Week Nine: Msgr. Martin semifinals St. Joe's 41, Timon/St. Jude 6

Completed 19 of 28 passes, had 432 all-purpose yards, led 34-0 after three quarters. 5 pass to Cook, 68 run, 49 pass to Greer, 10 pass to Dawson, 2 pass to Greer, 33 pass to Cook

Week 10: Msgr. Martin championship St. Joe's 39, St. Francis 6

In a fierce windstorm at The Ralph, finishes career with a flourish: a 9-of-9 start to a five-touchdown day to break the Western New York single-season record and win the Monsignor Martin Association League AA title. 8 pass to Cook, 9 pass to Greer, 16 pass to Greer, 21 pass to DeLuca, 5 pass to Johnson

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