The last time Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback returned to his hometown, he threw his first touchdown of his college career as a true freshman against the University of Toledo Rockets on Nov. 2, 2013.
“It was a good time coming back home," Roback said. "It was my first time away from home. It was fun. It was where I threw my first college touchdown. I played in that stadium numerous times in high school and I’m familiar with it and have friends on the team as well. It was a good experience and got me off on the right foot."
Fast forward two years and the Maumee, Ohio native is heading back to Toledo as a redshirt sophomore with a little more experience hoping to upset the no. 22 ranked Rockets team.
“It's going to be a good game," Roback said. "Toledo is a great team obviously. They are the leaders probably in the MAC right now. It's going to be a good test for our team.”
Roback’s Eastern Michigan career started when former EMU coach Ron English recruited him as a four-star recruit out of St. John’s Jesuit High School. As a bonus, his sister, Paige, played volleyball at EMU.
“Coming out of high school it was all about where I can step on the field the fastest or have an impact somewhere,” said Roback. “The Mid-American Conference already stands out because of how many great quarterbacks come out of there and the talent is really good and offense is pretty dynamite.
“Coming to Eastern, my sister played volleyball here and I was familiar with it and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and just wanted a change. I wanted to be part of that change and wanted to be part of that reason for that.”
Roback started his freshman season as the backup to Tyler Benz but quickly saw more and more playing time. Roback would see the field in late game “garbage time” but worked his way to earn his first start of his college career against Northern Illinois on Oct. 26, 2013.
One week later, Roback would head home to face Toledo and throw two touchdowns in a losing effort.
Coach Ron English would be fired before the end of the season and, following a few months of interviews, Vice President and Athletic Director Heather Lyke hired Drake coach Chris Creighton to take over.
Roback noted the team unity involved with the change and how it didn’t take much for him to be sold on the coaching change.
“He didn't have to say much," Roback said. "We met him and we had a good feel for him. The bond I have with everyone else was really ‘let’s stay here and stick through it and fix it.’ A lot of people wanted to make that change with him.”
Benz would leave the program leaving Roback as the likely starter for the 2014 season.
That wasn’t the case as redshirt freshman Reggie Bell impressed the coaches enough to give him the starting role and Roback found himself as a backup once again.
Roback would appear in three games for the Eagles, including one start against Old Dominion, before taking a medical redshirt and sitting out for the rest of the season.
“It’s an up and down roller coaster," Roback said. "It’s life. You have to battle through things. I grew up, especially when I was out with injury, and had time to sit back and watch the game. It was a good time to learn and do all these things. It made me hungrier and humbled me.”
“In the long run, there's a lot of things you have to learn to battle through and it was a good lesson for me,” Roback said.
Roback returned primed at the Spring Game to become a starter for 2015 but Creighton decided Bell had earned the starting role.
In the first game of the 2015 season, Roback put on the headset and embraced the role of a backup once again but early in the fourth quarter, Bell was hit and left with what was later diagnosed as a fractured jaw.
Roback would take the field and since then has gone 113-for-177 for 1242 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in six games. Roback’s best games to date have both come on the road for the Eagles where he went 17-for-24 for 330 yards with three touchdowns against Wyoming and 17-for-24 for 161 yards and a touchdown against Louisiana State.
Now Roback will get his sixth start of the season against a Toledo team that has yet to lose a game this year.
“Last week, we didn't come out," Roback said. "We didn't have enough juice. It's a huge test for our team and a gut check to see where we are at and where we are going.”
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