STEVEN ERLER / SPECIAL TO THE HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER
Mililani’s Raymond Roller caught a touchdown pass against Saint Louis on Aug. 5 at Mililani. Cement Factory
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
Mililani receiver Raymond Roller got into his stance.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
Mililani receiver Raymond Roller got some air time at Mililani High School on Monday.
It’s all business for Raymond Roller. He is a blur on the gridiron, making play after play for No. 2-ranked Mililani. With a 3.3 grade-point average, he has a vision of the future that includes playing football in college. Read more
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It’s all business for Raymond Roller.
He is a blur on the gridiron, making play after play for No. 2-ranked Mililani. With a 3.3 grade-point average, he has a vision of the future that includes playing football in college.
“And I want to major in business. I want to manage a big business like Costco,” the senior said. “I want to own a Costco.”
After all the ups and downs, the roller coaster of life through a pandemic, Roller learned to cope, and so did his teammates and coaches. Mililani is 3-1, losing only to powerhouse Mission Viejo (Calif.), and is co-leader in the OIA Open Division with wins over Campbell and Moanalua. Roller is a crucial part of coach Rod York’s offensive blueprint. The senior slotback has 15 receptions for 254 yards and two touchdowns to lead a deep, talented pass-catching crew.
Quarterback Kini McMillan relies on Roller early in games, and every time the speedster beats solo coverage, defensive coordinators tweak their plans. That opens up opportunities for his teammates, who are talented enough to get open on their own — but Roller’s speed and IQ are a lethal combination.
“He’s never been timed before, but he runs a 4.5 or 4.4 40,” Trojans coach Rod York said. “His game speed is special. We’ve worked on running the corrected routes, adjusting your route-running like Saint Louis, and that’s where he’s become a more dangerous player. He’s still learning. We went more into that mode. We weren’t into adjusting before, to keep it simple, but we do it now.”
The rewards are gargantuan. With receivers making reads on the fly, big plays happen. That was the case in the thriller with Campbell. The defense had to account for Gavin Hunter, Mililani’s two-way playmaker, and Roller during a late-game drive by the Trojans offense. That left sophomore Onosa’i Salanoa in single coverage for a game-winning 41-yard touchdown in the final minutes.
Roller began playing sports when he was 6, playing soccer. A year later, he began playing flag football for the Pearl City Jr. Chargers.
“Once I got to seventh grade, that’s when I did my first season for Mill Vill,” he said.
The Mill Vill Trojans program, playing in the JPS Oahu league year-round, gave Roller a chance to learn the high school team’s system.
“Same coaches, same plays, everything, so that’s a big advantage,” he said.
Getting from that early stage to this point wasn’t quite a straight line. As a freshman, he was a backup running back.
“I was behind Miah Timoteo,” Roller said.
He was prepared to play on the varsity squad in 2020 as a sophomore.
“But we didn’t have a season,” Roller said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had club football and scrimmaged random teams.”
Around the end of sophomore year in ’21, an injury derailed Roller.
“I ended up pulling my groin. It cost me my starting job in my junior year. Two months. I could walk fine, but if I started to run, it came back,” he said.
Roller made it back and was in the receiver rotation, but wasn’t quite where he once was. The what-ifs were disturbing.
“To lose your spot because of an injury, that sucks, especially after the COVID year. After I healed, I kept working, trying to get back in, just doing my best to push harder,” he said.
Through the pandemic and beyond, the workouts never stopped at home. He and his father, Ryan, hit the iron at their home in Waipio, across the highway from Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park.
“It was just myself. My dad would help me. At the park, I would do my own footwork drills, running hills, running some miles,” Roller said.
Ryan Roller has always set the tone.
“His father is a very hard-working man,” York said. “He works for Menehune Water. He’s an early-bird guy, starts work around 4:30, 5 in the morning.”
Roller calls wide receiver Jensyn McGee the funniest player on the team. They have been friends for four years.
“I met Raymond in eighth grade at Mililani Middle School. I remember that he was always on it with his work,” McGee said. “He’s a good friend because he’s reliable and, honestly, he just laughs at the most random things.”
The combination of consistency, self-motivation and sense of humor has always been rare for young athletes. Roller, who is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 165 pounds, is always willing to do more.
“If you don’t, you’re probably not going to get that far if you don’t put that extra work in. It all comes down to your mindset and how much you want it,” he said. “Since losing to Kahuku in the OIA championship and state semifinals, in the offseason we worked out butts off. It’s a totally different squad, we got Kini back (from injury). We put in the hours and we feel we have some unfinished business to take care of. It took awhile for everyone to lock in together, but now we’re clicking.”
McMillan’s freshman season in ’21 was cut short by injury, but he is thriving this fall.
“Kini is the piece to the puzzle that we were missing. He’s a double-threat,” Roller said.
With a 3.3 grade-point average and all the evidence of a game-breaking player at this level, Roller is hoping for a chance at the next level. The one missing number: that 40-yard dash time. He’s never been invited to a combine or camp that had official, electronic timing.
“I never really got timed, but Gavin runs a 4.4. I’m not trying to be cocky, but I can gap him. I’m in the low 4.4, 4.3s maybe,” Roller said.
His videos are on Hudl, where college coaches can see his work. He’s also on Twitter.
“I’m trying to see if anything can pop up. If anything, any D-I (college), that’s the main goal. I could show myself in any school. To me, free college is free college. It’s the best thing I can do to help out my parents,” Roller said. “Last year, Coach Rod called me in to talk to a few colleges. I had some meetings with them. Sacramento State, Linfield and Navy.”
Seeing NFL players who overcame the odds is another source of inspiration.
“Darren Sproles, he was 200 pounds at 5-6 so that’s kind of crazy. He was jacked. Boston Scott is 5-6, too, and he’s about 190,” said Roller, who is a Philadelphia Eagles fan.
Roller was looking forward to free time on Labor Day.
“I think we’ll go hang out with the family at the beach,” he said on Sunday.
Come next Sunday, it’ll be the start of the NFL regular season.
“I got to go cheer for my Eagles,” he said.
>> Movie: “Billy Madison”
>> Food: Cheeseburgers, tacos, pot roast. “My favorite cheeseburger is from Carl’s Jr. in Kalihi at the gas station. The No. 2, the ‘Superstar.’ I like my dad’s steak tacos. My grandma makes the best pot roast. Every major holiday, we go to her house and we eat.”
>> Music artist: Morgan Wallen (“Spin You Around”)
>> Athlete: LeSean McCoy. “I have always looked up to him. That’s why I wear No. 25.”
>> Teacher: Mrs. (Amy) Boehning. “She teaches history. I’ve had her class for two years. U.S. history last year, and this year, humanities and Asian studies. She makes it interesting.”
>> Funniest teammate: Jensyn McGee. “My whole team are kind of clowns. Ever since eighth grade, we met from laughing with each other. I can never take him seriously to this day. He’s always funny.”
>> Smartest teammate: Mikel Paiva. “He just sounds so intelligent.”
>> New life skill: Six feet apart. “I keep my distance from random people except in football.”
>> Hidden talent: Motocross. “After the season’s completely done, I ride dirt bikes. We go to the track in Kahuku — me, my dad, my sister (Rianna) and some of my cousins.”
>> Shoutouts: “My first soccer coach, Coach Stacy — when I first told her I was leaving soccer for football, she said if I ever make it and do an interview, I had to say she was my first coach. And shoutout to my parents (Arlene and Ryan). They got me here.”
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