Old Dominion transfer Ishmael Roy covets an opportunity with the Aztecs
In April, a few days after the second transfer portal window opened, ESPN reported that over 6,000 football players have transferred since the start of the 2022 season. These athletes are involved in a big game of musical chairs. With summer approaching, the music is about to stop, and some will have their chairs pulled out from under them with no place to go.
Most attention has been paid to the players at the top of the transfer portal pecking order. Aztec fans have worried about replacing Josh Simmons, CJ Baskerville, and Patrick McMorris after the trio left SDSU for opportunities at Power Five institutions. They opined where one-time QB of the future, Will Haskell, will eventually land. They analyzed the fit of Power Five imports, JD Coffey III, Deshawn Mccuin, and, most recently, Jalil Tucker, on the 2023 team.
Away from the spotlight where the above players live is a myriad of others who continue to chase their dreams of playing college football. Many of these players have shown great character and resilience in overcoming obstacles in their journeys. Old Dominion transfer Ishmael Roy is an illuminating case study.
“All of my sports career, I’ve been a textbook player,” Roy told EVT in an exclusive interview. “I’m very coachable. I do things by the book. I’m always on time. I have good grades. I was always an example for the coaches. At Louisburg (College), I was one of their leaders. I was a captain. I did things the right way.”
Roy was a star soccer player at Lafayette High School in Williamsburg, VA. According to Roy, he had post-secondary options of playing the Beautiful Game collegiately at Army or overseas at an academy in Barcelona. The head coach of his high school soccer team doubled as the special teams coordinator for the football team. He invited his star player out to handle the kicking duties, and Roy found a new love.
During the second game of his junior season, on a kickoff, Roy leveled the star player and returner. Something clicked inside the kicker, and he became dedicated to football from then on.
Universities do most of their recruiting based on tape from a player’s junior year. Without any game footage from this crucial time, Roy’s options were limited. He agreed to play with the Virginia A&M Gators, a now-defunct prep football team. At best, the Gators were a failed business. At worst, they were frauds.
They took a group of 18-year-olds and promised them exposure, training, and help in pursuing their football aspirations. In reality, the founder of the “school” engaged in sketchy business practices.
Roy and his teammates, for example, lived in a typical apartment building. Unbeknownst to them, among the myriad of papers they signed was a lease agreement. The apartments were in the players’ names. When the rent money that was supposed to be paid from the tuition did not come, the kids were evicted. They left with a little bit of tape and tarnished rental records to show from the ordeal.
Undeterred, Roy joined Louisburg College, a junior college DIII school where his brother played. Virginia A&M’s final parting gift came due. Coachable, maybe to a fault, Roy did not know he had been signed up for college classes. He was ineligible his first year at Louisburg. After getting his grades right, he played the second year in what was technically his freshman season of eligibility.
Fort Scott Community College, a former national powerhouse in Kansas, recruited him to play there. Roy thought the exposure would help him reach the next level. His experience at Fort Scott made Virginia A&M a positive one in comparison.
Fort Scott head coach Carson Hunter had been hired to bring the Greyhounds back to their former glory. Only a decade earlier, the school was ranked No.1 in the country. By the time Hunter came in, they had deteriorated into the worst team in the conference. Scott tried to change the culture by instituting a disciplined, old-school approach. According to numerous players, it quickly became abusive.
In an Instagram Live video that is still available online, the players detailed their life at Fort Scott. Among the allegations was the treatment they endured during what was called 4:30s. For the smallest infractions, the players were mandated to do extra workouts at 4:30 in the morning. According to the players in the video, the staff would verbally abuse them during the sessions and work them without any regard for their safety.
Unsurprisingly given their treatment, Fort Scott was unable to finish its season that had moved to the spring because of the Covid pandemic. The team that started with around 100 players had dwindled into the 30s. In a press release, Fort Scott cited “low active roster numbers” due to “injury and attrition” as the reason to cancel the season.
Undeterred by the drop in numbers, Hunter continued his harsh training and discipline techniques. Four months later, tragedy struck. On August 4, 2021, lineman Tirrell Williams died of heat stroke while doing extra mandatory training after practice. About three months later, the school closed its football program.
Tom Havron, the school’s AD, told KOAM-TV at the time of the school’s decision to shutter the program that the allegations in the Instagram video were false and Williams’ death had nothing to do with the closure of the program. He also denied the allegations against coach Hunter, saying, “We stand behind him (Hunter). He was incredibly ethical and professional throughout this entire process and this season.”
There is an ongoing civil suit filed by Williams’ mother against Fort Scott and coach Hunter alleging, “Plaintiff’s injuries were caused when Carson Hunter negligently, recklessly, and improperly forced Tirrell Williams to undergo an unreasonable, abusive, and dangerous training regimen in unsafe conditions, which lead to his injuries and ultimately resulted in his death.”
After the 2021 season and before Williams’ death, Roy bounced back to Louisburg. He moved to safety and was the team’s primary punter. Roy was named a second-team NJCC DIII All-American as a punter in 2021. He competed well enough at safety to earn a spot with Old Dominion.
After redshirting for the Monarchs in 2022, he earned an opportunity during spring ball this year. Injuries depleted the numbers in camp, and ODU utilized Roy in the two-deep at wide receiver and safety. During the Spring Game, he lined up as the first-team safety and the second-team wideout.
Following camp, the staff gave him the option to pick either side of the ball but let him know they would be bringing in transfers, and most of the reps in practice would go to the new players. ODU is expected to have upwards of 50 new players on the roster when practice resumes in August.
Seeking a better opportunity for himself, Roy elected to transfer. One of the first coaches to follow him on social media after his announcement was SDSU’s Director of Player Personnel, Ryon Lynn. Roy began researching the Aztecs after Lynn’s follow and liked what he saw. He was particularly drawn to a member of the staff, Tahj Capehardt.
Roy worked out with Capehardt when the latter was a wide receiver for Maryland. The two have spoken about SDSU. To date, the Aztecs have not offered Roy, but he would covet the opportunity.
“Why would I not like to live in San Diego,” Roy explained.
The school that ends up with Roy will get a person who literally is an expert in leadership; he has a bachelor’s degree in the subject from Old Dominion. He has shown great perseverance and dedication and will be an asset to a team’s locker room.
On the field, he has great size at 6’0, 195 pounds. He has good athleticism and plays with an aggression that coaches covet. If there was ever a player who is a Swiss Army Knife, it is Roy. He has played RB, WR, DB and could still punt in a pinch.
“I’m open to playing wherever at this point,” Roy said. “I just want to play. Wide receiver is always my first option, but this past spring, I found a real joy in playing safety. And I really excelled this past spring if you watch my film. I have really good safety film of me coming downhill, tracking the ball, doing everything at safety. I honestly would play anywhere. I’ll play running back. I played running back at Fort Scott. I’ll play corner. I’ll play anywhere.”
In a matter of weeks, colleges all over the country will begin their final push in preparation for the 2023 season. Roy and his counterparts are doing the work of marketing themselves by sharing their film with coaches in any way they can because the game of musical chairs is about to stop. There will be many deserving players left standing when it does.
Much has been written about NIL and the one-time transfer rules, but to understand that full story, one must know how they impact all student-athletes. Roy’s dream will continue. The University of Marshall has already offered him a walk-on spot, and he hopes other options will present themselves, maybe even one at San Diego State.
My earliest sport’s memory involve tailgating at the Murph, running down the circular exit ramps, and seeing the Padres, Chargers and Aztecs play. As a second generation Aztec, I am passionate about all things SDSU. Other interests include raising my four children, being a great husband and teaching high school.