There is a big part of Erie's Noah Roper that believes he got some of his burst rounding tight corners from room to room growing up trying to make it to the dinner table first.
As for his strength? Backyard football with much older kids around the neighborhood, when Noah simply was trying to hold his own surrounded by those who were wearing Tigers football uniforms way before him.
There is a common denominator in all this — having three older brothers named Matthew, Elijah and Zach who played a big influence in Noah's upbringing and transformed him into a player that many believe has a bright future at the next level.
"I think the main reason why I am the way I am is because I'm the youngest of four brothers. They always picked on me, always beat me up, and I think that's why I'm strong and can get through things," Noah Roper said after a practice Wednesday, days ahead of the Class 3A championship game that pits the 11-2 Tigers against 13-0 Palmer Ridge.
"Whenever they went to play tackle football out in the backyard or wherever it might have been, I'd be sure to come along. I'd always be tackling big guys — it hurt, but it was always so much fun. Growing up with those guys formed me, and I wouldn't be me without them."
Starting with Matthew, there's been a Roper on the EHS sidelines since 2008 — the last time the Tigers appeared in a state title game. In 2015 and 2016, Noah and Zach got the opportunity to play on the same field with the brothers playing both offense and defense.
They've all made an impact in one way or another, whether it be on the lines, in the defensive backfield or as a quarterback's best friend at running back. However, the older brothers have to give it up for what young Noah has accomplished in two seasons as a starter and three years on varsity.
According to MaxPreps.com statistics, Roper has 5,310 all-purpose yards for his career — with one big game to go in 2017 and hopefully a full slate in 2018. The CHSAA state record book, which is the most official database available for Colorado and shows a top-10 in a multitude of categories, lists Crowley County's Bryce Buhr (2012-15) at No. 10 all-time with 5,873 yards.
As a freshman, Noah Roper was a 'look-out-for-this-one' kind of player, and when Chad Cooper was brought on last year as head coach from Broomfield, he was already well aware of the type of potential he had.
"A parent that I knew at Broomfield knew the Roper's for a long time, and when I accepted the job here I got a text from them saying, 'congrats' and 'you've got to get to know this kid and this family,'" Cooper said. "So the first thing I did as a coach was hop on Hudl and check out his film. He played as a freshman and he stood out. We didn't know where he was going to fit in just because he played a lot of spots under the old coaching staff. But we knew we had something we could build upon.
"He prides himself on not being out-worked by anyone. I think that comes from his family, his mom Gina and all those brothers."
Cooper has utilized every bit of that potential this season. Roper's 2,537 rushing yards and 34 rushing TDs lead the state, and now he's lining up more often behind center and just simply eliminating a handoff entirely.
A healthy and stout offensive line has been huge for Erie's successes, as well. Starting with the big man — 6-foot-8 senior Cameron Marcucci — and extending out to Spencer Brooks, Gianni Velotta, Nathan Hackney and Colby Arlington, Erie has dominated the trenches in most matchups and allowed for the rush attack to thrive.
"Our offensive line and our tight ends deserve a lot of praise for what we've been doing collectively in the run game," Cooper said. "It goes hand-in-hand. you just can't have the type of season Noah has had without all of that work put in."
Marcucci has been impressed with all of his front-of-the-line mates, but he also said he can't help applauding Roper for the amount of work he's done to be "the guy." Part of that included a training session for Noah bought and paid for by one of his brothers — "they believe in me so much and I'm so grateful for that," Noah quipped.
"It's nice knowing he's a runner that's going to get stuff done, and as an offensive lineman that just give you more confidence in yourself," Marcucci said. "I mean, it's maybe just God-given talent, but he works hard during practice and has put in a ton of work this off-season. He's definitely one of the hardest workers on this team and it's definitely shown up on the field."
Roper's name is everywhere as a result, and many who have seen him are of the camp that he's not just 3A good. He recently went on a game-day visit to Wyoming and could be just scratching the surface of college offers.
For the young Roper, the last of the clan, Erie was just the place to be. A state title on Saturday would be icing on the cake of what has been an all-time memorable season for an EHS Tigers player.
Palmer Ridge will undoubtedly be creeping up on the line in preparation for Roper — teams have been all year. For the most part, it hasn't mattered much and Roper has full confidence in himself to bring one more excellent effort to the table.
"I'm not going to doubt myself," said Roper, who is a 4.0 student, too. "I haven't changed anything from a football perspective out on the field. It's more just, I've been playing since I was 7 so if I just do what I know how to do I'll be fine out there."