ATTLEBORO - Once a Bombardier from Attleboro High School who went on to star on the football field at Stonehill College, Nathaniel Robitaille will next be suiting up for F.C. Frankfurt Universe of Germany's first division professional league.
"It's an opportunity, a chance to play pro football," said Robitaille, who signed a one-year free-agent contract with the team in early March and leaves Wednesday for preseason training, with Frankfurt's season to begin April 16.
Robitaille is the only player in Stonehill College football history to post over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, doing so for the second straight season this past fall when he caught 72 passes (fourth-best in the Northeast 10) for 1,035 yards (second-best) and four touchdowns, averaging 14.4 yards per catch and 94.1 yards per game.
Robitaille ranks first all-time at Stonehill with 4.8 career receptions per game, second with 3,562 career all-purpose yards and 26 total touchdowns, fourth with 160 points scored and 10th with 14.0 career yards per reception.
A former Stonehill teammate, Nate Morris, a cornerback with Frankfurt, recommended Robitaille to the Universe coaching staff, which was then intrigued by the prospect of securing the rights to a runner, receiver and return man.
"I was kind of skeptical at first when they contacted me in late February, but the coaches (head coach Markus Grahan) there called me and said how interested that they were and it kind of snowballed from there," said Robitaille. "I figured that I'd give it a shot."
A two-time All-Northeast-10 selection and a return specialist, Robitaille ranked No. 24th nationally in NCAA Division II for receptions per game (6.6), and his yardage total ranks second in Skyhawk history.
Robitaille led the Northeast-10 with 20 punt returns for a conference-best 10.6 yards per return and one touchdown. Robitaille finished second among NE-10 leaders with his 132.6 all-purpose yards per game, adding 209 yards on 10 kickoff returns (20.9 yards/return) and three rushing yards to his receiving and punt-return yardage for a total of 1,459 all-purpose yards, which ranks third on the program's all-time single-season list. He finished the year third on the team with 32 points, scoring five total touchdowns.
The German Pro League has two tiers, a 12-team first and second division - with a half-dozen teams in each of the North and South divisions. "I'm going over there and get right into it," said Robitaille of the preseason training. He has been working out daily since graduating from Stonehill at the Velocity Performance Center in Norwood.
During the spring of his senior year at Stonehill, Robitaille attended "pro day" showcase camps at Boston College, Harvard and Bentley, a "combine" for non-FCS players in Chicago and another "combine" at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
All through that time, Robitaille was contacted by scouts from the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings. However, he was not selected during the NFL Draft and did not receive any free-agent invites from teams.
"Anything with the pros, it's a matter of being the right person at the right time," Robitaille said of landing a roster spot. "You can have all the talent in the world, but you have to have the opportunity, and a lot of times it just has to be with the right team."
Robitaille was invited to play in the inaugural FCS National Bowl in December at Florida International University for the Division II-III All-Star game and then was nominated to participate in the Division I-AA All-Star Game.
The FCS National Bowl was an annual postseason college football all-star game consisting of the top players from college football FCS schools. The fifth annual National Bowl Game was designed for the top Division II-III and and NAIA players attending non-Football Championship Series schools.
Robitaille was selected to the 2014 Don Hansen's Football Gazette Division II All-Super Regional team. The Super Region 1 includes players from the Northeast-10 Conference, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, the Mountain East Conference and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Robitaille finished his college career as Stonehill's all-time leader with 196 receptions, 2,744 receiving yards and 25 touchdown receptions - despite a revolving door of four or five quarterbacks..
"The camps last year (before his junior year) were more about measurables (running, jumping, lifting)," said Robitaille. "The Bowl game was an actual game to show what you can do. They measured your height, your weight, your arm length; there wasn't any actual football.
"Even though it was like a herd of cows, it was encouraging."
With Frankfurt, Robitaille will have housing, transportation and daily meals provided by the team.
"A few guys from the German League have made it into the NFL," Robitaille said, "so you never know what eyes may be watching."