This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published August 22, 2019
Following a recent phone call, many memories from Rashaad Roach’s days at East Haven High School came back to him. Rashaad answered a call from Steve Narracci, who told him that he was going to be inducted into the East Haven Alumni Association Hall of Fame in November. Rashaad is a 2001 graduate who has also been a member of the Branford Police Department since 2007.
“It was definitely a surprise, but then you automatically start thinking about your high school career and the guys you played with,” says Rashaad, who lives in Durham. “I’m happy to join my teammates and friends in the hall. Several teammates are in the hall already, and I’m definitely happy to be among them.”
Rashaad was a three-season athlete for all four years at East Haven, competing for the Yellowjackets’ football, boys’ basketball, and boys’ outdoor track teams. Joe Glenn, who played the same three sports alongside Rashaad, says that Rashaad was not only an incredible athlete, but also a natural leader.
“It didn’t matter what sport or season we were in, every player and coach respected him and gravitated towards him,” says Glenn. “He was one of those guys that you always knew he had your back on and off the field.”
Rashaad’s leadership was widely recognized. He was a three-year starter in football and basketball, while lettering all four years in track. Rashaad served as a captain for both the basketball and track squads in his junior and senior seasons, in addition to captaining the football team as a senior.
“It’s a great feeling knowing the players and coaches have input on who will be captain,” Rashaad says. “If they’re willing to appoint you to be a leader of the team, you must be doing something good.”
Rashaad didn’t have too much experience in athletics while growing up. Living in New Haven, Rashaad got into baseball and basketball in the 6th grade. When he was in 8th grade, Rashaad’s family moved to East Haven, and his friends encouraged him to join the middle school basketball team.
During Rashaad’s 8th-grade year, Rusty Dunne, who coached football and track at the high school, visited the middle school several times to drum up interest in the football team. Rashaad talked about the opportunity with his father, who encouraged him to give it a try.
“That was that. I liked the teamwork and I liked the game,” says Rashaad. “As a freshman, you’re taking a beating from the older players, but what it came down to was the game itself. You can’t beat a football game, especially at night. I did have to work hard, because a lot of guys had played youth football and had experience. I also had to work on learning the rules of the game itself.”
Rashaad earned a starting spot during his sophomore year. While the Yellowjackets struggled in his sophomore and junior seasons, Rashaad helped them finish with a record of 7-3 as a senior. He earned All-SCC Hammonasset Division honors, as well as a spot on the New Haven Gridiron Club’s Levi Jackson Team.
“It had been a very long time since the East Haven football team was successful,” he says. “To go through the bad seasons and then finish by being on top was really awesome.”
Rashaad was also a three-year starter for the Yellowjackets’ basketball team. His favorite part of that experience was that he got to continue playing alongside the same people who encouraged him to join the middle school team.
“We had a lot of fun, and I was really excited to play with the kids I’d joined in 8th grade,” says Rashaad. “I just really loved playing in the games, so that made practice worth it every time.”
Although Rashaad had started playing baseball in 6th grade, he was encouraged to join East Haven’s outdoor track team by his father and Coach Dunne. It turned out to be a great decision for Rashaad, who earned a varsity letter all four years.
“I recall the first meet I ran in where I took second place and, at that point, I knew I had a really good chance to be good at this,” Rashaad says. “I had a really excellent freshman year, which carried into sophomore year, but I hit a big roadblock in the State Decathlon. I was in first place after the first day and, in the first event of the second day, I ended up breaking my leg in the hurdles.”
Despite that setback, Rashaad came back to compete in all three sports as a junior and wound up earning first place overall at the CIAC Decathlon. He was also the Hammonasset champion in the 100-meter dash and the long jump. Additionally, Rashaad graduated from East Haven as the school’s record holder in the 100 and the 400.
“Over the years, you spend so much time in gym looking at the banners, plaques, and other awards,” says Rashaad. “Those All-State banners stand out, and you want your name on one and, luckily enough, I was able to do that.”
Rashaad decided to take a break from sports when he went to college. Rashaad attended Northeastern for two years before transferring to Springfield College, where he started to think about running again. Rashaad went on to compete for Springfield’s indoor and outdoor track teams in his junior and senior years. He was a captain as a senior and ran on a 4x400 relay that earned All-New England honors.
“I had a lot of ground to make up for after being off, but looking back, I’m very happy I made that move to start running again,” Rashaad says. “To be named captain, especially after such a short time and coming into a team as an outsider, was a great honor.”
In 2006, Rashaad graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science with a goal of becoming an athletic trainer or strength and conditioning coach. Within a year, he decided that he wanted to pursue a different career path. At the time, Rashaad’s aunt was a police officer in New Haven, and his father was a corrections officer. They both suggested to Rashaad that he consider a career in law enforcement.
Rashaad was hired by the Branford Police Department. In July of 2007, he was in the Police Academy and breezed through the physical tests, noting that there’s “nothing harder than a college, or even a high school, track and field workout.”
Rashaad, who is now pursuing his master’s degree in public administration at the University of New Haven, was recently promoted to patrol supervisor and earned the rank of sergeant. He is a field training officer and has specialized training in defensive tactics, as well as undercover and narcotics investigations. Rashaad has received nine Unit Citations and a Medal of Commendation.
“You spend a lot more time in the town you’re working than anywhere else,” says Rashaad. “I love Branford, and I love my job with the variety and the independence.”