No matter where you play, if you have the talent, somebody will find you.
Roberts isn’t only trying to defeat the odds of finding NFL success as a Division II player, but he also hails from a state that only has two active pro players.
The school of Charleston has also only produced seven NFL players, with only two of them actually being drafted and neither of them higher than the 12th round. Roberts would also be the first Golden Eagle to don an NFL jersey in nearly half a century.
“It means a lot to represent West Virginia,” said Roberts, who grew up in Madison, West Virginia and attended Scott High School, which is only 30 minutes away from his home. “There [aren’t] a whole lot of NFL guys from West Virginia. It would be a great opportunity to represent the state.”
Roberts wasn't highly recruited (via Scout.com) coming out of high school despite a ridiculous 3,826 rushing yards, 11.4 average yards per carry and 48 rushing touchdowns in his senior season—the yardage and touchdowns being state records. He originally attended West Virginia and also had an offer from Army.
After redshirting his first year, he played well in the Blue-Gold Game the following season, racking up 75 yards on eight carries, including a 65-yard touchdown run.
Roberts was unable to get on the field as a running back that year, but he did notch five tackles on special teams. The touchdown during the spring game helped Roberts, though.
“It gave me confidence,” Roberts said. “I felt like I could play with anybody.
Roberts said being with the Mountaineers also helped with his film study, and he enjoyed being able to work against future NFL players such as Bruce Irvin and Robert Sands. He ended up leaving for Charleston because he felt like he “had a better opportunity” there.
“I felt like we could win a lot of games there,” stated Roberts, who also noted that Charleston had recruited him coming out of high school and the close proximity to his home helped with his decision.
Not only would Roberts go on to win games there, but he also put together incredible numbers.
Roberts finished his senior season with 1,572 rushing yards, 204 receiving yards and 21 total touchdowns. This also included three games in which he ran for over 200 yards and a game against West Virginia State in which he ran for 301 yards before being pulled with 10:33 remaining in the third quarter.
“They took me out of the game after one series after halftime because we thought we were going to the playoffs,” said Roberts.
Unfortunately, despite a 9-2 record, Charleston didn’t advance to the playoffs.
“We felt like we had a lot of momentum after that game,” said a disappointed Roberts, recalling not being picked for the playoffs. “We wouldn’t have been beat.”
The huge numbers Roberts put up led to him being named a third-team All-American, while three of his offensive linemen—Matt Farhat, Nick Lepak and George Davila—were named third-team All-Region. That wasn’t his main objective, though.
“My main goal was to win games,” said Roberts.
Now, Roberts is attempting to make it to the NFL. He attended the Aztec Bowl, played well and has been training at A-Game Sports Performance in West Virginia, which has helped to prepare him for his workouts.
“Just doing whatever it takes to get to the next level,” Roberts said about his workouts. “It’s definitely showing.”
Roberts had a strong performance at the Fairmont State pro day, running a 4.49-second 40-yard dash despite measuring in at 222 pounds. On top of that, he displayed his explosive ability with a 1.53 10-yard split and 38" vertical jump in addition to his strength with 29 bench reps of 225 pounds.
Those impressive numbers caused Roberts to get interest from R.C. Fischer of College Football Metrics and an invitation to the NFL Super Regional Combine in Dallas, Texas.
“It’s great to see exposure for my hard work,” said Roberts. “Just going to keep working, don’t get cocky or anything. Hopefully it picks up.”
Roberts also stated that he has received “positive feedback” from NFL scouts, who are certainly intrigued by his combination of size and speed.
That isn’t something Roberts is worried about. “I don’t really think of that kind of stuff,” he said, referring to his athletic ability being a notch above most. “I’m just trying to better myself each and every day. Trying to be the best running back I can be. Most important thing is I’m a team player and I want to do whatever it takes to contribute.”
NFL teams are always intrigued by athletes who can play multiple roles, due to the fact that roster sizes are limited.
“My versatility, being a team player,” said Roberts on what he believes are his best attributes. “As far as my versatility, I can play running back, kickoff return, special teams, slot receiver, fullback; I can play anything. I’m not limited to just one position.”
Teams also are seeking players who won’t create a bad image for them.
“You’re not going to have any problems with me off the field,” said Roberts. “I don’t break any team rules, don’t have any drug or alcohol problems. I’m going to be the best player I can be.”
As we now approach draft day—less than a week away—one of Roberts’ life goals could soon become a reality.
“It’s been my dream since I’ve been a little kid to play in the NFL,” said Roberts. “It would mean everything to me. I would be so pumped. My family would be just as pumped as I was and would be proud of me.”
An NFL connection isn’t usual for a D-II player, but Roberts' offensive coordinator, Jason Vrable, is now the Buffalo Bills' offensive quality control coach.
If Roberts goes undrafted, it isn’t going to stop him from working toward his dream.
“If it doesn’t happen, I’m not going to be discouraged,” Roberts said. “I’ll just keep working.”
Roberts says he would like to be around his family for the draft, but being in secluded West Virginia, they may not be able to watch the draft from their home.
“I would like to get away from my house because I don’t have service here,” said Roberts with a chuckle. “I would have to give them my house number.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Josh (@JGleas) for more football and draft-related content.