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Q&A with The Citadel WR Andre Roberts

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Posted March 17, 2010 @ 4:41 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Andre Roberts showed up at the Senior Bowl in January as a relative unknown, just one of more than 100 players from around the country trying to make a name for themselves. And with record crowds in Mobile, Ala. — most there to watch Florida's Tim Tebow — Roberts would have the chance. In fact, on the first day of practices, with Tebowmania in full effect, it was Roberts who stole a slice of the attention.

Roberts went over the middle to make a nice catch in traffic, taking a wallop from USC's Taylor Mays in the process — a welcome-to-the-big-time shot from one of the nation's best and best-known safeties. But a funny thing happened: the 5-11, 190-pound wideout took the hit from Mays, 40 pounds his superior, and popped up like it was nothing. Roberts spent most of the week continuing to open eyes, though some thought The Citadel's powder-blue helmet belonged to a school just up the road from his school in Charleston, S.C.

The shifty wideout and punt returner had a record-breaking career at the military academy, twice topping 1,000 yards in receiving and bringing back three punts for touchdowns as a junior. And after the strong performance in Mobile, Roberts ran fast times in the shuttle and three-cone drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, proving that the nearly 20 pounds he added since last spring hadn't hindered his quickness. And when it's all said and done, he could be a third-round pick.

Roberts took some time recently to chat with PFW about his military regimen, facing some tough competition, signing autographs and his career in accounting that might have to be put on hold as the NFL comes calling.

PFW: Your high school football coach, Jimmy Noonan, played football at The Citadel. Was he the biggest influence in you going there also?

AR: Yeah, he actually did go there, but at the end of my recruiting process, I went up to The Citadel and because both my parents were in the military, I didn't think it was going to be a big transition for me. I didn't think it was going to be too hard.

PFW: Where did your parents serve?

AR: They were both in the Army.

PFW: Are there athletic scholarships at The Citadel?

AR: Yes.

PFW: I think it's a school people don't know much about — a state-supported, public military school in Charleston, S.C. How do you describe it to people who don't know it?

AR: It's definitely different than any kind of regular college. Of course, it's a military school, but there are a lot of things that people don't understand, especially with athletes. You have the education to deal with and sports, but you also have that military aspect that adds a little bit more stress on your life there. But you learn a lot there dealing with time management because you have so many things to do there in a day.

PFW: So you don't have military obligations after school?

AR: No, I don't.

PFW: There are about 3,300 students at the school. How many of them are women?

AR: (laughs) Not many. I would probably guess … a little over a hundred.

PFW: Hard to date there?

AR: Yeah, it is. But the College of Charleston is right downtown. It's not too big of a deal.

PFW: What exactly is the "athletic cadre?"

AR: Well, athletic cadre deals with pretty much the fall sports. The athletic cadre comes in around late July and teaches all the fall-sport athletes early what they need to know as a freshman. Because the regular cadets come in about a month early and learn all the military things they need to learn before they start school. The athletic cadre, they teach you the same things, it's just that fall sports have to be there early to start training for their season, so they learn it earlier.

PFW: So you don't get out of your Hell Week then?

AR: No, sir. (laughs)

PFW: Take me through a typical day as a cadet during football season.

AR: Wake up around 6 a.m. Formation is at 7:15. Then march to breakfast. After breakfast, there class from anywhere between 8:00 and 11:50. Go to another formation at 12:05 (p.m.). March to lunch after that, then class again, anywhere from 1:00 to around 3:00. Then we have football meetings around 3:00 to 4:00. Practice from 4:00 to about 6:30. Then eat dinner. And we have an evening study period from 7:50 to 10:50. And we have to be in our rooms studying. At 11:00, it's lights out.

PFW: That makes me tired just listening to it.

AR: Yeah, it's a pretty long day.

PFW: You guys played a pretty tough schedule while you were there — Wisconsin in 2007, Clemson and Florida in 2008 and North Carolina in 2009. Do you believe you performed well enough in those games to show NFL people what you can do?

AR: Yes, I do. I think I did well enough in all four of those games, even my sophomore year playing against Wisconsin.

PFW: Was that Clemson game (9-153-1 receiving) your best performance in college considering the opponent?

AR: Yes, that was definitely one of the best games in my career.

PFW: What do you remember most about that game?

AR: A lot of big plays. Of course, I remember the loss, but a lot of big plays starting in the first quarter.

PFW: Could you outrun C.J. Spiller with pads on?

AR: Hmm, no, probably not.

PFW: At least you're honest. I don't think there are too many people who could.

AR: I don't think there are either. He's pretty fast.

PFW: Was he the best player you played against?

AR: Probably Spiller, yeah. When we played against them, he was just running away from our defense. I didn't play defense, but it was just amazing to see.

PFW: And who was the best defensive back — either at The Citadel or in Senior Bowl practices — you went up against?

AR: (Florida CB) Joe Haden, probably.

PFW: Were you matched up with him exclusively that game?

AR: The early part of the game. They took their starters out after they ended up whupping us pretty bad (70-19).

PFW: Hey, at least you hung 19 on the champs. Are you still finishing school?

AR: I graduated this past December.

PFW: Do you have a Pro Day or do you have to go to another school to work out for scouts?

AR: No, I am actually not having a Pro Day.

PFW: Was that your decision?

AR: Yeah, my agents and I talked to USC (South Carolina) and Clemson, and they wouldn't let me come; they wouldn't allow any outsiders. I guess some things happened in the past, so they wouldn't let any outsiders in. SC State, as well. So I just decided not to have a Pro Day just because my school, there's no one really coming out, so there's no Pro Day set.

PFW: A little disappointing?

AR: Yeah, it was disappointing. But I am available for any team to work me out, so that's what I will be doing.

PFW: OK, trivia question for you: Name at least three NFL players who have gone to The Citadel.

AR: Stump Mitchell, Travis Jervey and … Cliff Washburn.

PFW: Very good! I'll give you Washburn, although he never actually played an NFL game. I thought you were going to say Nehemiah Broughton first or second. (The others, in case you were wondering, were, in alphabetical order: Al Bansavage, Angelo Coia, Bobby Curtis, Pete Davidson, Greg Davis, Corey Harris, Brad Keeney, Jimmy Lesane, Paul Maguire, Andy Sabados, John Small and Byron Walker.

AR: Yep, I knew Broughton, too.

PFW: On the first day of Senior Bowl practice with everyone there watching Tim Tebow, you caught a pass in practice and got smacked by Taylor Mays but you just popped back up and headed back to the huddle. Do you remember the hit? Did you make a point of saying to yourself, "OK, get up quickly" or was it just not that big a hit?

AR: I definitely remember. It was a big hit, but I just wanted him to know and everyone else to know that I am a tough guy. I have taken shots like that in my career, so it wasn't too big of a deal. But I think it was a little bit good for both of us: I get to show my toughness, and everyone knows about his hitting ability. I think it was a plus for both of us.

PFW: I was watching next to some fans at one of the practices later in the week and after you made a great catch, they asked me, "So who is this kid from North Carolina?" They no doubt saw the powder-blue helmet. Did you look at the fact that you were somewhat of an unknown as a positive at all? A chance to show people who you were with a blank slate?

AR: I heard about that too! Did you write that or something?

PFW: I did, yeah.

AR: I think my friends or family read that or something, that I'm from North Carolina. (laughs) That was definitely my goal — to show people who I was as a player. I mean, some people knew who I was before the Senior Bowl, probably (from) some smaller schools and guys that watch smaller schools. But the majority of the people didn't know me. They probably didn't even know there was anybody coming out from The Citadel. That was definitely one thing I wanted to prove, just to fit in and excel against the big-time talent.

PFW: Did you get more attention after that? The Google hits are way up, I must say.

AR: Yeah. (laughs) I did get more hits after that. I don't really think — especially after the Combine — that I am a sleeper anymore.

PFW: That's right: You've graduated from sleeper status. I know you have spoken with a number of teams throughout this process at the Senior Bowl and the Combine. But have there been a few that have paid a little closer attention to you, do you think?

AR: Well, I have had a workout with the Cleveland Browns. And I didn't think they were showing any interest at all (before that), but I believe having individual workouts with the coaches shows that they are interested. I also have one coming up with the Patriots on Thursday.

PFW: Where was the first workout and where is the second one being held?

AR: The Citadel, which is nice.

PFW: Quick hitters … best movie you saw this year?

AR: Umm … I haven't watched too many movies. (long pause) Maybe I could just say "Valentine's Day."

PFW: Are you serious?

AR: (laughs) It was pretty good!

PFW: Tell me your girlfriend dragged you there. That's the only reason I went.

AR: Yeah, my girlfriend. It was interesting — a lot of different stories.

PFW: What does she think of this whole NFL thing?

AR: She's not overwhelmed by it. She's just taking it all in stride, just like I am. Praying and hoping everything goes well.

PFW: Last song you heard on your iPod?

AR: Trey Songz, "Neighbors Know My Name."

PFW: Facebook or Twitter?

AR: Facebook.

PFW: What kind of car do you drive?

AR: A Honda Civic, 2007.

PFW: Favorite sport to watch on TV other than football?

AR: Basketball.

PFW: College or pro?

AR: College.

PFW: Who's in your Final Four?

AR: Uh, I picked four teams, but I don't know if I'll keep them just yet. I have Kansas winning it all.

PFW: You're killing me, man. I am a Missouri guy.

AR: I don't want them to win. I actually want Syracuse to win. But I don't know. They have lost the last two games.

PFW: Favorite sport to play other than football?

AR: Also basketball.

PFW: Could you have played in college? Point guard maybe?

AR: No, I stopped playing my sophomore year (of high school).

PFW: Do you remember the first autograph you signed?

AR: Yeah, I do remember the first one. It was back in college, we did this little camp held by our running backs coach out in Mount Pleasant (S.C.). A bunch of little kids were working the camp. (laughs) Nobody really knew who you were, but you were in college, so …

PFW: They were just happy to have someone's autograph. Your favorite meal that Mom makes?

AR: Probably her lasagna.

PFW: Considering your accounting degree, what career would you be planning for if it wasn't for football?

AR: I don't know because I plan on getting my CPA when I get done with football, but I liked auditing when I was in school. Most of the time you're not behind a desk; you're going out and searching for stuff with just a little bit behind a desk. It's the nature of the job, I guess.

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