Roberts found everything he wanted at The Citadel

Andre Roberts hangs out on Military Appreciation Day at Redskins Camp

Andre Roberts hangs out on Military Appreciation Day at Redskins Camp

PAUL WOODY
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014 11:14 pm

The easy way has no appeal to Andre Roberts. He chose to attend The Citadel and play football. The Citadel bills itself as “The Military College of South Carolina.” You don’t go there for the parties or the football. Middle Tennessee State University, which plays major college football, and Coastal Carolina, which, like The Citadel, plays a level below the FBS schools, offered Roberts scholarships. They came with no military environment attached.

Instead, Roberts chose The Citadel. “Both my parents were in the military, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world,” Roberts said of attending and graduating from The Citadel. Roberts wanted a degree, and he got one in accounting. “Football isn’t forever,” he said. “I understood that.” He wanted to play pro football, and he earned that opportunity as well. He was taken by Arizona in the third round of the 2010 draft.

When he hit the free agent market after the 2013 season, the Washington Redskins signed him. Roberts is an example for players in the NFL and those who hope to be in the NFL. Take advantage of every opportunity on the field — Roberts played well against Clemson and Florida, two powerful major college programs. Also take advantage of the academic opportunities.

Roberts graduated in 31/2 years because he was willing to go to summer school — 12 credit hours one summer, nine in another. He has options in his life and has shown his ability to adapt to new situations. “I was born in Alaska, lived in Texas and we settled in South Carolina,” Roberts said.

His father served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. When Roberts and his brother were in middle school, his parents were assigned to duty in South Korea. Roberts and his brother lived with their grandparents in the Virgin Islands for a year. Roberts’ father retired as a command sergeant major. His mother retired as a first sergeant. His father teaches the Junior ROTC program at a Darlington, S.C., high school, about an hour from home in Columbia, S.C. His mother works at Fort Jackson army base in Columbia.

Roberts felt at home Sunday at Redskins training camp. It was Military Appreciation Day. Roberts, though, never had aspirations to serve in the military, which makes his decision to attend The Citadel even more interesting. “It really wasn’t about how hard or how easy it could have been,” Roberts said. “I think I made the right decision for school and discipline. It helped keep me in line and do what I needed to do to finish. “It probably helped me get where I am today.”

Well, maybe. But having excellent speed, soft hands and the ability to set up blocks probably played a larger role than going through the grind of life at the military school in Charleston, S.C. In four seasons with Arizona, Roberts caught 182 passes — an average of 45 per season — for 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Redskins signed him to a four-year, $16 million contract.

The Redskins like all that Roberts can do. “He’s taking the first snaps at punt and kickoff returner, but that’s not etched in stone,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s proven he can play every position on offense at the receiver spot — X, Z and Zebra. He’s doing a great job. “We had every intention of him being the No. 2 receiver. DeSean (Jackson) fell in our lap so now he (Roberts) is going to play inside (in the slot), which speaks to his versatility.”

If Roberts is bothered by the addition of Jackson, he doesn’t show it. Roberts goes through training camp with an ever-present smile. He makes it clear he wants to return punts and kickoffs and help whenever and wherever he can on offense. No one glides through any military school. Instead, Roberts went through a demanding college experience with a purpose.

“I always had aspirations to go to the NFL, and I knew my mom wouldn’t let me out of school before I finished,” he said. “So I took the summer classes.” Nothing is easy about any of that. But the effort has paid handsomely

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