by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
In much the same way he slipped past would-be tacklers, Andre Roberts may have slipped past national media attention this year. Despite playing at a smaller school like The Citadel, however, scouts took notice of the prolific receiver and invited him to the NFL combine being held this weekend.
While talking with PD last week, Roberts discussed his strict schedule off the field and his myriad abilities on it.
I was wondering if you could start out by explaining what The Citadel is. I’m not sure if people really understand how that institution works.
From what aspect?
In terms of its military affiliation.
Okay. It’s a military college in South Carolina. We’ve got to wear uniforms every day to class, wake up early, around six or seven in the morning, have formations. We’ve got to learn how to march, do rifle drills. Pretty much anything a military person would do in the Army, Navy, anything like that. You have to learn all of that, while juggling school and, as a football player, juggling sports.
Now, in terms of after college, are there any military obligations, or is it really, that’s the way that the school is structured, and that’s the real affiliation?
No, there are no military requirements. While you attend the school, you can contract in the military, whatever branch you want to go into. But no, there is no military requirement for every student at the base.
I know you’re from South Carolina. Was that the big draw to The Citadel, or were there other factors?
No, not at all. There were definitely other factors. One – when I went there – the coaches. I liked the coaches when I went on my visit. And I didn’t really want to do a military thing, but I know structure (would help)… Even though both my parents were in the military, they really didn’t have any influence on my decision at all. Like I said, I didn’t even want to be in the military, so that didn’t really attract me to the school. But the coaching staff, and the offense they were running – they were running a spread option offense – you know, every receiver who likes how they throw the ball can fit in that offense. And the education. Being from The Citadel, having a Citadel ring, means a lot to people in the South. You know, in South Carolina, if you have the Citadel ring and you wear it around, if somebody notices it, you can get a job.
What other schools were you looking at?
When it came down to it, me going to college and my recruiting process, it came down to the end, there was just The Citadel and Coastal (Carolina). I had some Division II schools and some other D-I schools like Liberty, but when it came down to it (it was) between Coastal and Citadel. And I knew – I took a visit to both schools – but I knew that, right after I took my visit to Coastal Carolina, I wanted to go to The Citadel.
What set Citadel apart?
One thing was, going to Coastal Carolina, I would have been by the beach, and I don’t know if I would have finished school. I mean, without all the structure and stuff to keep me on track. Coming out of high school, I don’t know if I would have finished. But, pretty much, that’s what set it apart, knowing that I was going to have that structure and a little bit more to help me finish school.
Now, are you still in school, are you still getting that structure, or are you trying to find it outside of school?
No, I’m done with school. I graduated this past December; I graduated three-and-a-half years. I’m done: I graduated in my accounting degree, and I’m ready to move on.
An accounting degree?
I have no concept of why you would want to go into accounting, but we don’t have to talk about that if you don’t want to.
(Laughs.) I’m a numbers guy. I wanted to be in accounting.
Well, I’m glad one of us is. In terms of football – you started your freshman year, is that correct?
Yes, I did start my freshman year.
And was it a situation where you felt like you were a big part of the offense right away, or did you have to kind of grow into it?
Oh, I felt like I was a big part of the offense right away. I was actually the leading receiver my freshman year, and midway through the season I started at punt returner as well, so I felt like I was a big part of the team.
Speaking of punt returning, what is the secret to that? I always like to ask punt returners what they think the most important aspect of that skill is.
The most important part is catching the ball, because punt return and kick return, there’s a big difference. On punt return, you have to learn to follow the ball on left-footed or right-footed kickers, and they can come in any way: spiral, ducks, or anything like that. The hardest thing – and the most important thing – is catching the ball first. And your second most important part is making the first man miss.
And do you go into that situation with any specific move in mind, or do you have to adapt to what’s in front of you?
You just have to adapt to what you see in front of you, do it on the fly.
Tell me about running the ball. Most receivers don’t really get to do that much, but you’ve done it several times. What are the situations like that during the game, and how have you found success doing that?
Running the ball is kind of like receiving, it’s just – there are a lot more people before you get to open space. The most I did was running sweeps and running out of the Wildcat formation, getting the direct snap. But there is a bit of difference, because you have to read where the blockers are coming from, and they come a lot quicker. As a receiver, you just run the route. You know exactly what you’re going to do: after the quarterback throws you the ball you’ve got to catch it and get upfield.
For the Senior Bowl, you gained some weight since the fall. Was that something that you wanted to do to impress scouts, or was it something that you felt like you needed to play at the next level?
Oh, I felt like I needed that to play at the next level. Gaining more weight makes you more durable; you can take hits. That’s a big part of why I gained my weight, just to have me be more durable and be able to take shots from the bigger guys.
And how was your Senior Bowl experience overall?
It was fun. I enjoyed it. I got a lot of work in, and had a lot of fun, and I think I impressed some scouts out there.
Yeah, it seems like you got a lot of press during that week, that you fit right in. Was that the type of thing where you felt like you played really well, or you felt like people were just catching on to someone who’s always been at that level?
A little bit of both. I felt like I did real well while I was there, but I felt like I’ve been doing well in college altogether, just with my stats and my ability to play all four years, do receiver and punt return, and do versatile things like coming out of the backfield. So I felt like both, really.
Did you feel like there was a big leap in competition at the Senior Bowl that week, or did you feel comfortable with it from the start?
I felt comfortable with it from the start. It was definitely hard competition, but I’ve played against big-name guys and big teams. I’ve played against Wisconsin, Clemson, Florida, North Carolina in the past few years, so I understood what it was going to be like going in.
And what’s your favorite thing to do? Do you like going out for a long pass? Do you like getting the ball on a bubble screen? Punt return? What do you think is your favorite way to advance the ball?
(Laughs.) Well, I really think I love all of them, but I’ll say this: probably catching a short pass, making a few guys miss and taking it upfield for a nice gain.
What kind of numbers are you thinking about putting up for the combine?
For every event?
Well, let’s just say for the 40 and the shuttles.
For the 40, I plan on putting up a 4.4 (seconds), anywhere from mid to low 4.4s I plan on doing. The 5-10-5 (20-yard shuttle), that’s anywhere between 4.0, 3.9. And the 3-cone drill, around 6.7.
And are these times that you’ve been getting, or you’re just judging by how you’ve been running them in practice?
Yes, I have gotten all of these times before. So, it’s just a matter of doing them at the combine.
That sounds good. I wish you a lot of luck, Andre, and thank you a lot for talking with us today.
All right. Have a good night.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andre helped himself at the NFL combine, finishing as a top performer in the 40 (4.46 seconds), the broad jump (10 feet), and the 3-cone drill (6.77 seconds).
The Globe reports that Roberts did some on-field work for the Patriots.
Roberts was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 3rd round (88 overall).