Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cornerback Tre Roberson is Embracing the "Underdog Role" in Minnesota

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Undrafted cornerback Tre Roberson is embracing the underdog role with the Minnesota Vikings. Daniel House shares Roberson's journey to the NFL and highlights his early success during training camp.

Updated: August 3rd, 2016 2:05pm

By: Daniel House

Undrafted rookie cornerback Tre Roberson has never been the underdog. His football path led him from the Big Ten, to the Missouri Valley Conference (FCS), and now, to the NFL. He’s never faced the steep climb of being an undrafted rookie in the NFL. It is a challenge the young cornerback is embracing.

As a freshman at Indiana University, Roberson was one of five candidates competing for the starting quarterback job. He lost the job to Edward Wright-Baker and was listed as the third-string quarterback on the depth chart. During his sophomore year, Roberson played sporadically at quarterback until he broke his leg. He rehabbed the injury and returned to the field the next season. Following his return, Indiana had established a quarterback-by-committee and Roberson split duties with Nate Sudfeld. As a dual-threat quarterback, Roberson threw for 1,128 yards and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for 423 yards and five scores. Before his redshirt junior season, Roberson transferred to the Illinois State Redbirds of the Missouri Valley Conference (FCS). He was eligible immediately and started two seasons at quarterback. In 2015, Roberson threw for 2,225 yards, 18 touchdowns, nine interceptions. He also added 11 scores on the ground. Most notably, he led Illinois State to the FCS Championship Game in 2014.

At the end of his college career, Roberson wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and went undrafted. To show his versatile skill-set on the defensive side of the ball, Roberson worked out as a defensive back at the Illinois State pro-day. He didn’t receive any initial interest as an undrafted free agent, but came to a tryout for the Minnesota Vikings. Following the workout, the Vikings offered Roberson a contract.

He was quickly thrust into a new position as he transitioned to the NFL level. Under the coaching of defensive backs coach Jerry Gray and head coach Mike Zimmer, Roberson is making the positon change less noticeable. Early in camp, Roberson has added over five passes defensed in various drills and jumps out as a player the Vikings may develop for the future. His size, athleticism, and intelligence are all attributes that can be expanded upon by the coaching staff.

In an interview after practice, Tre Roberson said he hadn’t played defensive back since elementary school. However, he feels the transition to a new position has went well.

“It is going pretty good,” explained Roberson. “I’m excited about the position change. Nothing like going out and playing football instead of being the quarterback now. I’m learning a lot and I think I’m doing pretty good.”

When Mike Zimmer met the undrafted cornerback, he and Roberson found a connection. They both attended college at Illinois State University. Roberson was excited to unite with a fellow Redbird who has a strong history of developing cornerbacks in the NFL.

“It’s exciting [to be in Minnesota] because [Mike Zimmer] is an Illinois State alum and I went to Illinois State. It’s a great scheme. It fits me perfectly playing corner and I’m just happy to be here,” Roberson said.

During Mike Zimmer’s press conference, he was asked about the development of Roberson and his transition to the defensive side of the ball.

Zimmer said the position change for Roberson has gone “amazingly” well.

Zimmer noted, “He does some things that are very natural for a guy that has never played corner before. Just watching him back pedal and break. He’s still got tons to learn. As far as athletically, when you are used to playing quarterback and now you are backpedaling and trying to learn defensive schemes and coverages -- I think he has done really good.”

Playing defensive back isn’t foreign to Tre Roberson as his grandfather, Larry Highbaugh, is in the CFL Hall of Fame. Highbaugh spent 12 seasons in the CFL with the British Columbia Lions and Edmonton Eskimos. Highbaugh holds the Edmonton Eskimos career interception and longest/kick punt return records.

As he transitions to the NFL, Roberson has spent time watching tape of his grandfather and New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. He uses film to diagnose areas where he can improve his technique and football skills.

“Right now, I’ve been watching a lot of Darrelle Revis and also my grandfather. He’s in the CFL Hall of Fame playing defensive back – Larry Highbaugh. I watched him a couple times and his old videos and stuff like that,” Roberson explained.

Aside from those two influences, Roberson has learned the nuances of playing defensive back from 14-year veteran Terence Newman. Newman and other defensive backs on the roster have mentored Roberson as he adjusts to the new position.

“I’m always talking to [Terence Neman] and always asking him questions,” Roberson said. “Also, all the other corners too. Everyone is always trying to get me in the right position and give me tips.”

Roberson played in an FCS Championship, won quarterback jobs frequently, but nothing equals adjusting to a new position and being the underdog. Roberson is embracing the underrated label and uses it as motivation.

“I’ve never been a player that has really been an underdog and counted out. Now I’m in that situation, so I’m just going to push harder and show people what I’ve got,” Roberson smiled.

Early in camp, Tre Roberson has flashed his skills, but an impressive training camp performance might lead him to a small role with the team.

No matter what happens, Roberson is embracing the underdog role with the Minnesota Vikings.


  1. Nice story! Great to hear about someone a bit more under the radar.

  2. That FCS championship was won by NDSU in the final minute of the game. Wentz marched them right down the field for the score. That's the series that showed he was the real deal...