Tyler Roberson has carved out a role on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team doing anything he can to help the Mocs win. He's spent time on the kickoff-coverage and kickoff-return teams while potentially being two snaps away from starting at quarterback.
Roberson has been active as a versatile member of the team, doing as he calls it, "whatever makes the team better." The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder from Marietta, Ga., knows about versatility, playing both quarterback and safety at Augusta Christian in a four-year career in which he threw for more than 5,700 yards and for 49 touchdowns. He ran for 1,018 yards and 14 scores in his senior season alone.
He said Thursday that when he was in high school he would call a running play early in the game, just to get hit and get his blood flowing. At UTC he's primarily worn the red "no-contact" jerseys associated with quarterbacks, but he shed that last week in the scrimmage, finishing with 30 yards on a game-high nine carries.
"Being in college and always having a red jersey on you, you miss a little bit of the contact every now and then, so it's good to bring back the actual nature of the sport," he said.
He was back in the white jersey in Wednesday's practice at Scrappy Moore Field, and he earned high praise from UTC coach Russ Huesman with his ability to run the offense.
"We wanted to have the ability to defend the quarterback, and Tyler can run the offense and execute, and he's a good runner, so it gave us an opportunity to defend a running quarterback, which we'll face quite a bit this year," Huesman said before Thursday's practice. "He did a nice job, ran the offense very well and made some plays with his feet.
"We got out of yesterday's live period what we wanted to, and it was probably because of Tyler."
It's been that team-first approach that has made Roberson valuable. He spends time as a backup on punt coverage and punt return in addition to his duties with the kickoff teams, but he has to maintain quarterback focus during instructional periods. He becomes the guy should injuries take down senior Jacob Huesman and sophomore backup Alejandro Bennifield.
"There's not many reps to go around being a third-string guy, so it all comes down to your mental approach," Roberson said. "You have to make sure as they're getting reps with the team, that I'm into it mentally, making sure I'd know what I was supposed to be doing if I got in there, because I am two snaps away. It comes down to how I prepare, mentally and getting in the film room. I can't get down on myself, thinking I can't be used at quarterback and getting frustrated with the position. You've got to keep a positive attitude mentally and keep telling yourself that you are two snaps away.
"It seems like you won't get in, but it does happen and has happened in the past, so when it comes to practice, I'm making sure I'm paying attention and not daydreaming or talking to somebody beside me, but making sure whatever Jacob and Alejandro are doing that I can do the same thing and at the same level."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.