Pennridge’s Roberts On Rebound for Pittsburgh
Published in the September 2nd Bucks County Herald
The 2009 football season didn’t exactly go as planned for Tristan Roberts.
The 6’1” 235 pound former Pennridge star worked his way up the depth chart for Pittsburgh: impressing the coaches in 2007 as a redshirt freshman on the scout team. Appearing in every Panther game in 2008.
Shoulder surgery forced Roberts to sit out all of 2009. But the Will (weakside) linebacker is healthy, stronger and ready to play in 2010.
Even if it means adjusting to a different boss. New coach Bernard Clark, Jr is the third linebackers coach during Roberts’ time at Pitt.
“The idea of how we should be playing has changed, but not to a great extent,” Roberts explained. “We have a little bit of change as far as respecting the run versus the pass. We’re trying to get used to that because some of us are still doing the old things. We get the corrections during film. (Clark) knows that that is why we’re doing that, but we have some habits to break from the old coach.”
Pitt lost five defensive starters on a team that finished last season 10-3, ranked 15th in the AP poll. At least one major prognosticator, Phil Steele, is predicting the Panthers to win the Big East.
“This should again be one of the top linebacking units in the Big East,” Steele wrote in his College Football Preview.
“My class is the oldest class out of the linebackers,” the fourth year junior Roberts pointed out, “so we’re trying to be leaders and get the defense going. The few people we lost were big but we feel like we ought to pick up where we left off.”
Roberts’ Panthers open the season with a bang. They travel to Utah- who is also in the preseason top 25- for their September 2nd opener. Roberts is ready to contribute.
He did more than contribute for coach Randy Cuthbert at Pennridge. Roberts ran for almost 1,600 yards and scored 13 touchdowns as a senior running back. He made All-Suburban One League on offense and defense. The Maxwell Club awarded him a Mini-Max while Scout.com rated him as one of the Keystone State’s top 50 prospects.
If Roberts needed any gridiron inspiration, he could just go to a family reunion. His father Richard’s cousins include Tim Lewis and Louis Riddick. Riddick spent eight years in the NFL while Lewis coaches the Seattle Seahawks’ secondary. The Roberts family tree includes several other NFL vets.
“A lot of their parents still live around Quakertown so they are always in town visiting them,” said Roberts on his cousins. “I used to talk to them when I was real young.”
But Dad remained Roberts’ most significant coach. “Even though my Dad never got to the NFL, he is the oldest of the cousins. He is the one who started playing football and got all of them to play football,” Roberts explained. “He was the big influence who got me into football and he would be the one giving me the side notes during midget football.
“Sometimes he would talk to his cousins and get some insight- when I was getting recruited for instance. There were times when they’d say ‘The recruiter said this, so that probably means this.’ He helped me make a good decision as far as where to go and how to stay focused.”
Roberts’ academic record may be more impressive than his family’s gridiron accomplishments. A chemical engineering major, Roberts was named to the 2008 Big East All-Academic Football team. He was a National Honor Society member and a Distinguished Honor Roll student at Pennridge.
“I was interested in chemistry in high school so I thought about being a Chemistry major,” Roberts offered, “but then I saw Chem E so I decided that. I have a weird schedule relative to the rest of the kids in my classes.
“I always have a lab every semester, but that isn’t a problem. It’s when I have labs for other classes, such as a chemistry class that isn’t an engineering class. Those can be four hours. We have Mondays off, so on Monday I’ll be in the lab from 1 to 5. On my day off, I’d prefer not to do that,” he chuckled.
He preferred not to have needed surgery either, but Roberts attacked rehab with the same ferocity as he studies molecular compounds.
“I want to get back into it and actively contribute this year,” Roberts declared. “The last season I actually played, I was on special teams so I want to actually contribute on defense to a high extent.”
“Probably one of the bigger things was watching the guys in my class,” he noted about his motivation through the long rehabilitation process. “A lot of them got to play and contribute so I thought ‘I should be out there.’
“That makes you work harder. As far as the rehab itself, it’s pretty hard not to be motivated. We rehab with our strength coach Buddy Morris and he makes sure you’re motivated. There is no way to just go through the motions with him. He wants you to get back and be better than you were even before the injury.”
Concluded Roberts, “That’s how I feel I came out. I feel like I’m stronger than before I got hurt.”
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