The running back hunter
UB safety Tim Roberts brings his southern roots to Buffalo
He sits with his fishing pole waiting on his big catch of the day. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees an alligator standing on the bank of the water. He closes in. And snatches the gator up.
He sits behind the defense, waiting on the ball to come his way. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a running back coming around the tackles. He puts on his best Troy Polamalu impersonation and starts hunting. He pursues him around the edge until collision becomes inevitable. And then, he levels the hit on the running back.
He is Tim Roberts, a starting senior safety for the UB Bulls. He hails from Des Allemands, a small town in southeast Louisiana with a population of about 2,500 people. He was a standout three-sport athlete at Hahnville High School.
The small town product had a long journey to Buffalo but he’s leaned on his faith, family-values and country upbringing to help him keep moving forward.
“I was a very outside type of person, I was going outside in my bare feet going to catch lizards, frogs, country-living man,” Roberts said. “A bayou is one minute up the road, me and my guys go swimming in the bayou, go hunting, fishing, you name it, just an outdoor type of life.”
That bayou is where Roberts found the foot-long baby alligator he caught. Plenty of parents worry that their child will randomly try to bring home a kitten or puppy. For Roberts’ mom, Yvette, she came home to a gator inside.
“He had a frog the size of your head and that got out in the house,” Yvette said. “He had snakes, he had so many pets and he loved every one of his pets but that alligator is the one that had to go. Snakes I could deal with but that alligator got out and we searched and searched and I ended up saying ‘hey, he has to go.’”
Roberts comes from a tight-knit family unit that includes his mother, father and two brothers. Paul, his father, said church and family dinners together brought them closer. Religion has always been a huge part of Roberts' life. His mother Yvette said Roberts took to church early and she never had to drag him there. God is intertwined with everything the family does.
“Everything I do now is for my family,” Roberts said. “Just going out there each and every day. I have a why, that’s my why, my family and my future family, I do it for them, my biggest motivation is them.”
Family is his driving force, but football is his passion. After being a star for Hahnville, Roberts didn’t receive any scholarship offers for Division I. He was forced to head to California where he played junior college football for Fullerton College.
Yvette said Roberts was disappointed and frustrated at first, but she also saw it motivated him. Roberts' willingness to go after his goal of playing Division I football impressed Bulls head coach Lance Leipold. Leipold said that was big factor in what led to his recruitment.
“He was a young man that was physical, could run and hit,” said Bulls head coach Lance Leipold. “A young man from just outside of New Orleans, going all the way to Fullerton, California to come to Buffalo. Football was definitely something that he was passionate about, it’s important to him, as well as getting his degree so we knew we had ourselves a special young man.”
But Yvette was hesitant when Roberts first said the Bulls coaches were coming to visit him. All through high school, she made sure Roberts placed a high value on academics.
“Academics was first and foremost,” Yvette said. “I would have yanked him off the team if his grades had fallen but he made sure that they didn't.”
Roberts valued academics and was on honor roll all four years at Hahnville. Between his experience in junior college football and growing up in a small town, Roberts knows how important his education is for life after football.
“My momma motivated me to get Bs and As and I really hold myself to nothing less,” Roberts said. “I know what I can do, I mean, I’m not the smartest kid in the world but I always apply myself. I always did the work, always did the extra work, always stayed up studying and just like football I'm trying to get more intelligent on the field by studying and applying myself each and every day.”
The UB coaches flew to Louisiana to speak with Yvette and Roberts and assured them that his academics would be valued. Yvette said she was still hesitant but after praying on it with Tim and the rest of the family, she decided “he needed to follow his heart.”
Roberts' goal is to play in the NFL, but he knows he needs a backup plan. He doesn’t want to squander all the work he’s done to be here at Buffalo and he knows that his degree will open doors.
“I grew up with so many people that are nothing now basically just walking the streets and doing nothing with their life and this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I’m gonna put my foot forward and keep going till I can't go no more," Roberts said.
Daniel Petruccelli is the Co-Senior sports editor and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org