Roberson aiming high in sophomore season with Stampeders
In the eyes of most people who watched the Calgary Stampeders closely last season, there was little doubt that Tre Roberson should have been the West Division’s nominee for CFL Most Outstanding Rookie.
The nomination ultimately went to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Jordan Williams-Lambert, and Roberson didn’t waste much time complaining about the snub.
He had a Grey Cup to win, after all.
Asked Thursday if it still bothered him, Roberson just smiled.
“A little bit,” the 26-year-old said. “But defensive player of the year, I want that.”
That’s a lofty goal, especially because the only defensive back ever to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award is Jovon Johnson, who collected the post-season honours in 2011.
But being ambitious is not a bad thing for any football player, and Roberson’s role with the Stampeders has certainly grown bigger.
In 2018, Roberson earned the starting boundary cornerback job for the Stampeders in training camp. He was a quarterback in college and had a lot to learn, but emerged as a key piece of the league’s best defence by season’s end.
Roberson finished 2018 with 54 defensive tackles and three interceptions.
Then, in the Grey Cup, he came up huge. Roberson finished the game with five defensive tackles, a forced fumble, three knockdowns and an interception that essentially sealed the championship for the Stampeders.
With or without the Most Outstanding Rookie Award to his name, Roberson finished 2018 on a high and that means that expectations have been raised for his sophomore CFL season.
“Just continue to grow, that’s it,” said Stamps defensive backs coach Josh Bell. “I believe he was potentially one of the guys who could have been Grey Cup (Most Outstanding Players), so this year just continue the growth in all aspects of the game.”
So far at camp, Roberson cuts a very different figure than he did last year when he was just a fresh-faced rookie competing for a job.
The Stamps defensive backs group lost starters Ciante Evans, Emanuel Davis and both Tunde Adeleke and Adam Berger — who split time at safety — so against all odds, Roberson is the third-most experienced DB in this year’s group behind Jamar Wall and Brandon Smith.
During training camp practises this week, the Illinois State product is constantly talking with newcomers and trying to help them adapt to the nuances of the Stampeders defence.
He looks more like a veteran than most second-year players do and seems to be embracing the added responsibility.
“Naturally, I just do that. I’ve got that quarterback background, so I’m naturally that type of person and I want to win,” Roberson said. “In order to win, everybody and especially the secondary has to be on point.
“I’m just making sure that when guys ask me questions I’m giving them the best answer and in film I’m always trying to show the right way to do it. That’s it, just continue to do what I do.”
That’s all the Stamps are asking of Roberson, too. There isn’t one particular thing his coaches want to see him improve on. They just want to see him continue putting in the work he did all of last year and throughout the off-season, which he spent in Calgary.
“To be honest, he broke the team down today,” said Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson. “He’s working. He’s been here the entire off-season, expecting baby No. 2 (a daughter). He’s excited to build.
“You’ve got to remember, he’s another guy, he was a quarterback, so he’s still learning. You can see the improvement week to week with him understanding route concepts. Josh Bell is doing a nice job letting him have freedom but making sure he plays within the system. Our leaders in the back end are still going to be Smitty and Wall, but we need that young blood to take ownership and he’s doing it.”
HERGY HERE TO STAY
Hergy Mayala is going to be sticking around this season.
There’s not much intrigue there, the Stamps drafted him with their first-round pick in this year’s CFL Draft and he’s going to be part of the team in some capacity.
The question is how much he’s going to play.
With Lemar Durant leaving in free-agency this season, there’s an open Canadian receiver spot in the starting lineup.
Julan Lynch and Richard Sindani are competing for it, as well, but Mayala should be in contention for a lot of playing time, too.
“Oh definitely, getting drafted that high. I think if they drafted me that high it’s because they feel like I’m ready to go,” Mayala said. “It’s my job to come here every day and get ready so whenever it comes, I’m ready.”