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Tre Roberson becomes 1st true freshman quarterback to start for IU football team


IU quarterback Tre Roberson runs the ball against Illinois on Octcober 8 at Memorial Stadium. Chet Strange Buy Photos

The sophomore wearing number 13 trotted onto the field and proceeded to lead the Bears’ offense to a 28-point second half and a victory.
The year was 2008, and the quarterback was Tre Roberson.

“He’s just always a quarterback,” West said. “He was kind of a point guard in basketball, too. He’s just that kind of kid. He wants the ball in his hands. He wants to do something with it. We obliged him.”

On Saturday, three years after being thrust into the starting role at Lawrence Central, Roberson became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for IU since true freshmen became eligible in 1972.

Roberson earned the title of Mr. Football in his senior season in 2010, throwing for 2,611 yards, 24 touchdowns versus four interceptions and rushing for 1,992 yards and 21 touchdowns.

“He’s elusive, and he’s got a live arm,” West said. “He’s the best of both worlds, in
my opinion.”

Prior to his 2010 campaign, Roberson had committed to IU, and when he enrolled, he became the first Mr. Football in Indiana to attend IU since Earl Haniford in 1995.

Roberson followed in the footsteps of grandfather Larry Highbaugh, who played defensive back at IU from 1968-71 and eventually became a Canadian Football League Hall of Famer.

There was never a doubt that Roberson would end up a Hoosier, West said. Co-Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach Rod Smith had no problems keeping Roberson at IU even after coaching changes.

“When I got hired in January, I recruited one kid,” Smith said. “That was him. That’s all I had, so I spent my entire effort making sure he was happy, and I know Coach Wilson liked him as well.”

In the first round of the 2010 Indiana High School Athletic Association playoffs, the Bears took on defending champion Warren Central, coached by John Hart, who said he had been impressed with Roberson before.

“The thing that’s unique about him (is) not only does he have the incredible athletic skills,” Hart said. “I thought he could make all throws, and he did versus us.”

Roberson accounted for 295 total yards and five touchdowns in the game, eventually leading the Bears to the 5A state championship game against Fishers.

Hart drew comparisons between Roberson’s skill set and that of current Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Smith, who coached Robinson at Michigan, sees a few differences.

“They’re on different planes,” Smith said. “They’re different kids. Tre’s not as fast or explosive as Denard is, but Tre might have a little more poise. He might have a little more moxie to him, in terms of the quarterback position.”

The true freshman, who changed his number to 5 this season, played sparingly through the team’s first seven games. True freshman wide receiver Cody Latimer, who developed a sense of chemistry with Roberson during the summer, said Roberson’s elusiveness makes life easier for his receivers.

“He makes big plays, even when he’s in trouble,” Latimer said. “The play never ends with Tre, because he rolls out and gets out of it, breaks tackles and he can still get you the ball.”

Roberson put those talents to use against the 5-2 Hawkeyes last Saturday, completing 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. It won’t be the yards or the touchdown that he will remember most from his first start, he said.

“I’m going to remember just going out there and having fun and just playing the game and letting the game play me,” Roberson said.

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