Getting to know Tre Roberson, former ISU quarterback turned Bears DB

Getting to know Tre Roberson, former ISU quarterback turned Bears DB
Former Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson is now a Bears' defensive back. (photo courtesy Illinois State University)

After a standout season as one of the top defensive backs in the Canadian Football League, Tre Roberson signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears last month.

According to a Tribune report by Brad Biggs, Roberson worked out for 12 NFL teams since the start of January and had contract offers from nine of them. Roberson's reported contract is a two-year, $1.235 million deal ($215,000 of which is guaranteed).

So who exactly is the 27-year-old Roberson being brought in to add depth to a position the Bears are lacking?

Get to know more about this former Illinois State quarterback (who began his career at Indiana University) in the following excerpt from Illinois State Redbirds Football, the historical chronicle of the program's history published by NIU Press.


Tre Roberson just may be the player who put Illinois State football over the top.

“Was he the missing piece? That argument is certainly valid because he brings a totally different dimension to the offense in what defenses have to account for,” said Kevin Capie, formerly of the Peoria Journal-Star. But at the same time, by his own admission, he never really settled in and got comfortable in that offense until Roberson transferred to ISU from the University of Indiana as a redshirt junior."

In 2011, he became the first true freshman in IU history to start and just the second the play.

(cfl.ca photo)

(cfl.ca photo)

However, a broken leg in the second game of the 2012 season forced Roberson to take a medical redshirt. Roberson returned the following season and appeared in all 12 Hoosier games, including a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week performance against archrival Purdue.

Welcome to Normal

Faced with the likelihood of splitting time at quarterback for the 2014 season, Roberson made the decision to leave Indiana. ISU head coach Brock Spack, who had recruited Roberson when the quarterback starred at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, viewed the 6-foot, 205-pounder as a difference maker.

“Tre did everything that he was recruited to do. He was a very good game manager. He threw the ball well. He made big plays in the passing game. He threw the short ball really well. He made plays with his feet. He was a handful to defend today and that’s why you got him,” Spack said following the conference-clinching win over Southern Illinois.

Redbird reaction & playoff run

“Tre puts the ball on the money. We do it all the time in practice. All I have to do is get a step and he can get it there,” said ISU teammate Lechein Neblett. “(Running back) Marshaun (Coprich) does a great job setting us up and it’s our job to finish and make plays.”

Former pro and college football coach turned radio analyst Ted Schmitz added, “Tre is a competitor and very explosive runner and has developed into a very good deep passer. He throws a really good deep ball.”

Roberson proved to be a complete player down the stretch. Against SIU, Roberson threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 94 and one TD.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference selected Roberson as its Newcomer of the Year and as its first team quarterback.

(Illinois State University photo)

(Illinois State University photo)

In the Redbirds’ 41–21 victory over Northern Iowa in the second round of the FCS playoffs, Roberson lit up the UNI defense to the tune of 382 passing yards and four touchdowns. A week later, he passed for 208 yards and ran for 62. Roberson also tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another score as ISU knocked off Eastern Washington, the nation’s No. 4ranked team, on its home field.

UNI head coach Mark Farley told Craig Haley of The Sports Network, “What I’d say about Illinois State is their quarterback is exceptional. He makes it all work at Illinois State. The running back (Coprich) is great and they’ve got a big offensive line and they’ve got a couple of real tall receivers, but the quarterback is really the trigger. His ability to run, his ability to make a bad play into a great play, he has those capabilities. That’s what makes them as dangerous as they are, it makes them the caliber of team they are right now.”

Roberson was again on top of his game against No. 1 seed New Hampshire in the national semifinals. The junior completed 18-of-31 passes for 278 yards while rushing for 95 more on 12 carries. His 47-yard touchdown dash provided the game winner for the Redbirds.

“I really didn’t have to do much but run straight,” Roberson told reporters afterward. “Our offensive line cleaned up the hole and Marshaun (Coprich) led me through, so my job was easy.”

Near national championship

Roberson nearly trumped his heroics with an encore in the FCS Championship game in Frisco, Texas. Roberson raced for a 58-yard touchdown with 1:38 left on the clock to give ISU a 27–23 lead.

Unfortunately for the Redbirds, North Dakota State scored what proved to be the game winner with 37 seconds remaining on a run by future Philadelphia Eagle Carson Wentz.

Roberson, no doubt hurt by some uncharacteristic drops by receivers in the first half, was only 11-for-23 for 157 yards in the title game. However, the junior did throw three touchdown passes and ran for a career-high 161 yards.

“He’s a difference maker for sure,” said Schmitz.

Roberson battled injuries during his senior season yet helped lead the Redbirds to a second consecutive MVFC championship. The dual-threat quarterback accomplished much in his two seasons with ISU. Roberson ranks fifth in career passing yards (5,446), fifth in touchdown passes (48), fourth in total offense (7,252) and first in rushing yards by a quarterback (1,806).

“He goes down as one of the all-time greats to play the quarterback postion here,” said Schmitz.

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