By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
Having grown up with both parents serving in the U.S. Army, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver and return specialist, Andre’ Roberts, knows first-hand the challenges and unique experiences of that life. Roberts’ parents, Dorothy and Stephen, both entered the military after high school, ultimately achieving the ranks of first sergeant and command sergeant major, respectively. Stephen was deployed during Desert Storm.
Just 29 years old, Roberts, has already visited every continent on the globe – including a trip to Antarctica with former Arizona Cardinals teammate, Larry Fitzgerald. That passion for travel was likely ignited at birth. As is typical of most in the military, the Roberts did quite a bit of traveling before settling in South Carolina. Roberts was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, moved to Texas, then to St. Croix with his brother to live with his grandparents for a year while his parents were stationed in Korea. The family then settled in South Carolina where Roberts graduated from high school.
Ironically, although he did not plan on his own career in the military, Roberts attended the Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, where he graduated in just three-and-a-half years with a degree in accounting.
“My high school head coach went to the Citadel and he told me about it. “I thought it can’t be that tough, I come from a military family.”
But he laughed as he admitted it was a little more than he bargained for. “We wore uniforms every day. We had formations. There was marching to breakfast, marching lunch.”
Roberts was the 2010 third-round Draft pick of the Cardinals. And, his life as a member of a military family has impacted him in many ways, including in his life in the NFL.
“It was huge for me,” Roberts said of his upbringing. “It helped me out a lot with how much things change in life and in the NFL.”
Those experiences, as well as the experiences and the relationships he built at the Citadel, has also inspired him to give back to the military community.
Roberts hosts football camps at military bases across the country each offseason, often bringing with him other NFL teammates and the response he received has been gratifying.
“It’s so awesome to be able to work with those military kids,” he said. “They hardly ever get to meet NFL players. It’s always been fun for me to get with them, do some camps, and get their perspective see how things are going. I was a part of that moving around so, I think it’s easier for them to see me and ask me questions.”
Starting when he played in Washington in 2014 and 2015, Roberts has also had some involvement with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which is an organization that offers programs and resources to those who have lost a family member in service to the country. He honored TAPS for this year’s My Cause, My Cleats.
For his work on behalf of the military, Roberts was also Falcon’s NFL Salute to Service Award nominee, which surprised him as he’s been in Atlanta for less than a year.
“I was also nominated when I was in D.C.,” he said. “But I had done more in the D.C. area. “[In Atlanta] I didn’t know how much they knew about what I did on the side.”
As for his parents, they never pushed Roberts toward any particular career and are proud of his accomplishments.
“[My mother] just wanted me to get my degree. Then, do whatever you want to do,” Roberts said.
And while he’s gone down a different career path, Roberts has not left either his immediate or extended military family behind.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.