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BLOOMINGTON -- The crutches are temporary. The white cast that covers Tre Roberson's left leg will come off soon enough. The Indiana quarterback moves at an old man's pace, but he does move.
Progress, you see.
Roberson's tough break leaves him watching games -- and sort of coaching his quarterback replacements -- from a press box when he's not firing practice throws from a stool. Sideline life doesn't mean down time. There is improvement to make, knowledge to gain and a silver lining to maximize.
“I'm rehabbing and throwing and everything and just trying to get better,” he says.
Roberson broke his leg 10 days ago, but not his spirit. Yes, he sometimes gets emotional (it hit him hard in the press box for last Saturday's Ball State game), but that, too, is part of the healing process.
“It's been real tough,” he says, “but I've had help around here with all the coaches, the weight coaches, my girlfriend, my friends and family. Through the grace of God hopefully everything turns out all right.”
At the moment of his injury, things couldn't have been going more right. In barely over a quarter against Massachusetts the sophomore had thrown for 88 yards, and rushed for 114 with touchdown runs of 50 and 39 yards. In five quarters he had completed 66 percent of his passes for 368 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He had rushed for 133 yards (averaging 11.1 a carry) and three touchdowns.
And then, in an instant, it was over.
"So many people texted me and tweeted me when it happened," Roberson says. "It makes me want to work harder and focus on getting ready for next year."
Focus now finds Roberson in the press box wearing a headset and with a job -- listening to offensive coaches talk to quarterbacks Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld, and offering his own input -- and he's determined to do it well.
“It was real hard (in the press box). I got a little emotion up there. It is what it is. I have to keep talking to the guys and helping them and keep everybody going.”
“I really wanted to go out and play.”
That can't happen until at least the spring. Until then:
“I'll help as much as I can.”
Coach Kevin Wilson hopes Roberson's press box help can go on the road. He said he's checking with the NCAA to see if Roberson can travel with the team and not take up a travel squad spot. No matter what, Roberson will work the four remaining home games.
“I'd like to get a lot out of that,” Wilson says. “I think that's a good learning tool. We need to take advantage of every second to keep improving him, strength-wise and knowledge-wise.”
Adds Roberson “I was able to see the different blitzes before they came. I learned a lot. I was looking at the different rotations so if they're rotating this way, they're going coming off this side.”
Wilson so likes the high vantage point he took Roberson to a preseason Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium so they could use the high view to study pass coverages in general, the safeties in particular.
As far as helping Coffman and Sudfeld, Roberson says, “I was telling them to look for certain things and if you see certain things, to go ahead and throw this and that. I didn't talk to them during the game. I was looking at coverages and writing down coverages and talking to (offensive coordinator Seth Littrell) about what was going on.”
In the future Roberson will talk to Coffman and Sudfeld and “tell them what I see; ask them what they see; trying to help them get better and get more comfortable.”
They were comfortable enough against Ball State to combine for 37-for-55 passing for 423 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“They both throw very well,” Roberson says. “They're both calm kids. They relax and play and are good leaders. You can see they can put points up.”
Roberson's injury happened when a Massachusetts defender fell on Roberson's leg. He says he missed a swing route a couple of players earlier that would have resulted in a touchdown and gotten IU off the field before Roberson was hurt. Even on the play Roberson was injured, he says if he had thrown the ball to the correct side, he would never been in a position to run and get hurt.
Instead, he took a shot and trainers quickly realized the severity of the problem. He says Wilson came over and “told me to breath and relax and we'd get everything worked out to get ready for next year.”
Roberson is early in his rehab work. He does what he can in practice, which includes throwing passes from a stool. He lifts weights to bulk up from his listed 190 pounds, which is light given the pounding the position takes.
“I can do a lot of things. I can put pressure on my leg and walk on it. It hurts a little, but it's not bad. I can throw. I do rehab things to get the leg stronger. I stretch and do things to loosen up the leg.”
The goal is to get Roberson back to full health for spring practice.
“I'll try to take advantage of the situation. I'll try to get bigger, way bigger. I'll try to get way stronger and faster, get my arm stronger and get mentally better and be the best I can next year.”