He carries a Clemson ID and parks near the Tigers’ football stadium as he completes a joint program in engineering that began with three years at Furman. He is enrolled at Clemson, has a 3.6 GPA and is on pace to finish his dual-program degree next May.
He’s preparing for this weekend when his worlds collide: Roberts and his Furman teammates will play at No. 2 Clemson on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
“It is weird,” Roberts said with a little smile. “It’s a little weird.”
Furman coach Clay Hendrix said there have been a few Furman players who have participated in the program, which is also affiliated with Georgia Tech.
“They just haven’t had to play against the other school,” the coach said.
Roberts figures to get that chance.
“I didn’t really think about it much when I first got there,” said Roberts, who is competing to be Furman’s starting QB this season. “But after parking behind the stadium and walking to school, I realized this is going to be pretty cool.”
Roberts, who is from suburban Atlanta in Cumming, Georgia, looked like most other college students as he parked near Clemson’s basketball arena and headed to Fundamentals of Machine Design on Monday morning. He headed back to Furman, which is 30 miles away, for football practice after the 50-minute class.
When asked about Roberts dual status with Furman and Clemson, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said, “I guess he can’t lose.”
Roberts was the backup to All-Southern Conference performer P.J. Blazejowski last season and the team’s holder on place kicks. Roberts finished the year completing 9 of 13 passes for 110 yards in mop up duty as the Paladins tied for second in the league and reached the FCS playoffs.
Next up for the 22-year-old Roberts and the Paladins: Clemson’s daunting front four of potential NFL first-rounders in tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence and ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant.
“I’m not thinking too much about that yet,” he said.
Roberts was a little tight-lipped early on about being a Furman QB with his Clemson classmates. But the more he was asked about his background, the more he shared and the more his home team came out — so much so he’s worn Furman gear to class.
Roberts found a receptive audience, even if almost none of them want — or expect — the Paladins to win.
“It’s OK, I understand where they’re coming from,” he said.
Roberts has his Clemson schedule set up for early classes so he can get back to Furman — about a 45-minute drive through South Carolina’s hilly Upstate region — for football meetings, workouts and drills.
“He is a really organized guy,” said Hendrix, Furman’s second-year coach. “He’s always made it work.”
Once complete, Roberts will have a bachelor’s degree from Furman and a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson. NCAA guidelines allow Roberts to play at the “certifying institution (Furman) in intercollegiate athletics even though at the time of competition the student is enrolled in another institution in a cooperative educational exchange program.”
Roberts hasn’t met any Clemson football players in his classes or wandered by the Tigers’ complex, which includes an indoor practice facility and operations center that features bowling alleys, a nap room and mini golf.
“It all looks spectacular,” Roberts said.
Taking classes at Clemson was an adjustment for Roberts, who said his biggest classes at Furman had no more than 30 or 40 students while nearly every class at Clemson has up to 150 people. Furman had 2,731 students total enrollment in 2016, about a tenth of Clemson’s total of 23,406 that same year.
He gets jokes from teammates about sneaking into one of Clemson’s practices for a little pre-game spying.
“I don’t know if we’d want to know any of that anyway, as good as they are,” Hendrix said.
Roberts is looking forward to the opportunity to play the national title contenders. He’s just as grateful he has had the chance to experience multiple college campuses.
“It’s just been interesting to see the difference between the two schools,” Roberts said. “It’s been fun.”