Small-School Receiver Could Be Next Brooks

Robert Brooks became a Packers Hall of Famer as a third-round pick in 1992. This fellow South Carolina native is one of the top small-school stars in this draft. We talked to this high-character, ultra-productive player in this Packer Report exclusive.

In 1992, the Packers drafted a wiry receiver from South Carolina named Robert Brooks.

Brooks, a third-round choice, made a name for himself as a brilliant kickoff and punt returner before blossoming into a mainstay at wide receiver because of his athleticism and superior route-running skills.

Could the Packers follow a similar path in the 2010 draft?

The 6-foot Brooks was born in Greenwood, S.C., and played at South Carolina, which is located in Columbia. The 5-foot-11 Andre Roberts starred collegiately at The Citadel, a military school located in Charleston, S.C., after growing up in Columbia.

Like Brooks, Roberts is a brilliant route-runner. After a record-setting career at The Citadel, Roberts had his way against the big-school cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl. Time and again, a subtle head fake would get the cornerback leaning one direction while Roberts took his route the other way.

Odds are, Roberts will be a third-round draft choice, though he has been linked anywhere from the end of Round 2 to sometime in Round 4, according to insiders.

"They like my quickness and my explosiveness," Roberts told Packer Report this week. "They feel like I can play the slot and the outside. The little bit extra that I want to do is punt return and kick return. I did pretty well in college doing those things."

Pretty well, indeed.

Along with obliterating school career records with 285 catches, 3,743 yards and 37 touchdowns, Roberts averaged 15.5 yards on punt returns as a senior and led the nation with a 19.2-yard average and three touchdowns on punt returns as a junior.

The small-school tag often is more of an issue for fans than NFL personnel people. After all, where a player plays in college has to do with his size, skill and athletic ability as a 16- or 17-year-old. Such is the case for Roberts, who said he weighed about 155 pounds in high school.

"Coming out of high school, South Carolina and Clemson didn't recruit me. So, going to an in-state big school was out of the question," he said. "The Citadel and Coastal (Carolina) gave me full scholarships and I pretty much made by decision out of that. Both of my parents were in the military so I didn't think it was going to be too much of a transition going to The Citadel. I think it helped me grow as a person."

If there were any doubts about Roberts' ability, he answered them at the Senior Bowl, where he was the best two or three receivers all week. His route-running and hands are impeccable. So is his toughness — he got smacked by USC's 230-pound Taylor Mays during one of the early-week practices. Roberts got up as if nothing happened.

"It was real important for me," he said of his week showing his skills to NFL scouts. "In my career, I've played pretty good big-school talent. I've played against Wisconsin (2007), Florida, Clemson (both 2008), North Carolina (2009), and I would expect teams to see those games as well as the smaller-school games. But being able to do what I did at the Senior Bowl against that kind of talent every single day, I think it showed them a lot. It's not just one game in the season that I did well against a big team but I was consistently doing it against the best talent."

Roberts certainly fits the high-character mold that the Packers demand. During the football season at The Citadel, his schedule had him getting up at 6 a.m. and — between marching, classes, meetings, practice and study hall — finally getting to bed at 11 p.m. Between that and both of his parents serving in the Army, Roberts is mature, humble and hard working.

"They kept me on the straight and narrow and helped me to get to where I wanted to be," Roberts said of his parents. "They were strict and they gave me more responsibility when I got older. I'm a high-character guy, and that's what teams are going to get."

Roberts ranked among the top receivers in the 40-yard dash (4.46 seconds), broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle at the Scouting Combine. Considering the entire package, Roberts has a chance to have a Brooks-like career in the NFL.

"I've thought about it but I don't think it will hit me until I see my name on the screen or I get that phone call," Roberts said when asked to look ahead to the draft. "It's a real exciting time. I don't want to put too much thought into it. I don't want it to overwhelm me or my family. I'm just waiting, working out and doing what I can to prepare myself."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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