Southeastern Louisiana running back Xavier Roberson is prepared to cut off his own foot if that’s what it takes to get back on the field for the Lions this season. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
Roberson recently rejoined the team after missing the final three games of the 2014 season with a torn ligament in his left foot sustained in the first quarter of a 76-7 win against Houston Baptist. The now senior kick return specialist had successful surgery in November and is slowly getting back to game speed.
“I feel like I’m about 85 percent,” Roberson said. “Before the first game, I should be 100 (percent). We still have a couple more weeks.
“I just want to do whatever it takes to get back on the field. If I have to cut it off and get a new one, I’ll do it.”
Roberson participated in a limited capacity during first Southeastern’s full-team scrimmage last Saturday. He said he was working on getting his legs back under him after only returning to practice slightly more than a month prior.
“He’s one of the best in the country returning the ball,” Southeastern coach Ron Roberts said. “If I have to put somebody back there for kicks and I have my choice of anybody in the country, he’s the guy because every time he touches it, he has a chance to break it.”
Roberts’ enthusiasm in regards to Roberson is supported by the fact he’s arguably the best kick returner the program has ever had.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Roberson enters the season as the Lions’ all-time leader in kick return yards (1,804), kick return touchdowns (5) and average return yards (33.41). He needs only 15 more returns to take the lead for most in school history, claiming the top spot in every statistical category the program keeps for the position.
Last season, Roberson still managed 523 yards on 17 carries, good enough for seventh all-time for a single season.
His 2013 performance ranks second with 915 yards and three touchdowns on 26 returns, earning him All-America honors and the College Football Performance Awards FCS Kick Returner of the Year.
Roberson is also within striking distance of the Lions’ career all-purpose yards record with 3,562 yards. That total is 1,405 yards behind leader Jerry Butler (1981-84), but he would easily earn the record if he replicates his performance from 2013 of 1,590 yards.
Roberson isn’t waiting long to announce his arrival, either. He’s set a personal goal of two returns for touchdowns in the Lions’ season opener at Northwestern State on Sept. 3.
Last season against the Demons, he took a kick 79 yards before falling just short of the end zone, but in 2013, he was able to take a ball 92 yards for the score. While not partaking in any return duties in 2012, Roberson did score a pair of rushing touchdowns against Northwestern during his freshman season.
“I want to get back to that No. 1 spot at kick returns,” Roberson said. “After I missed a couple games, people got the upper hand on me and thought if I come back from the injury, I won’t be the same player. I just have to show them and prove them wrong.”
Maybe just as crucial to the success of the offense as Roberson’s returns is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Senior wide reciever Chris Briggs described Roberson as a game-changer in the receiving game, drawing defenders’ attention away from the wideouts with his speed. And that’s one area quarterback D’Shaie Landor is hoping to take advantage of this season.
With only 201 yards on 18 receptions last season, Roberson has the second-highest total among returning players.
“(Roberson) is the type of athlete that drives defenses crazy,” Briggs said. “It takes a lot of burdens off the other individuals because he’s there. When he’s there, I don’t have to worry about being double covered because he’s such an incredible player and can give you so many edges.”