Iowa football's Terry Roberts appears ready to break out. What's his 2022 outlook?
Fall camps are nothing new to Iowa defensive back Terry Roberts.
The fifth-year senior has experienced it all during his career with the Hawkeyes but his anticipation at the team's media day in mid-August was apparent when talking about what this camp meant to him. Roberts had been out of football for nearly nine months recovering from a bone bruise he suffered last season.
He returned to the field earlier this month and aims to make up for lost time.
"I can explain it, but I really can't," Roberts said. "There's just no other feeling than just being back out here playing the game that you love, especially with your boys that you're going to call your brothers for life. I'm getting chills just talking about it."
This fall camp also marked an opportunity that's been long-awaited. Roberts' place on the team is firmly solidified. He's regarded as a team leader and according to Kirk Ferentz, one of the most reliable special teams players that he's had during his 24-year tenure as head coach.
What's left for Roberts to accomplish is to carve out a permanent role in Iowa's secondary.
It appears that opportunity is finally here.
Roberts has worked as one of the starting cornerbacks during camp in place of the injured Jermari Harris and is well-positioned to start in Iowa's season opener against South Dakota State on Sept. 3. The Iowa secondary will need an all-hands-on-deck effort to replace three starters from 2021.
How does Roberts fit into the mix? Ferentz hopes that with good health, Roberts will contribute heavily.
"You know, it's been a long road for him, and that's hard," Ferentz said. "He's fought every day and kept pushing forward and it's good to get him back going full speed. Terry's one of the best special teams players we've had (in) two-plus decades. He just has a certain energy to him. He's doing some good things on defense too. We're gonna need everybody, I'm just thrilled he's on our team."
Ferentz said on multiple occasions last season that he and defensive coordinator Phil Parker consider Roberts a starter; he's just been behind a group of good corners. Players like Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia, who are in the NFL now, and 2022 preseason All-American Riley Moss have occupied the starting positions during Roberts' career.
"You can't try to control the process," Roberts said. "The process is going to have ups and downs but you have to be able to stay in it and just take advantage of the opportunities. Even if it is just special teams, you might not think the player out there could impact the game but that one play could impact the entire game. No matter what just go hard,110 percent and if you do that then nothing you do will go unnoticed."
Roberts earned his first opportunity to start last season against Purdue after Moss suffered an injury the week before against Penn State. A loss to the Boilermakers came with a personal setback for Roberts: the knee injury that essentially ended his season. He played sparingly in the Big Ten Championship Game but didn't play in Iowa's Citrus Bowl loss.
Bone bruises are tricky injuries. They can't be surgically repaired and no recovery timeline is the same. Roberts did plenty of icing and the rehab he could but remained sidelined through spring practice. An aspiring coach, Roberts took pride in helping his teammates from the sidelines throughout spring. On a personal level, he relied heavily on his relationship with his father, Terry, and his faith to pick him up during the days that he was out.
Now healthy, Roberts is still doing all he can to preserve his body for the season ahead. He's still rehabbing regularly and the coaching staff is monitoring his workload. But the good news is he feels as healthy as he has in over a year.
"It's full trust in my body right now," Roberts said. "I'm still trying to still doing some rehab just to make sure that strength stays there, I'm just gonna continue to rehab as much as possible even though I'm feeling great. I haven't felt this great since last season. I'm just trying to strengthen my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual (well-being)."
Roberts' desire to prove himself is as high as it's been during his career. He noted that he's always had doubters, even now he scrolls through social media and sees comments questioning if he is a starting-caliber corner or if he's better off as a full-time special teams player.
He took to Twitter to address those comments in early August. In a since-deleted tweet, Roberts said he feeds off the doubters and he can't wait for Sept. 3.
With the season drawing near, Roberts' focus is on personal development and team success beginning with South Dakota State.
What will Roberts' role be then and for the season?
His special teams role won't change. As for everything else, he has no problem doing anything that's asked.
"My thing is to do everything I can on the field that's going to help this team win and reach its goal," Roberts said. "No matter what it is. If I have to get moved to offense to help or play special teams, no matter what if I got to play certain positions I'll do it just to help this team win."
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.