Long before Andre Roberts started to grow his shoulder-length dreadlocks -- and even longer before joining the Washington Redskins as a highly-touted free agent in March -- the former Citadel Bulldog was balancing a rigorous schedule between being a student-athlete and going through a military program.
Founded in 1842, The Citadel provides students the unique opportunity of attending college with a four-year military program.
A son of two former U.S. Army members, Roberts said The Citadel's tough schedule has benefitted him both on and off the field as he enters his fifth NFL season, and first with the Redskins.
Go behind the scenes as Redskins wide receiver Andre Roberts goes in front of the camera for his 2014 photo shoot.
"Yeah that's one of the things about The Citadel is when you do play a sport there you have to do the athletic part of it and do the military stuff in school," he said. "It's another element that makes it a little tougher than most schools. Waking up early every day, wearing uniforms all the time, having inspections. It easily helped me in terms of discipline."
Starting with a 500-plus yard freshman season, Roberts shattered receiving records during an extremely successful four-year career, logging 3,743 yards and 37 touchdowns in just 45 games.
The 5-foot-11 wide receiver admitted that the balancing act between getting his degree, football and military was tough, but that it made him better in the end. And while a few opportunities to play at other schools, The Citadel offered him exactly what he wanted.
"A full football scholarship offer was nice and they had a really nice business program there and I wanted to do accounting so that was another priority," Roberts said. "Then my parents had a military background as both of them were in the U.S. Army.
"I have an appreciation for the military and what they do and I thought playing there and experiencing (the military program) would show my appreciation. I didn't think it would be as tough as it actually was, but I made it through and got my degree."
Now in the NFL, Roberts has carried his military upbringing with him whenever he scores a touchdown.
"It's a salute," Roberts said during the offseason about his touchdown celebration. "It comes from The Citadel and just remembering where I came from and just showing my support."
Acclimating To The RedskinsThe Washington Redskins wanted Roberts the moment his status changed to free agent. The question was whether or not Roberts would reciprocate the feeling.
On the first day of free agency Roberts signed with the Redskins to give the burgundy and gold a young yet experienced receiver who can also be a menace in the return game.
In Arizona, Roberts hauled in 182 balls for 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns – four of which were 30 yards or longer -- while also managing punt and kick return duties at times as well.
Being one of several new faces, though, Roberts said his first extended time with the Redskins is showing that there isn't a lack of talent, but that the chemistry will take some time to nail down.
"We've installed the offense and certain facets a few times now," he said. "I think it's starting to click more and more every day, and I think we still have a long way to go and hopefully by Week 1 we'll be as close to perfection as we can be."
Interchanged between the slot and lining up outside, Roberts is a versatile weapon that head coach Jay Gruden – a former offensive coordinator – absolutely loves to work with.
"He's proven out there that he can play every position on offense at the receiver spot – X, Z and Zebra," Gruden said. "He's doing a great job. We had every intent of him being the No. 2 receiver – DeSean [Jackson] fell in our lap – so now he is going to play inside, which speaks to his versatility. We though he could be a good Z, now he's going to be a good Zebra and a Z and an X to spell DeSean and Pierre [Garçon] when they get tired."
Offensive coordinator Sean McVay echoed the head coach's sentiment.
"Andre is the type of player that can work both inside and outside in the receiver formations," McVay told ESPN980 during the offseason. "He just has a natural ability to find the soft zones and is a friendly target for quarterbacks with the way he can create after the catch.
"He's a guy we are very excited about and feel fortunate to have him on our team. He plays fast. You see him catch the football and immediately gets vertical up the field. That was one of the things we liked and wanted to get from him when he was in Arizona."
Last season, Redskins punt returners averaged only 6.4 yards per return and struggled to give the offense good field position.
Roberts – who has been getting reps as a punt and kick returner -- is hoping to provide the Redskins with better special teams results.
That starts with an already-strong bond with special teams coach Ben Kotwica -- who also have a diverse military background.
"Everything we've seen in special teams in meetings is success when he was with the Jets," Roberts explained. "So I'm looking forward to playing with him, playing for him, too, and anything I can do to make his life easier at the return position.
"I love playing for him."