It only took one season for Union High School graduate Thomas Roberson to show he could play major NCAA Division-I college football. His freshman season at the University of Tulsa was good enough to be named to the Conference USA's "All-Freshmen" team in 2010.
"We've always known he was going to be a big factor," said new starting quarterback Cody Green. "I mean his freshman year, he was 'Mr. Freshman' of the receiving corp. And then last year he got hurt."
A nagging foot injury kept Roberson out for a majority of 2011; enough for him to take a medical hardship. Even this spring season didn't live up to Roberson's expectations.
But it wasn't the physical aspect holding Roberson back.
"I was running around trying not to get hurt," said Roberson. "At the beginning of [fall] camp, every step I took, my hamstring got tight or foot started hurting. Then by day 6, 7, 8 I put it in the back of my head."
"I said I can't worry about it. I just have to go out there and play how I play."
That mindset appears to be making a positive difference. According to head coach Bill Blankenship, the mental adjustments on the field are a natural result of the increased comfort level.
Blankenship explained, "Rust takes a while to get knocked off. Sometimes you have to convince yourself that you're well too. And I think he's had to play into the conditioning of 'hey I'm feeling good again.'"
With sophomore Keyarris Garrett on the verge of a breakout season as TU's deep threat, Roberson is becoming the primary receiver on all of the underneath passing patterns.
According to quarterback Cody Green, "[Roberson] is so crisp in his routes. He's our 'go-to' guy on everything underneath."
"He's going to find the hole in zone or get open in one-on-one matchups. He'll be a huge asset for us if he can stay healthy."
An 'if' factor Roberson can't dictate. But what he can control is his mindset and Roberson won't be making any changes this season.
"When you're playing not to get hurt, you can't make as many big plays or do certain things," Roberson said.
"When you play with no fear, it's a lot easier to go out, be yourself, and play relaxed."