SASKATOON , Sask.— Paul McRoberts overcame a series of tragedies before making his way to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ training camp.
The international receiver was nine when a massive heart attack claimed the life of his father, Paul Sr.
A few years later, McRoberts’ older brother (Leonard Triplett) had a promising football career cut short after suffering a serious knee injury from a car accident in high school.
In 2016, McRoberts’ 21-year-old stepbrother (Maurice Parker) was murdered in St. Louis. McRoberts was in his rookie season with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and he learned of his stepbrother’s death via Facebook.
“That really hit me in the heart,” McRoberts said after Tuesday’s practice at Griffiths Stadium. “It’s just another motivation to keep pushing. Every day is a grind and you know that through your job. You have to keep on pushing because life is going to happen.”
McRoberts is one of five children and the first from his family to attend college. He’s close to his family and that was another reason why his stepbrother’s death struck so close to home.
“I was hurt by it, but he was my little brother, so I grew up with him and he looked up to me,” said McRoberts, a 26-year-old native of St Louis. “It hurt really deep. I took it as motivation after a while and talked to everybody around me. They showed me love and it really helped.”
Leonard Triplett’s accident also had an impact on McRoberts, who was a star basketball player in St. Louis but focused on football after the accident.
“He was an all-American football player and the knee injury left screws in his knee and he couldn’t play football again,” McRoberts said. “I took on that role of playing football for him and in his honour.”
Family and football have played important roles in McRoberts’ life.
“For me, not having a father figure, I looked up to my big brother, who couldn’t play anymore,” McRoberts said. “The next thing was my teammates. They helped me feel love like my family. It’s family and you become a family and blood doesn’t matter after that point.”
McRoberts is away from home, but he’s in daily contact with his mother, Sherry.
“My mom took on five kids by herself when my dad passed,” McRoberts said. “She’s my everything and my best friend. We talk and laugh and she motivates me because she’s still working. My goal is to have her stop working and that pushes me.”
McRoberts also draws inspiration from where he grew up.
“Where I’m from, everybody is looking for a way out and sports is our way out from a dangerous neighbourhood,” McRoberts said. “It was already bad on top of the death happening. I was hungry and I already wanted to get out. It was just an extra push and that’s really what it is.”
McRoberts (6-foot-3 and 192 pounds) found his way out by attending Southeast Missouri State where he had 175 receptions for 2,435 yards and 29 touchdowns over four seasons. In 2016, he signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent. He dressed for two regular-season games, recording one reception for six yards.
He was released in 2017 and eventually made his way to the Riders’ training camp, where he quickly made an impression.
On Day 2, McRoberts made four spectacular receptions that caught the attention of the coaching staff and the fans. He then disappeared while dealing with sinus issues and a toothache.
He finally returned on Tuesday after dealing with his health issues. McRoberts had a couple of routine catches while getting his legs underneath him.
“It has been tough because I haven’t been feeling well,” McRoberts said. “I had to take care of that and getting back on the field (Tuesday) was the opportunity. I’m glad to be back. Everyone said I had fresh legs, but after sitting out a couple of days you have to get your legs back under you. It’s still tough because those guys have been working pretty hard.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019