July 9, 2019

A Sixth Sense

It has nothing whatever to do with extra sensory perception or some form of eerie intuition.

Understand, whenever Tre Roberson pulls off a heist – and he’s been doing that a lot of late – it’s been meticulously planned down to the last detail.

“He’s not chasing ghosts. He’s not guessing,’’ corrects Calgary Stampeders’ secondary coach Josh Bell.

“It isn’t luck. It isn’t intuition. People confuse intuition with preparation.

“That Sixth Sense – if that’s what you want to call it – all comes from the film room. The interception he had this week, they gave him exactly what he saw on film and he intercepted the pass.

“You got guys like Charles Woodson and Champ Bailey. They play the percentages. Tre plays the percentages.

“The man watched 13 hours of film over the bye week. Thirteen. And we had nobody to play.

“There’s a lot of guys in this league that don’t put the kind of work that he does, so they don’t get those kinds of opportunities.”

The Stampeder single-season record for thefts stands at 10, jointly shared by Harvey Wylie (1959), Vernon Roberson (no, no relation, 1975), Chris Major (1988) and, most recently, Greg Knox (1994).

A quarter century later, that long-standing standard seems very much under threat.

Roberson is already halfway there and a full 15 games – 5/6ths of the regular season – remain on the docket.

“I watch a lot of tape,’’ says Roberson, named one of the CFL’s Players of Week on Tuesday, after being snubbed in the wake of a three-pick opener against Ottawa. “Like, a loooooottttt of tape. If you look back and look at the interceptions, I only had one in zone. The others were in 41-man, which means I’m isolated, 1-on-1, and he can run any route.

“If you watch, I came out of the route before he came out of the route. Just film study. I always play my coverage. I don’t go outside of the coverage, try to force plays. I don’t jump coverage. I play what I see.

“I just do what the coach says.”

Nor does the believe his glut of will dissuade

“It’s the short side. That’s pretty much where they’re good receivers are, so they have to go to that side. For a quarterback, that’s a pretty easy throw.

“I play 10 yards off. So it looks like underneath things are open; that you can sell me deep and break me down short. I expect to continue to get a lot of balls. I don’t think they’re going to go away from their offence.

A larcenous grin.

“At least I hope not.”

Consider this: Roberson on his own has as many picks at the moment as any of the other eight teams and his current total equals the most swiped by any player all of last season.

Not to forget, either, that one interception he took back to the house early in Week 2 versus B.C. at McMahon Stadium was chalked off by penalty.

“He could’ve had 10 by now,” chides Bell, teasingly. “He’s really been loafing. He’s really been missing a lot of opportunities.

“He dropped one. Tsk-tsk.

“He’s not perfect. We’re still coaching him. But the best thing is that he wants to make every play. And he’s still asking us, every week, every day: ‘What do I need to do to be better.’

“He’s still a baby. Right now he’s about 65-70% of where he can, and will, be.”

Even an old hand such as Jamar Wall can only stand back and marvel.

“The man puts in more hours of film study than, I can pretty much guarantee you, anyone on the team,’’ praises the eight-season, two-time CFL All Star. “He takes accountability for it. He wants to be the best.

“As a vet, I watch film – I pride myself on that – but he trumps me, I’ll admit it.

“I love watching the kid play.

“He’s the next big thing coming.”

Underrated? Roberson believes so.

“I truly believe that. People see the interceptions but they don’t see that I’m not really giving up anything, either.

“I’ve only given up two TDs in the last two years. That’s a lot of games.

“Offensive co-ordinators, quarterbacks, they’re all going to be cocky guys. Receivers, too. They’ll be like: ‘Let’s see if we can do it.’

“I’m just going to continue to watch film, continue to talk to Bell about coverages, where I can pick my spots, and just make things happen.”

With the impending birth of a second child, Roberson’s availability for Saturday’s date in Hamilton remains unclear.

“I’m not going to miss the birth of my daughter,’’ he says. “So it depends on the timing.”

Still, up ahead, the Stampeder record is there to be challenged and, who knows?, perhaps even the 47-year-old league mark of 15 INTs held by Al Brenner of the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

“We actually had a conversation about this other day,’’ says Wall. “And I told Tre: ‘Man, if you stay on the track you are now, you have a chance at 10, at least. Easy.

“‘Get ‘em now because eventually they’re going to start giving you the respect you deserve.’

“But as long as these quarterbacks try and test him? Go for it. Be my guest.

“That means more Pick 6s for us.”