After career-ending concussion, 'it ended up working out'

Former Georgia Tech offensive lineman Chase Roberts delivered a speech at a dinner for scholarship donors in January. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

Credit: Ken Sugiura

Credit: Ken Sugiura

Former Georgia Tech offensive lineman Chase Roberts delivered a speech at a dinner for scholarship donors in January. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

Former Georgia Tech offensive tackle Chase Roberts came to school in 2012 to play for the Yellow Jackets. His four years at Tech have turned out a little differently than planned.

“It’s like an episode of ‘The Biggest Loser,’” he said.

Roberts didn’t expect to be 205 pounds at this point. Rather, by the way his freshman season had played out, he might have been headed into his senior season at this point as a two-year starter at offensive tackle. However, Roberts, who has not played since 2013, graduated Saturday with a management degree. In June, he’ll start a job with Citigroup in its municipal securities division.

Roberts managed a graceful separation from football after a concussion suffered in the Clemson game in Nov. 2013 required him to go on medical scholarship .

“I don’t think it’s been able to hit me yet that the first two years were completely different than the second two years,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll look back and go, ‘Wow, that was so cool.’ I was able to play in a football game and get to make great friends in a fraternity that I’ll have forever. That’s really special. So it ended up working out.”

Following his concussion, Roberts hoped that the symptoms – light headedness and loss of balance after heavy exercise – would subside. But they persisted, even months later. He was put on medical scholarship in July 2014.

Working about 10 hours weekly in the Alexander-Tharpe Fund office – he joked that his primary responsibility was moving heavy objects – helped him maintain a connection to the team and ease his transition.

“Even getting up early and going to work out with those guys, that’s something that I will always miss,” he said. “I think I would miss it even if I had been able to play all four years. Absolutely. It helps to stay involved here. I don’t know I could have done it if I had just cold turkey stopped playing and had nothing to do with the program, but to be able to go to the games and feel like you’re contributing, even in a really small way, not on the field, but just some part of the athletic program was really helpful to me in kind of coming out of that transition, being able to acclimate.”

Roberts shifted his athletic endeavors to running. Roberts runs six or seven miles as many as five times per week. In March, he ran his first marathon, in Columbia, S.C. He finished in three hours, 50 minutes and eight seconds, 46th among 185 finishers. Not surprisingly, his weight is down to 205 pounds, down from his listed weight of 280 in his redshirt freshman year, when he started four games and played eight.

“I’m so surprised that I’m running this far right now,” he said in February, before he had run the marathon. “Because when you start to lose weight, it’s kind of like a positive feedback, you lose the weight so you run farther, so you lose more weight, so you run father. I got to a point where I’m like, Did I really just go run this far?”

In January, at the start of his final semester, Roberts gave a well-received speech to Alexander-Tharpe Fund donors that was at turns eloquent and humorous that captured his appreciation for his time at Tech.

“It wasn’t one of those things where I’m expecting a standing ovation or even for it to be posted (online),” he said. “I thought that was so nice.”

Roberts’ speech thanked donors for their investment in the athletic department and particularly its athletes. His perspective on their giving has been shaped by conversations he had with donors and, among other things, by a business class he took from Gary Jones, a Tech grad who became managing director of Credit Suisse. Jones brings in other Tech grads such as Mike Duke, the former president and CEO of Wal-Mart and John Brock, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, to speak to the class.

“So I always remember asking or wondering why these people care enough about it to come back,” Roberts said. “And so that is probably the most meaningful thing that I can think of that made me realize that (Tech) was actually something that changed people’s lives. It wasn’t just a line. You know, you hear that a lot. It gets cliché with all the recruiting and everything because you have to sell it. But it really does.”

Roberts’ football career did not turn out the way he might have wanted or expected. As he looked back at his four years, though, it was only a part of the journey.

“So it ended up working out,” he said. “I’m just very thankful. My faith was really important to me, especially in that time (of the injury) and still is. And just to kind of trust that stuff works out the way it needs to if you do the right stuff.”