GREENVILLE — Like every other student at Clemson on Monday morning, Harris Roberts will arrive on campus, attend classes and continue to get a feel for his new class schedule at the university.
Unlike any other student at Clemson, when he's done with his classes, Roberts will head to football practice for a team other than the Tigers.
Roberts is a quarterback and team captain for Furman, which opens its football season on Saturday against Clemson. The Georgia native is a full-time student at Furman but is completing a dual-degree engineering program at Clemson since Furman does not have its own engineering department.
The 22-year-old Engineering student is taking a mandatory statistics class, a control systems class, a manufacturing process course, another machine design course and a class on heat transfer at Clemson.
Wanting to find a way to play Division I football while also chasing his dream of one day becoming a mechanical engineer in the automotive industry, Roberts has balanced his schedule between the schools for several semesters.
But until this month, no Clemson student knew who he was with the exception of Tigers offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst, whose older brother plays at Furman.
Now that Roberts’ story is out — USA Today profiled him earlier this month — he has become an instant celebrity of sorts.
The Associated Press has called him. So too has Sports Illustrated and his hometown newspaper. High school classmates he has not talked to in years have suddenly reached out now that he has a connection to one of the best football programs in the country. His coach has gotten emails from all over the country.
Roberts was even the chat of the Clemson locker room last week as the Tigers wrapped up fall camp.
“I don’t know him, but that’s pretty interesting, though,” Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant said, marveling at Roberts’ dedication. “You think he’ll wear orange? He might wear orange on the left side and purple on the right.”
What’s unique about Roberts’ situation is that all this week, when he passes through Clemson’s campus, like the rest of the student body, he will probably take a peek at the football field.
But Saturday, not only will he step into Memorial Stadium for the first time, but he will do so as a Paladins quarterback who has battled for the starting spot all summer. None of his classmates realize exactly who it is sitting among them.
When he first learned Clemson was going to be on the schedule a few years ago, Roberts didn’t think much of it. But now, the juxtaposition of being a Clemson student one day and an opponent the next, has him marveling at the irony of it.
“He’s handled it really, really well. Obviously a really bright kid, which we have a lot of smart kids, but he’s probably on the higher end of that,” said Furman head coach Clay Hendrix. “No doubt that is a little bit unique. But he has just been a quality kid in every way and when he played last year, he did a good job in there for us and we’re fortunate.”
According to Hendrix, Roberts actually is not the first Furman football player to go on to complete this dual Clemson program, but Roberts draws the attention because a.) Clemson and Furman are actually playing this year and b.) Roberts is a quarterback.
Had Furman punter Jon Croft Hollingsworth had one more year of eligibility, he would be in the same situation now. He is also taking those courses at Clemson currently. Additionally, former Furman right tackle Antonio Frazier completed the program, too, and is now living in California.
As for Roberts, he jokes that he has enjoyed his “15 minutes of fame” and is looking forward to the opportunity of competing against a likely-Playoff bound team on a national stage.
“I think it’s good for us in a lot of ways because not so many people really know of Furman outside of the southeast,” Roberts said. “Just being able to play in front of 90,000 people in a stadium in front of however many people end up watching it on TV, it’s definitely really exciting.”