Blink always wants to be No. 1

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

When Charles Roberts arrived in June 2001 for his first CFL training camp, he figured he was already a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"I'd signed a contract. I didn't know," the 5-foot-6, 171-pound scatback said recently. "I thought I was on the team, right? So once I got here and figured out the situation, then I thought it was going to be a quick trip.

"Actually, I didn't even want to be here once I got here and figured out that it was a tryout and not my team. Luckily, I stayed."

Luckily for whom? Roberts? Nah. He'd be dashing and slashing and bouncing off would-be tacklers for some other football team right now had he left.

The Bombers are the lucky ones, but it sounds like Bomber GM Brendan Taman, who was the assistant GM back in 2001, wasn't about to let Roberts leave anyway.

"I don't rave about many guys, but I expect this guy fresh out of Sacramento State to come to camp and make it on our team," Taman told The Sun on May 17, 2001. "It may not be fair to say this, but Charles reminds me of a young, mid-80s Pinball Clemons."

EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS

Roberts, also known as Blink, has more than exceeded expectations. He is No. 13 on The Sun's top 75 Blue Bombers of all time list, and he will most certainly be higher when his remarkable career comes to an end.

The 26-year-old Californian, who became the all-time NCAA Div. I rushing leader at Sacramento State, started out as a kick returner but needed less than a year to become the most exciting and dominant tailback in the CFL.

He is poised to win his second league rushing title in just his fourth season as a starter, and he is already No. 2 on the Bombers all-time rushing yards list.

"Throughout my career in college and now, my goal is to break records and set the thing at a high total so it takes 20 or 30 years for somebody else to come get it," Roberts said. "It would just be an exclamation point to finish up my career as the leader here.

"I went from No. 30 to No. 2 relatively quick, and it's going to take probably as much time to get to No. 1 as it did to take me to pass all those other guys."

Roberts, who needed 90 yards last night in Vancouver to set a career season-high of 1,555, is about 1,500 behind Winnipeg's all-time leader Leo Lewis. Roberts is so focused on surpassing Lewis that he sat down earlier this season to figure out when exactly he might become No. 1.

"I did the math 10 weeks ago, and I figured if I just could finish this season ... with 6,000 career yards, rush for 1,000 or 1,200 next year, then in 2007 it should come around Week 9," Roberts said.

With 6,323 career yards going into last night's game, he is already well ahead of schedule. He is also No. 15 on the CFL's all-time rushing list, and if Bombers fans want to dream a little bit, Roberts would need only seven more seasons at his current pace to break Mike Pringle's all-time record.

Roberts, who is unbelievably durable for his size, would be 33 years old if that were to happen. But will he be around that long?

"As long as I'm still in the top two in the league," he said. "I can't be a middle-of-the-pack type guy. It's not something I'd be eager to get used to.

"I've been at the top ever since my freshman year of college and never do I look at the stats and see my name in the middle or even fourth or fifth.

"Whenever that happens, like I've told you before, I'd be done."

Roberts, who says he will play for no other team than the Bombers, has been a CFL all-star in each of his first four seasons, and he counts being named the league's top special teams player in 2001 as his career highlight.

"The best part was sitting in that awards show and them calling my name and I get that big old trophy," he said. "That was probably one of the best times in my life.

"I never went to no awards show before. I was on TV making a speech. It was fun."


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