CR Roberts, the football icon who led USC to victory over the Longhorns in segregated Texas, dies at 87
- USC revealed Roberts died of ‘natural causes’ in suburban Norwalk, CA
- The fullback went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers from 1959 to 1962.
- DailyMail.com provides the latest international sports news
CR Roberts, whose record-breaking performance helped Southern California beat Texas in a 1956 road game played in the segregated state, has died at the age of 87.
Roberts died of natural causes Tuesday in suburban Norwalk, the university said Wednesday.
Roberts, a fullback, set a career single-game record with 251 yards on 12 carries in the Trojans’ 44-20 victory in Austin, a mark that stood for 20 years. Fearing riots from the segregated crowd, the USC coaching staff pulled Roberts early.
Upon arrival, the Trojans tried three different hotels before finding one that would allow their black players to stay. USC officials allowed Roberts to travel despite Texas segregation laws.
“I was upset that they didn’t want me there,” Roberts said in a 2015 USC online article for Black History Month. ‘Dammit, I had something to prove to them.’
CR Roberts (42), helped USC beat Texas in a 1956 road game played in the segregated state
Set a single-game career high with 251 yards on 12 carries in the Trojans’ 44-20 win
The hotel housekeepers were black, and they tried to convince Roberts and his other black teammate to leave. He assured them that he was allowed to be there as part of the team.
Roberts recalled that black people who lived in the area would walk by, enter the back of the hotel, and wear the staff uniforms so they could greet black players staying at a white-only hotel.
“That night, maybe all the blacks in town should have come to see us,” Roberts said in the article. “They were so proud to see us at that hotel.”
Roberts was hailed a hero upon his return to campus. The alumni flew back on the team plane and an exhausted Roberts could not sleep as he was besieged by congratulating reinforcements.
It was quite a change from when Roberts first arrived on campus and faced backlash from the predominantly white student body. However, he was welcomed among his teammates on the soccer field.
Robert spent three NFL seasons with the 49ers (1959-62), selected as the 14th pick in ’58
Born February 29, 1936, Cornelius R. Roberts grew up in Mississippi and moved to California in elementary school. He graduated from Oceanside High north of San Diego after being named the 1953 Football Player of the Year as a senior, having scored 65 touchdowns.
After graduating from USC with a business administration degree, Roberts was selected in the 14th round of the 1958 NFL draft by the New York Giants.
However, he opted to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. He rushed for 595 yards and five touchdowns, including TD runs of 67 and 85 yards, in 10 games.
Roberts then became a victim of the 12-man quota limiting the number of American players on the Argos roster and was released. He tried out for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1959, but did not make the team.
He played with the San Francisco 49ers from 1959 to 1962.
She is survived by her daughters Cathy Creasia and Chandra Roberts; son Craig; and four grandchildren.