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Allen Park – The path to the NFL wasn’t easy for Toledo tight end Michael Roberts.

There was so much to overcome.

But Saturday, when the Detroit Lions drafted Roberts with the 127th pick in the fourth round, the perseverance paid off.

Finally, Roberts will get a chance to play in the NFL, and also help out his mother, Maria Young.

“It means the world,” said Roberts of getting drafted. “Since I started my journey, it’s always been about my mother and grandmother and supporting them, and even though I don’t get the chance to really support my grandmother (who is deceased), it’s still a dream to support my mother.

“It was a long time and something that I worked toward. It’s just great to see it all pay off.”

There’s been so much heartache along the way, so many people Roberts was thinking about Saturday as his name was called by the Lions.

Roberts’ grandmother, Deborah Young, died of cancer during his senior year, just four days before Christmas.

Then, about three months later, Roberts’ younger brother Cameron, just 10, was accidentally shot in the stomach and died.

Football didn’t seem to matter to Roberts at that point.

“I was 17 at the time and I had just lost my grandmother a couple months before,” Roberts said. “I would say that time period was definitely the hardest I had to deal with in my life to date.”

But Roberts persevered, would up at Toledo and steadily worked his way up the depth chart.

How did Roberts overcome all the tragedy?

“The same way I get (through) everything – just put my head down and work,” Roberts said. “(There’s) nothing that can prepare you for such events. You just have to use that negative energy and direct it in a positive light, to not only graduate college, but just finish high school.

“I play for so many different people. It’s hard to not give your all when it’s a lot bigger than you. I never play for myself.”

Roberts is a big target (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) who caught 45 passes for 533 yards (11.8 average) and a staggering 16 touchdowns last season.

Of his 70 career receptions, 22 were touchdowns.

“It comes down to hard work and preparation,” said Roberts of his success in the red zone. “I definitely prepare well and take advantage of each opportunity I have.

“Logan (Woodside, Toledo quarterback), we worked a lot together. It was really just that preparation and maximizing each and every opportunity I was given.”

Roberts had contact with the Lions during the pre-draft process, had a workout with them, and talked with Lions tight end coach Al Golden.

Roberts is excited about the possibility of working with tight end Eric Ebron and quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“I’ve been a fan of Eric Ebron since he was back at North Carolina,” Roberts said. “I’ve watched him closely when he was in college, and in Detroit I’ve watched him. I’m real excited to work with him.

“He’s (Stafford) a precise quarterback. Stafford, he’s just a great quarterback, and he’s laying the foundation and just looking to win games.”

Roberts was anxious Saturday to begin doing his part to help the Lions win.

“I play with a lot of passion,” Roberts said. “This game is my life. I’m very resilient. I get better as the game goes. I never really run out of energy.

“I just love what I do.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tkulfan

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