Rob Vanstone (Saskatchewan Roughriders)
My conversation with Pete Robertson was so wide-ranging that we eventually got around to discussing football.
Away from the gridiron, the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ affable defensive end co-owns a trucking company and also breeds dogs.
The former Texas Tech Red Raiders standout owns a university degree that incorporates three majors — personal finance, business and education.
“I want to eventually run my own business,” Robertson says. “I did the education part because if I wanted to coach or something like that, I had that qualification for coaching.”
So, sure enough, he took up coaching.
Somehow, he manages to find enough hours in a day for everything that is on his plate.
“I have a trucking business that I run with a guy I went to college with,” says Robertson, who hails from Longview, Texas. “We’re doing well with that.
“During our off-season, I’m an actual coach on a staff, so my hands are in everywhere. I play football, run trucks, and breed dogs here and there.
“Right now, I’m just trying to do the best I can so that when I do settle down, I can provide for my family.”
Opposing quarterbacks will be able to settle down when they aren’t faced with having to evade Robertson, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2022. Robertson had seven sacks over the Roughriders’ first four games before suffering an ankle injury that forced him to miss four subsequent contests.
He finished with nine sacks in 14 games in addition to forcing five fumbles — a total that tied him for the CFL lead with Shawn Lemon of the Calgary Stampeders. All of that happened at age 29.
Prior to joining the Roughriders in 2021, Robertson had spent time with three NFL teams — Seattle, Washington and Arizona — over a period that spanned 2016 to 2019.
He signed with Saskatchewan on Feb. 19, 2020, shortly before the declaration of a global pandemic that ultimately resulted in the cancellation of an entire CFL season.
When he was finally able to return to the football field, he wasted little time in making an impact.
Robertson had five sacks in 11 games during a COVID-shortened 2021 campaign. Over two playoff games, he added another sack to go with a tackle for a loss.
After building upon that success in 2022, Robertson could not wait for his third CFL training camp to commence.
“I was excited to see all the guys,” he says. “It was a long off-season. It was great to be around everybody, catch the vibe, and see how everybody is preparing for the season.
“I love the guys that I’m playing with right now. I think that’s the most important thing — getting that bond.
“It’s not just about me playing. It’s about playing with Larry Dean, Derrick Moncrief, Nic Marshall, Rolan Milligan Jr., Jeremy Clark, Anthony Lanier II, Micah Johnson and everyone.
“We keep on building that chemistry to the point where we know what each other is doing. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Robertson looks forward to savouring that feeling, in collaboration with the aforementioned colleagues on defence, when the Roughriders open their regular season on Sunday against the Edmonton Elks (5 p.m., TSN, CKRM).
He has been counting down the days — perhaps the hours — until June 11 for a while now.
“I love the game,” Robertson says with a smile. “I’ve been doing it for a long time. Every time I start up, I get that urge to get out there and get ready to compete and play alongside my brothers.”
As one who had to wait until his late 20s to establish himself with one team, he knows that time spent playing professional football is precious and can be fleeting.
“At this point, when you’ve been doing this for so long, you’re cherishing the moment,” Robertson says. “You’re waking up early to go to extra meetings because, really, you never know.
“Even when you’re younger, you never know when it’s going to be your last time. At this point, and later on in my career, every day and every moment — at breakfast, lunch and dinner — I’m enjoying being with my brothers.
“It’s a feeling you get when you get to do things with your brothers. If you’re part of any type of group or any type of team, you love doing it together as one.
“Eventually, everybody is going to retire or put football down. So when you get on later in your career, you’ve got to cherish the moments each day.”
Even at a much earlier juncture, Robertson’s mindset was to extract the most out of every football-related experience.
“I was born and raised in Texas, so football is kind of in your DNA,” he reflects. “Coming from a small town, kind of like Regina, we live and breathe football.
“My brothers did it. My dad and uncles did it. It’s just a game that took me a long way.
“I was actually one of the first ones in my immediate family to graduate from college, so it’s more than just a game.
“It taught me discipline and respect and to realize that, at the end of the day, you’re not above anyone.
“I play sports. You’ve got a job as well. At the end of the day, you’re going to do your job and I’m going to do mine. We’re both working and we’re both trying to provide.
“With the degree I got from college, I can show my kids, ‘Football helped me with that.’ Once I’m done playing in the CFL, I can tell my kids, ‘Once you find something you love, no matter what it is, do it the best that you can.’
“If you get the opportunity to do what you love, you’ve just got to take it full-steam.”