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C.R. Roberts, fullback who stood up against segregation, dies at 87

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C.R. Roberts, a star at USC whose very presence on the field for a 1956 road game in Texas challenged the segregated South, has died at the age of 87.

When Texas scheduled a game against USC, the Longhorns didn't want Roberts and USC's one other Black player to attend, and USC struggled to find a Texas hotel that would house them. But Roberts didn't just defy segregation, he turned in one of the great performances in college football history.

In that game at Texas, Roberts carried 12 times for 251 yards and USC won 44-20. USC's coaches said they pulled Roberts after only 12 carries in part because of concerns that the all-white crowd at Texas would riot.

“I was upset that they didn’t want me down there,” Roberts recalled in 2015. “Damn right, I had something to prove to them.”

Roberts was born in Mississippi, but his family moved to California when Roberts was in third grade to escape Mississippi's virulent racism.

“All my life, I’ve been fighting racism. It’s been the most important thing,” Roberts said.

As a high school senior Roberts was named 1953 California Football Player of the Year, and he chose to attend USC.

After starring at USC, Roberts was drafted by the Giants in 1958, but he chose instead to play in the Canadian Football League. After one year in the CFL, Roberts spent four years playing for the 49ers.

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