Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football legend Eugene O. “Choo-Choo” Roberts passed away on July 6 according to his obituary in the Kansas City Star.
Roberts was a star running back and team captain for the Mocs following World War II, having one of the most productive seasons in school history in 1946. He set UTC’s single-season record with 18 rushing touchdowns that still stands today. It is also still the Mocs’ benchmark for total TDs in a season. Consequently, the 117 points he scored that year continues to hold as UTC’s single-season scoring mark. His one year of scoring is still good enough for 10th place on the Mocs’ career scoring list.
Another byproduct of Robert’s high-scoring 1946 season was the 1,113 yards he gained on the ground. That mark stood as the Mocs’ record for over 50 years. Tyrone Coleman finally broke Robert’s record in 1998, but it is still the fourth highest single-season rushing total in school history.
Roberts ran for 197 yards against Newberry in 1946, which was the Mocs’ single game record for nearly 30 years. Darnell Powell broke that record in 1975 when he became the first Moc to top the 200-yard rushing mark in a single game.
Following his playing career, Roberts was named Little All-American in 1946 and participated in the prestigious College All-Star game in 1947. Little All-Americans were honors given to the top players in NCAA Division II, Division II and NAIA at that time.
He was eventually drafted by the NFL’s New York Giants in 1947, playing with the G-Men until 1950. He earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in 1950 after leading the NFL in scoring with 102 points in 1949. He set the NFL and New York Giants single-game rushing record with 218 yards against the Chicago Cardinals on Nov. 12, 1950. The NFL record was broken six years later, but the Giants’ mark stood for over 55 years. Tiki Barber finally topped Roberts’ team record on Dec. 17, 2005.
Roberts left the Giants in 1950 and began playing for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. In 1953 he led the CFL in scoring with 88 points, making him to date the only player to lead both the NFL and CFL in scoring during his career.
As a part of the 100th Year of Football Celebration in 2003, Roberts was named to the Times Free Press UC/UTC All-Century Team.
Roberts, 86, was living in Independence., Mo. He is survived by sons, Mike and Pat Roberts, three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.