Roy Roundtree’s odds are as long as his smile is broad.
The Trotwood-Madison High School and University of Michigan graduate got his first taste of NFL life over the weekend while competing in the Cincinnati Bengals rookie minicamp as one of a dozen undrafted college free agents. And he said he loved every minute of it — even though he knows cracking a young, talented Bengals receiving corps may be tough.
“It’s been so much fun,” an excited Roundtree said Saturday after the fourth of five practices. “It’s been a joy playing out here and putting the Bengals helmet on, just going out there and making plays. (Wide receivers coach James) Urban said I’ve been doing good, and he told me to keep it up. That’s where my mindset is. I’m down here trying to get better.”
Roundtree was one of the first CFAs the Bengals reached out to following the conclusion of the NFL Draft, with the two sides agreeing to terms within minutes of the final pick.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said the coaches weren’t specifically looking at the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Roundtree when preparing for the draft, but the receiver kept catching their eye.
“Roy showed up when I was watching a lot of the defensive players in the Big Ten play,” Lewis said. “He made some contested catches, some runs after the catch. I don’t know when it was, but I walked past James Urban and asked, ‘Who’s the kid at Michigan?’
“He told me about him, and James talked to him before the draft, and right after the draft we talked to his people and told him that we’d like to offer him a shot here.”
A shot is all Roundtree wants.
“There’s only 53 on the roster, so it’s tough,” he said. “I know I’m only going to get better. I’m a rookie. It seems like freshman year at college all over again. You have to go out there and make a name for yourself. That’s why I feel like I’m here. I feel like I can play at this level. I just have to go out there and learn and react fast.
“I’m not the biggest fellow, but I’ve got a big heart and I’m going to do whatever I can, and I’m going to do it my hardest.”
It’s that same kind of enthusiasm and work ethic that made Roundtree so popular at Michigan.
He caught 72 passes for 935 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore, but a coaching — and philosophy — change following that season resulted in the Wolverines becoming more of a ground-oriented offense.
“I had the opportunity to talk to Coach Hoke (Michigan head coach Brady) last week, and he went out of his way to sing his praises,” Lewis said. “How the kid was able to go through the changing in coaching staff and offensive styles and offensive systems and just keep being the kind of guy you want to have on your football team. He told me how proud he was of that. The kid just kept coming to practice every day and working every day and being a great team guy. I think that’s the kind of guy you want to give an opportunity to.”
Added Michigan wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski, “He never complained and never questioned why he wasn’t getting the ball. From his junior and senior years, he really started to become a more complete receiver in terms of blocking and getting in and out of routes.”
All of those skills were on display over the weekend, and Urban took note.
“He’s competing like crazy and you can see he’s got a real good feel for the game,” he said. “He’s very coachable, and he’s been a lot of fun to be around.”
Roundtree even got a little pep talk from Bengals cornerback and fellow Michigan man Leon Hall. And when OTAs begin May 20, Roundtree will get a chance to line up and compete against Hall.
After that will be the full minicamp in June, followed by the start of training camp in July. So there is a lot of time left for Roundtree to impress the coaches enough to still be wearing a Bengals uniform when the season opens in September.
It may be a long shot, but Hecklinski said if anyone can beat the odds, it’s Roundtree.
“He’s a great kid and I think he’s going to do very well,” he said. “I look for him to be surprise. He’s very talented, he’s got a great attitude and a great personality. He’s going to do whatever it takes in order to make it.”