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‘It’s time for me to blaze my own trail’: T.D. Roof breaking from father’s shadow

T.D. Roof can make an impact for IU at linebacker this season. (Craig Bisacre/Indiana Athletics)

For twin brothers T.D. and Mic Roof, Chick-Fil-A was an almost daily breakfast routine throughout high school.

One morning after a stop at their preferred fast-food outlet, one of the two spilled their breakfast in their truck on the way to school. The accident led to one of the brothers’ patented feuds.

A quarterback by trade, Mic is the cagier of the twins, using his wit to verbally poke and prod. Conversely, T.D., a linebacker, is more visceral and lets his physicality do the talking.

As they pulled into the lot at Buford High School, the spilled food argument continued. Having had enough, Mic took T.D.’s backpack containing his books, keys and wallet and launched it over a locked fence before sprinting away.

Ted Roof, Mic and T.D.’s father and a defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech at the time, was visiting Buford that morning on a recruiting visit when he caught wind of his sons’ transgressions.

“I was going to school that morning and they both had first period weightlifting with football,” Ted said. “ So I happened to walk in on the tail end of it and got to straighten it all out.”

Today, T.D. and Mic live roughly 575 miles apart in Bloomington, Indiana and Charlotte, North Carolina. Meanwhile, Ted – a 31-year college football coaching veteran – now resides in Raleigh, North Carolina in light of his move to N.C. State as a co-defensive coordinator and associate head coach. But for what this family lacks in immediacy, they more than make up for in their football camaraderie.

“My dad definitely let me be my own person or whatever,” T.D. said. “But definitely growing up around this environment, essentially at different programs and stuff just being at practice, you see things and you kind of get ready for things.”

For T.D., a sophomore linebacker at Indiana, he wandered a winding path to Bloomington. Roof originally committed to Georgia Tech out of high school where he played one season under his father.

“This will be my 32nd year doing this and I’ve recruited a long time, but the hardest recruiting I had to experience was recruiting my own son ’cause I was dealing with his mother,” Ted quipped.

As a coach, managing how to play one’s own child is a difficult one. There’s the obvious factor of favoritism that can be shown if you play them when they’re not ready. Ted took this issue to heart when T.D. arrived on campus.

Not wanting to show any favoritism, the coaching veteran was notoriously hard on T.D., admittedly pushing him more than his other players. Then a handful of coaches chimed in.

“About two weeks in a couple other coaches on the staff came to me, they said “You know what? You really need to play your son ‘cause he’s earned it. He’s a good player. He can play,” Ted recalled. “It kind of just caught me off guard because I wanted to do what was right and fair by everybody and at times I probably wasn’t fair to [T.D.] because of that.”

Upon breaking into the lineup, the younger Roof played in all 11 contests for the Yellow Jackets, totaling five multi-tackle games.

But despite the successful freshman year, T.D. decided to transfer away from Georgia Tech at season’s end.

“I think it was just best for everybody,” Ted Roof – who took the NC State job after the 2017 season – said. “So he made his decision and I made mine and that’s how it worked out. But his deal was totally independent of my deal.”

Craig Bisacre/Indiana Athletics

When it came to choosing a new institution, Indiana was immediately atop Roof’s list. Like anything related to football and the Roof clan, family was involved. Indiana linebackers coach Kane Wommack’s father, Dave, a former defensive coordinator at Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss, is a longtime confidant of Ted’s from their years of coaching in the south.

But more defining, Indiana posed a chance for T.D. to break from his father’s shadow – something following Ted to N.C. State would not.

“He said, ‘You know dad, I think it’s time for me to blaze my own trail, cut my own path,” Ted recounted.

Under NCAA transfer rules, players who change schools are required to sit out a year of competition. That was expected to be the case for Roof once he arrived in Bloomington in January.

But with the help of the IU compliance department, Roof was granted an immediate eligibility waiver and subsequently a chance to suit up for the Hoosiers in 2018.

“I could tell you otherwise that I was bought in, and I thought I was. But a switch just flips when you get that ‘You’re good to go this year. You can play,’” Roof said. “I wish I could just be that the whole time when I wasn’t, but there’s definitely extra motivation when you’re good to go.”

In Indiana’s 38-28 victory over Florida International last Saturday, Roof picked up where he left off in Atlanta, accruing three solo tackles. And for a defense that desperately needs linebacker help given the departures of Tegray Scales and Chris Covington to the NFL, the sophomore figures to see those numbers jump as the season progresses.

Now a few years matured from their backpack-tossing dispute, T.D. and Mic, a quarterback at the University of Charlotte, maintain a tight relationship – though quarrels still arise from time to time. And like that fight back at Buford High School, their father remains squarely in the middle of the twins’ relationship.

“Oh gosh yes,” Ted said of whether his boys remain close. “The month that T.D. was home and Mic was home it was awesome. As a parent it was exciting to see them together ‘cause they enjoy each other and love each other so much – whether they want to admit it or not.”

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