A three-year starter at Columbia, Roberts played both ways as a quarterback and a defensive back. Breaking onto the scene as a sophomore, he completed an impressive 102 of 170 passes for 1,076 yards and six touchdowns. He also scored three touchdowns and two, 2-point conversions. As a junior, he led the nation in completion percentage (.616) by connecting on 101 of 164 attempts for 1,184 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding 341 rushing yards and nine scores. In his senior season, Roberts hit 56 percent of his passes, 110 for 196, to finish second in the nation. He passed for 1,444 yards and 12 touchdowns.
During his career, he was among the national leaders in completions, total offense and scoring. He became the first Lions quarterback to complete 300 career passes, and he currently ranks sixth in school history with 3,704 passing yards. He set 17 Columbia and 14 Ivy League records during his days with the Lions, becoming a three-time First Team All-Ivy League selection.
Roberts earned honors in 1964 as a Playboy All-American and as the ECAC Co-Eastern Football Player of the Year. Following his senior campaign, Roberts claimed a spot as one of three quarterbacks chosen for the 1964 Coaches All-America Football Game alongside future College Football Hall of Fame inductees Roger Staubach of Navy and John Huarte of Notre Dame, Heisman Trophy winners in 1963 and 1964, respectively. A standout in the classroom as well, Roberts claimed a prestigious NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award in 1964, and his classmates voted to present him the Rolker Prize for academic and athletic excellence.
Drafted by the NFL's Cleveland Browns, the AFL's New York Jets, and Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals, Roberts signed with Cleveland, in part because the Browns and Art Modell offered to pay his way through medical school. During his medical training at Case Western Reserve, Roberts only participated in pre-season practice and as a taxi squad emergency backup. After two years with the Browns, he signed with the Miami Dolphins where he played for one season.
Following his football career, he began his practice of medicine, becoming a nationally known cardiothoracic surgeon who performed more than 4,000 open-heart surgeries and trained dozens of young doctors in cardiothoracic surgery. A renowned teacher, Roberts has held positions as an assistant professor of surgery at Northwestern University; associate professor and Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, at the University of Nevada; associate professor and director of adult cardiac surgery at the University of Florida; professor and chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Boston University Medical Center; and clinical professor of surgery at Temple University. He headed the cardiac surgery departments at the Heart Institute of Northeast Pennsylvania and the Jersey Shore Medical Center. He has written more than 100 articles and four books on cardiac surgery.
After retiring in 1997 as an active surgeon, Roberts founded the Living Heart Foundation, which has been in the vanguard for using mobile methods to screen patients for cardiovascular risks and to raise awareness about heart disease. The Living Heart Foundation began screenings near Roberts' hometown of Holyoke, Mass., and with the Columbia football team. In the weeks following the attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the organization screened more than 2,000 emergency workers at the New York Police Academy, and since 2003 the Foundation has been sponsored by the National Football League Players' Association to conduct screenings of retired players.
In 1987, the Columbia College Alumni Association bestowed its most prestigious award on Roberts, presenting him with the John Jay Award for distinguished achievement. In 2006, he was the only two-sport individual (football and baseball) to be inducted in the inaugural class of the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame. In addition to football and baseball, he also lettered in basketball for the Lions.
Roberts annually returns to his home state for the NFF Western Massachusetts Chapter Annual Awards Dinner, which bestows the Archie Roberts Award to its most outstanding scholar-athlete. The award is named for Roberts' father, a legendary coach and athletics director at Holyoke High School in the region. Roberts and his wife, Nancy, have six children and six grandchildren and reside in Little Silver, N.J.