Calm Under Pressure
Nov. 16, 2001
by Theresa Ripp
Marcus Roberson does not feel pressure.
Growing up in Walnut, Calif., the six-foot-four, 285-pound Husky defensive end was not pressured by his parents to play sports. By the time he was five years old, however, he had already heard his calling, and signed up for Pop Warner football.
'I chose to play sports to feel part of a community,' he says.
Roberson has found himself embraced by the Husky community since venturing north prior to the 2000 season, after two years at Mt. San Antonio College in California. Roberson was prepared for the challenge of adapting to a new environment, having learned early in his career at Paramount High School that on the football field, mental strength can overcome physical adversity.
'I will never forget a game I played against Garr High School with a swollen ankle and a bruised shoulder. We didn't win the game, but I had never worked so hard to get past the physical pain I was in the whole game,' he recalls. 'I don't necessarily like the weather here in Seattle, but I feel a good vibe with the people. Put the great fans together with the coaches, and it's a strong community.'
Roberson is not particularly vocal, chewing spearmint gum throughout each game and preferring to express himself in more tangible - and for opponents, painful - ways. Last year, he teamed with linemates Larry Tripplett, Ossim Hatem and Jeremiah Pharms to produce 21.5 total sacks and 39 tackles for loss.
'I keep it all inside when I am walking down the tunnel,' he says of his gameday demeanor. 'But when I am on the field in a game, I am always talking, always shouting. I just let it all loose.'
In his first season at Washington, Roberson let loose to the tune of eight tackles for loss and six sacks, helping lead the Huskies to their first Rose Bowl championship since the 1992 season. Roberson had extra incentive to reach the Rose Bowl last season, as it marked his first trip home to southern California since transferring to Washington.
'The Rose Bowl wasn't about playing football to me,' he says. 'I was more excited to go home. I was able to spend about 16 hours at home with my mom and other family and friends.'
Roberson's mother, Hattie, a computer administrator, was able to come to the Michigan game this year and will be in the stands for the Apple Cup. Hattie calls her son everyday at either five a.m. or 11 p.m., two of the few times the younger Roberson is not consumed with football or schoolwork.
'My mom loves it in Seattle,' he says with a large grin. 'Growing up, my family never really got out of Los Angeles. Coming up here is a totally different experience for her, being with 75,000 people in one place, cheering for me and my teammates.'
Roberson lives with his brother Maceu in Seattle.
'My brother is the first to give me congratulations after a game,' he says. ''Whatever you get in the future,' he always tells me, 'you deserve it because you worked hard to get it. You deserve all of it.''
Roberson's father, Azeal, passed away in 1998. He always told Marcus to take no prisoners when he is on the field. Roberson believes, however, that the real test is not overcoming adversity on the field, but in remaining mentally strong throughout the many challenges faced by a major-college football player.
'The best advice I can give to a young football players is to stay focused,' says Roberson. 'Try to live two lives - don't mix personal too much with football. Be true to yourself and don't bend your will for others.'
Roberson has remained strong in all aspects of his life. A sociology major, he plans to return to California after graduation to earn a graduate degree at either USC or UCLA.
On the field, Roberson likes nothing more than seeing a montage of purple and gold. This is his community. No pressure, just chewing his gum, working to earn what he rightfully deserves.