Roberson sets sights on making mark with Rams
• By Joe Lyons
Marcus Roberson refuses to let what happened — or didn’t happen — during last month’s NFL draft hold him back.
“You can’t control the uncontrollable,’’ said Roberson, a former University of Florida cornerback who wasn’t picked and signed with the Rams as a free agent shortly after the draft. “My opportunity is here and now and it’s up to me to try and make the best of it. My focus is on making the team and doing whatever I can to help the Rams.’’
Roberson, who stands 6 feet and weighs 190 pounds, was highly touted coming into the draft, with some “experts’’ viewing him as a possible second- or third-round selection. But after three days and seven rounds, he still was available. He said he drew interest from several teams before deciding to sign with the Rams.
“I felt like this was a place where I could fit in well,’’ said Roberson, who received a $15,000 signing bonus. “It’s a good system with a great coaching staff that can teach me a lot. I played in an NFL-type scheme at Florida and that’s helped with the transition. Still, learning the plays and the terminology’s a little different. But I definitely feel like I’m catching on and getting more comfortable every day.’’
The Rams, who held their first of 10 organized team activities Tuesday at Rams Park, addressed a need by adding a number of cornerbacks in the offseason, including sixth-round draft pick E.J. Gaines from Missouri as well as rookie free agents Roberson and Greg Reid (Florida State). Holdovers at the position are starters Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, plus backups Brandon McGee and Darren Woodward.
In addition, second-round draft pick Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State) and rookie free agent Jarrid Bryant (South Dakota) are listed as defensive backs, capable off playing corner or safety.
“It’s a strong group,’’ Roberson said. “But competition is what pushes you to get better.’’
Spirited competition is nothing new for Roberson, a product of perennial national prep power St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
It led all high schools in drafted players this year, with four — Joyner by the Rams in the second round, Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward by the Falcons in the third round, Miami guard Brandon Linder by the Jaguars in the third round and Wisconsin running back James White by the Patriots in the fourth round.
In 2010, when Roberson was a junior, Aquinas went 15-0, captured the Class 5A title and ended up ranked third nationally.
“We were pretty good,’’ the soft-spoken Roberson said. “It’s a private Catholic school program coached by the great George Smith. He’s a great coach and I really enjoyed my time playing there.’’
So who was the true shutdown cornerback on that squad, Joyner, the senior, or Roberson, the junior?
“No, we both were good,’’ Roberson said, chuckling.
As a true freshman with the Gators, Roberson started the first 10 games in 2011 before being sidelined because of a neck injury that required surgery. He played in all 13 games in 2012, starting four. That season, he was second in the Southeastern Conference with 14 passes defended and had 12 pass breakups.
Last fall, ankle and knee injuries limited Roberson to seven games and just four starts. He missed another game because of suspension after breaking unspecified team rules.
“The injuries definitely hindered me,’’ he said. “But injuries are a part of football, something you just have to learn to play through.’’
Roberson, 21, elected to leave Florida after just three seasons. He described himself as a ‘ballhawk’’ and seems to be a good fit for the aggressive scheme employed by new Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“I’m a press, man, man-to-man corner who can adjust as needed,’’ he said. “I consider myself an all-around corner.’’
But Roberson will be the first to admit he has room to grow — literally.
“I need to get bigger, stronger and faster because the opponents in the NFL are bigger and faster,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to (offseason practices) and to training camp. This is the next step in my life and I’m really excited about it.’’