By Alex Wagner
Assistant Sports Editor
To put it plainly, Bryce Robertson ’12 embodies what college football coaches look for in their players. The cornerback and punt returner is an exceptional athlete with a strong drive to succeed, as well as a great teammate and leader on and off the field. These qualities have made him a standout student-athlete over his four years, which has culminated in an outstanding senior campaign.
In his hometown of Reserve, La., Robertson was a football and basketball star at East St. John High School. Although he was certainly an accomplished player from an area with quality high school programs, it was not easy to tell what a huge role he would play during his time in Lewisburg.
Even for a casual fan, Robertson’s impact on the Orange and Blue’s football program is clear. His numerous accolades and statistics speak for themselves. He was named the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) Elite Defensive Back for 2011. He was an All-American selection by the Associate Press, The Sports Network, Walter Camp and Phil Steele. He was a First Team All-Patriot League selection, Academic All-Patriot League Football selection and a C. Dale Wolfe Recognition Award recipient, given to the most inspirational player on the team.
Robertson’s 13 interceptions in 2011 shattered the previous 24-year-old Patriot League record of nine. In fact, it is not uncommon for a whole team to have less than 13 interceptions during a season. His 184 interception return yards were a program record, which also helped him add up a career high 346 all-purpose yards in 2011. He was also tied for a team-high with six pass breakups.
These numbers are the work of a player who led the Bison defense that forced 39 turnovers, contributing to a +2.45 turnover margin per game, which led the nation.
But in reality, the awards and statistics don’t tell the whole story. Head coach Joe Susan paints a better picture of what makes Robertson such a special player.
“Bryce is confident in his ability, [which] is critical to being a cornerback at any level in football. He anticipates well. He is an explosive athlete and has very good strength for someone at his position. He has very good quickness, and good speed. He has very good hands [which] make catching interceptions a lot easier. He is fearless, a critical factor for a corner,” Susan said.
When speaking about what makes him successful, Robertson is quick to highlight three main factors.
“Firstly, the new coaching staff implemented a new defensive scheme upon their arrival. I embraced the challenge and did what I had to on and off the field in order to become the most productive player I could for the team. Secondly, the full support of my coaches also was monumental in my success on the field. Lastly, but definitely not least, the outstanding pressure that was produced by our defensive line and blitz schemes also added to what I was able to accomplish on the field,” Robertson said.
Any great player must learn to work well with and learn from their coaching staff, and Robertson certainly embraced the lessons of cornerbacks coach Chip Taylor, who Robertson says has been the most influential figure for him at the University.
“He was a good friend to me and some of the other guys on the team. He has taught me many things that I have assimilated into my game in order to become a more complete player, as well as many life lessons that I will keep with me throughout my life long after my tenure at Bucknell has ended,” Robertson said.
Although his play at cornerback has garnered him much attention, Robertson is also extremely valuable to the Bison as a punt returner. In 2011, he returned 18 punts for 140 yards.
“He was consistent as a punt returner and saved our team many hidden yards just by catching punts,” Susan said.
Despite the huge success he enjoyed during his final season, the going was not always easy for Robertson. He was hampered by a hamstring injury during his junior year, which meant that he had to commit to making changes so that he would be healthy for the 2011 season.
“He was an example for others in the weight room and in our running program. He was always willing to do extra work be it physical or mental, ‘student of the game’ work,” Susan said.
The extra work in the off season obviously paid off for Robertson and the Bison in 2011, when they saw an impressive five-win turnaround from the previous year.
Robertson’s favorite moments during the season were every time the team gathered after a win to sing their fight song. It is certainly gratifying when all of the work put in during practice and weight room sessions produces the desired goal.
Due to the confidence gained during this past season, Robertson plans to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
“My plan after graduation is to chase the dream. It is not often that people get to actually make a living participating in a sport that they aspired to be a part of since they were a toddler. So it is truly a blessing that I have the opportunity to do so, and … I [intend] to take full advantage of it,” Robertson said.
Everyone in the Bison community certainly wishes him the best of luck in his journey to take his game to the highest level. But if that doesn’t work out for him, he has a promising backup plan as well.
“I would be more than happy to obtain a finance career and become a productive member of society, building off the foundation of a Bucknell education,” Robertson said.
Susan agrees that Robertson is prepared for life after college, wherever that may lead him.
“As a coaching staff we feel fortunate to have the privilege of coaching young men like Bryce. He is a very charismatic young man who has a great sense of people,” Susan said.
No matter what comes for Robertson in the coming years, the Orange and Blue will always be grateful for his huge contributions to the football program.