Oct. 16, 2000
"I'm getting old."
Not exactly the type of statement you would expect to come out the mouth of a 21-year old, especially an athlete who has shown no sign of weakness on the football field. Even though he is barely old enough to be considered "legal", Green Wave offensive lineman Bernard Robertson says he feels like he is 40 years old. The numerous aches and pains accumulated in a career spent battling in the trenches have taken their toll on the Tulane fifth-year senior, who now finds himself having to stop by the Green Wave training room for treatment at 6:00 a.m. at the start of each day. When asked if his father Bernard, who was a trainer for his high school football team, gives him any tips on how to relieve the pain, Robertson delivers his infectious laugh. "He tells me to put ice on it," Robertson chuckles.
If Robertson's father is less than sympathetic to the 6-4, 290-pound tackle, perhaps Robertson can look to his mom. After all, she did receive her master's degree in social work from Tulane. When asked if she pushed her son, a graduate of Karr High School in New Orleans, to attend her alma mater, Robertson gives a knowing smile and says that while it was his decision, she was "extremely excited" when he decided to follow in her footsteps. The deciding factor in his decision to attend Tulane was that he could stay close to his family. To show their support, Robertson's family/fanclub attends all home games and travels to away games within a three-hour drive to watch him play.
During his career, his family has seen Robertson succeed at the highest levels. He was a starting tackle on the Conference USA and Liberty Bowl championship team that notched a perfect season in 1998, earning first-team All-C-USA honors for his contributions. The year before, he had been named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team. Despite all of his successes, Robertson says the most memorable moment of his TU career came in his first game in a Green Wave uniform. As a redshirt freshman starting his first game, he found himself giving up 100 pounds to a defensive tackle from Cincinnati facing him across the line. Despite the physical mismatch, Robertson was able to make an impact on the field. "In that game, I stood my ground," explained Robertson. "It was important to get that confidence and set a standard for my career."
That confidence has translated into a high level of performance for the past four years. Robertson has started 37 games for the Green Wave during his career and was named to the preseason first team All-Conference USA squad entering his senior season. His work on the line resulted in him being selected by Wave coaches as Tulane's Offensive Player of the Week after the season opener versus Ole Miss. He has been a key factor in the production of the Tulane offense through the first five games of the season, including seeing freshman Mewelde Moore rush for three straight 100-yard games.
His personal goals for each game are to not allow any sacks and to "completely dominate" the unfortunate player who lines up against him. But most importantly, he wants to have fun.
"If you don't enjoy playing, then you are losing already," explains Robertson.
His primary regret, however, is that he hasn't scored a touchdown -- yet. Robertson jokes that he keeps whispering in the coach's ear in hopes he will give him the ball on the goal line so he can realize his dream. Say his coaches -- "Dream on." The truth is, Robertson is simply to valuable doing what he does best, lead the offensive line.
As a fifth-year senior, Robertson understands that he is a leader on the team and especially among his fellow linemen. His leadership philosophy is that his teammates are grown men and that they know what they need to do on the field. But when players get down or lose perspective, Robertson takes it upon himself to tell them to "keep their heads up and enjoy themselves."
"Above all, this game is supposed to be fun," declares Robertson. "It is my job to remind [my teammates] of that."
Despite his constant smile and upbeat attitude, not everything comes easy for Robertson. At 6-4, 285 pounds, Robertson biggest problem is one that most people would love to have - he has to make a conscious effort to gain weight. His position demands that he stays heavy enough to overpower massive defensive linemen.
"I lose weight like crazy," states Robertson. "I can lose 10 pounds in one day if I am not careful."
College has been a personal learning experience to discover the proper diet necessary to keep his weight up.
"I live off campus and do my own cooking," said Robertson.
To supply the enormous amount of calories that it takes to keep the weight on in the face of constant physical exertion, Robertson relies on a daily intake of meats and pastas, and of course, his favorite, smothered pork chops.
Robertson compares life as a student-athlete to having three jobs. In addition to the rigors of preparing for each Saturday's game, the goal-oriented young man is pursuing a double major in sports medicine and sociology. Having grown up in the Big Easy, Robertson is no longer phased by the notorious New Orleans nightlife that can be a powerful temptation to Tulane students. After a long day filled with weightlifting, team meetings and a grueling practice, not to mention a full class load, Robertson claims that he "is liable to pass out" from exhaustion if he tries to go out on the town. When given a free moment from football and academic responsibilities, Robertson opts for just relaxing in his chair at home, a place he considers a refuge from the outside world.
Why does he do it? Why does he put up with all the nagging pains to play a position that simply doesn't get the same attention showered upon quarterbacks or running backs? Robertson says the answer is simple.
"The only thing I know is 'team'," states the lineman. "There are not too many times in your life when... against the odds, you put your best foot forward and come together with a group of guys and put a winning product on the field."
And in Bernard Robertson's eyes, that special feeling makes all the aches and pains in the world well worth it.