Roberson returns to health

After missing time with a neck injury, Marcus Roberson is back to play a big role for UF

Updated: August 5, 2012, 3:27 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson knows he came pretty close to possibly never being able to walk again.

Or maybe even worse.

Roberson's neck hurt after he hit receiver Alshon Jeffery early in the second half of the Gators' 17-12 loss to South Carolina last season. Not much, though -- and certainly not enough to make him even consider leaving the field.

So Roberson played the rest of the game. He told UF's medical staff after game that his neck hurt, but it wasn't until the following day that tests showed he had fractured the C6 vertebra, which is in the base of his neck.

That's when Roberson realized how lucky he had been the day before. By staying in the game with that kind of injury, he risked a spinal cord injury, which could have resulted in paralysis or possibly even death.

[+] EnlargeRoberson
Courtesy of UF CommunicationsAs a true freshman in 2011, Marcus Roberson started 10 games and had 22 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
"I was blessed to get through it," he said.

Even nine months after he found out about Roberson's injury, UF coach Will Muschamp is still shaken by what happened because he knows what could have happened had Roberson taken another hit to his neck.

"A scary injury," he said. "Any time you're dealing with the head or the neck, it scares you to death."

Roberson downplays the injury now, which is much easier to do now that he's out of the neck brace he wore for little more than three months -- even when he slept -- and has been cleared to return to full contact. He's excited to finally get back on the field.

"Just a freak accident," Roberson said. "I hit someone the wrong way. That's pretty much it.

"I wouldn't say I was scared. I wasn't worried or anything like that. I just stayed positive throughout the whole situation and was able to pull through."

But it was hard, especially at first. Roberson was having a solid season until his injury, starting UF's first 10 games and recording 22 tackles and one interception until his injury.

"For anyone who loves football, it'd be a tough road for them just to see others play and not contribute to the team," he said.

The Gators are expecting bigger things from Roberson in his sophomore season. Muschamp said in the spring that Roberson's top priority in the offseason was to get bigger and stronger, and he's done that. He's added five pounds of muscle and now weighs 180, plus he said he's worked on his ball skills and refined his technique.

"I dropped a lot of interceptions," Roberson said. "I'm just locking in more on my technique, trusting my technique and just grasping everything Coach has for us."

His teammates are looking forward to Roberson's return. Roberson was limited to non-contact work in the spring so this week was the first time he's been able to go full contact since his injury. After watching him persevere through the injury and get stronger in the weight room, linebacker Jelani Jenkins is eager to see how much Roberson has improved.

"He has a lot of potential and one of the things I really like about him is he's real confident," Jenkins said. "He's real humble, too. He's not one of those guys who has to talk about it. He does his talking through his playing. He knows what he can do and he plays hard."

So hard that he played with a broken neck, which still stuns Jenkins because he knows how lucky Roberson is that he didn't get hurt worse.

"Fortunate that it didn't get as bad as it probably could have been," Jenkins said. "We're glad to have him back."

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter