Sept. 19, 2002
By Dominick Vicente
UCLA Sports Information Student Assistant
The timeline at UCLA for senior middle linebacker Marcus Reese is drawing a close, but he expects to mold his final season into the highlight of his career. With all journeys, there are beginnings and ends, obstacles and influences, and realizations and desires. Following is a glimpse into the playing career of Marcus Reese and some key elements that have shaped him into one of the top linebackers in the Pacific-10 Conference.
As a prep, Reese played football for Oak Grove High School in San Jose, CA. He was touted as one of the Top 5 linebackers in the nation and one of the Top 50 football players nationally by various publications. The media exposure helped propagate Reese to be recruited by many Division I schools.
"Being a top linebacker in high school helped me a lot," said Reese. "Just the fact that I was publicized so highly allowed me a variety of choices. It also attracted UCLA." Coincidentally, UCLA was Reese's top choice, as well as his favorite school since he was young. "I always liked UCLA as a little kid," said Reese. "I used to always watch them play, and I knew this is where I wanted to go."
Once at UCLA, the adjustment for Reese went smoothly. He played as a true freshman and saw action in all 11 games, recording 37 tackles on the season. The realization, though, was that Reese would not appear as a starter but as a key reserve. "The shift from high school to UCLA is definitely a transition, but it's not that different from being a freshman in high school to be being a freshman in college," said Reese. "I had to realize that I'm now the little man, and I need to build my way up."
Reese continued this attitude during his sophomore and junior seasons and turned in stellar performances as a key reserve. As a true sophomore, he recorded 34 tackles and led the Bruins with four quarterback sacks. As a true junior, he recorded 34 tackles and had two memorable punt blocks in wins against Washington and California.
From his previous seasons, Reese demonstrated his ability and versatility to play all three linebacker positions. Now, entering his senior year, he is the most experienced among the Bruin linebackers and is a starter in the middle of the Bruin defense. Reese, however, is not quick to forget the former teammates that helped shape him. "I was blessed to have Robert Thomas in front of me," said Reese. "He really taught me a lot. I'm not going lie; I want to put up numbers like his."
Reese strives to improve his personal attributes and differentiate himself among other linebackers. "I've made many improvements up to this point," said Reese. "I've improved my speed and agility, and I understand the defense a lot more than my previous years. I try to follow my own style for our speed-type defense. I try to play fast with an active mind."
With a better understanding of the game gained through experience on the field, his roles have altered to include leadership. "I don't feel much pressure," said Reese. "I just need to continue from last year. Only this time, I'm going to be on the field full-time. This year is about leadership. There are a lot of linebackers on our squad, and it's my time to be a leader as well as a playmaker. I need to dominate and carry out this defense."
A projection into this season, Reese commented, "Last year, we were on top, rated No. 1 in the Pac-10 in total defense, but this year, some fear for our defense. The truth is that we're young, but we're also very hungry."
Though aggressive on the field, Reese still exhibited humbleness when asked about his personal goals for the season. "I have many personal goals this season, but I want to hold them to myself. I don't want to reveal anything just yet, but know that you will see them for yourself."
Looking into the future, Reese aspires to be a top prospect in the NFL draft. "The NFL is one of my aspirations, but I still have a lot to fall back on. My education at UCLA is very important, and I still want to hold on to a degree."
As a sociology major, Reese enjoys his social welfare classes, which are pertinent toward his degree. "I enjoy learning about society and facing the reality of situations," said Reese. "UCLA's social welfare classes allow students to interact with the community for self-experience."
Reese was quick to note a very special influence in his life, his family. "My two older sisters, Kerri and Angela, are very supportive, my older brother Dwight encouraged me to play football, and my parents made sure I was responsible. They are the greatest influence in my life and partly the reason I chose to attend UCLA. I wanted to stay in California so I could still be close to them. They've all helped me in different aspects of my life."
Focusing on the season, Reese has no limit to his potential. He's poised for the start of the season, and he's managed to avoid the most detrimental obstacle in football, injury. "Avoiding injury is the key to a successful football season. I've always tried to stay healthy and get the treatment I needed."
The journey is near its end, but a new season is beginning. This season may be Reese's last with the Bruins, but this game against Colorado State also marks some firsts for him: his first start and his first cover.
"It feels great to be on the first program cover," said Reese. "There are many seniors on the team, and to be selected among them for the first game is simply an honor."