Oct. 28, 1999
By Erin Rowley
Growing up with two older brothers, Ryan Roques did not have to venture far to find significant role models in his life. Now the tables are turned, for Roques is taking what he learned from his family and using it to encourage and lead a young Bruin football team during a season of rebuilding.
Roques has always looked to his family for motivation, especially brothers Burnell and Aaron. Even when Ryan considered attening college out of state, he realized that joining Aaron at UCLA was the best thing to do.
"[At first] I didn't want to come to school here because my brother was already here," Roques said. "But I learned it's good to stay by your family and I'm glad I did. My brothers have always been really supportive. They're the ones that molded me into the football player I am today."
Aaron played football at UCLA from 1994-1997, and as a senior starting cornerback, he was the first to give Ryan some tips when the younger Roques made the switch from tailback to defensive back in '97.
"When I first moved to cornerback, I wasn't good, so my brother was there to tell me, 'well you're not supposed to be good right now,'" Roques said.
The tides quickly changed for Roques, who worked his way to a starting role last season as a junior, playing left cornerback. Starting six of the final 10 games in '98, Roques ended the season tied for sixth in the Pac-10 with four interceptions and made a career-high 13 tackles at Oregon State, the most by a Bruin that year.
But what has remained constant has been Roques' prowess when he's on the other side of the ball. Time stops for Roques on kickoff and punt returns, a part of the game that he enjoys and has excelled in.
"Even though I'm a defensive player I love to have the ball in my hands," he said. "It just comes natural for me and that's why I like it. I don't have to think too much. The ball gets in my hands, I feel a little faster, I feel a little quicker. I don't think, I just go."
Earning special teams All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors last year, he ranked 14th nationally with 12.5-yard return average, while averaging 27.9 yards on 12 kick returns. His 81-yard kickoff return at Washington was UCLA's longest since 1980 in a season that ended at the Rose Bowl Jan 1.
This year, things are different for the Bruins. Roques still excels in the backfield and on special teams duty, but UCLA is trying to make the most of a few setbacks this season. And that's where Roques feels he is most needed, encouraging, motivating and leading the younger players. Just like an older brother would do.
"I bring an optimistic view of things because I've been around and I've seen things that have happened in the past," Roques said. "When the younger guys can look up and see somebody else working hard, doing what they're asked without complaining and just accepting it, it's going to make them do it. Sort of like life's lessons. Like an older brother or father that you've seen work hard all his life. When it's your turn to work hard, you're not going to complain because you've seen someone else do it.
"The older guys that have been around bring experience and leadership to the team. I can tell the younger guys, 'this really isn't that bad, we've done worse than this.' They'll believe me."
As the season progresses, Roques hopes to instill in the younger Bruins a competitive drive and desire to work hard that they can in turn, pass on to other players down the road. Just as his brothers did for him.