Roddrick Muckelroy: Seizing the moment
Sept. 7, 2008
Jonathan Mann, Texas Media Relations
During Saturday night's 42-13 victory over UTEP, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy seized a rare opportunity.
In the fourth quarter, the junior from Hallsville took advantage of good positioning and a teammate's great effort. Sophomore defensive end Sam Acho snuffed out a screen pass and stripped the ball loose, ready for Muckelroy to take it to the house.
"I saw the ball pop up, and it was perfect for me," Muckelroy said of his first career touchdown as a Longhorn. "I just tried to scoop and score, and once I got the ball, I saw straight end zone. I felt like nothing was going to stop me from getting in there."
Saturday's game was the third consecutive start for Muckelroy, dating back to last year's Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State. In this, his fourth year on campus, he has embraced the starting role, an approach that is evident from his work ethic on and off the field.
"He's actually been one of the leaders of the defense," said junior Sergio Kindle of his fellow linebacker. "He helps out all aspects of the defense and he tries to get everybody motivated, and it's really showing on the field. I feel like there's nothing that can hold him back right now."
Muckelroy's dedication to success has drawn the attention of the coaches, as well.
"Rod really studies the game off the field, and he's able to take it from the classroom to the field," said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Will Muschamp. "He's got instincts as a linebacker. He plays with physical toughness and great effort, but his heart is the most talented thing he's got. He has a tremendous heart and he plays hard for Texas. He's been a guy that I've been really proud of and really honored to coach by the way he approaches the game."
The arrival of Coach Muschamp this season has been a key factor in Muckelroy's success.
"When he came in the spring, he sat down and talked to me," Muckelroy said of his new teacher. "He just started teaching me little things I can work on. He teaches the fundamentals of football.
"In our defense, we have a lot of freedom. There are a lot of different calls we can make to free us up."
Muckelroy's game-high 14 tackles in the win against UTEP marked the second straight week the junior has led the Texas defense in the category, and after the game, the coaches named his the most productive defensive player for the week.
But amidst the solid start and impressive statistics, Muckelroy's modesty still prevails, as he credits the efforts of his teammates for his success.
"The (defensive line) is playing hard," Muckelroy said. "I give them the credit because without them, I couldn't really do anything. I wouldn't be as productive. I'd be nothing."
Outside of the tutelage he receives from Coach Muschamp, Muckelroy also keeps in touch with former Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson.
"I talk to him sometimes when he's down here, just to ask him a couple of things about football," Muckelroy said of the current Kansas City Chief. "He sits down and talks to me whenever I have questions, and he'll answer those questions."
The current UT linebacking corps understands the importance of staying on the same page in order to succeed. The group relies on a close relationship with one another to remain in sync.
"We're all close," Muckelroy said of the unit. "Me, Sergio, [Rashad] Bobino, [Jared] Norton, Dustin [Earnest], we've all been here for a while, so we're pretty close together. When we're on the field, we communicate. Off the field we're all friends, so we hang out a lot too."
Young Muck, as he is referred to by teammates, can count on his fellow linebackers to keep him grounded, which was apparent after his touchdown scamper in El Paso.
"I was telling him if the quarterback tackled him, he was going to get ridiculed when he got back," Kindle joked of Muckelroy's dash to the end zone. "But I knew he was going to score just by how fast he was moving. That was his big chance. I knew he was going to get in."
Despite seeing playing time at running back in high school and regardless of Saturday's touchdown, Muckelroy will continue to strive for improvement at linebacker.
"I feel good, but I'm still not where I want to be," he said. "I'm going to go back to work tomorrow. I still have little things that I want to work on personally. I feel good about those first two games, but I've still got work to do."