Oct. 10, 2006
By Tim Miguel, California Media Relations
[This story originally appeared in the October 7 issue of "Kickoff," the official California game day program]
At 6-2 and 315 pounds, California senior Erik Robertson looks the part of an offensive lineman. His impressive skills and accomplishments as a run-blocker and pass-protector through his collegiate career have resulted in deserving looks from the NFL, the No. 1 goal of most collegiate players. However, Robertson also has another look and a different goal. With his long hair (most recently black), goatee and multiple tattoos, the Apple Valley, Calif., product also fits the bill of a rock and roll icon. Through many hours of practice on the bass guitar, he is also qualified for a potential career in music, which may be his true goal.
The veteran leader of the California offensive line, who celebrated his 22nd birthday this past Wednesday (Oct. 4), said football is a close second to his passion for music. Robertson likes all different genres of music, ranging from heavy metal to classical. While music has always been one of his main hobbies, since he started playing the bass during his sophomore year of high school, he has been hooked on making music as well as listening to it.
In addition to being a hobby; he considers playing the guitar "rehab" for his hands after battling defensive linemen all day.
"Even before I was playing, I loved listening to music," Robertson said. "And now it's even a bigger part of my life because I can make it. I'll just sit down and play a lot of acoustic base at night. It's fun and when my fingers hurt, it's good physical therapy. I will pursue football for as long as I can, but what I want to do after I'm done with football is to focus more on music and actually get into that line of work."
Although many of his teammates do not agree with his choice of music, there are a few who do share his tastes. Not surprisingly, fellow offensive lineman Scott Smith, who is known as a team "Renaissance Man" due to his varied interests, is one of the Golden Bears who can enjoy tunes with his linemate. Robertson said that he and Smith, who began their Cal careers together back in 2002, agree on about 80 percent of the music they each listen to.
"We're best friends, but at the same time, we're really different people," Robertson said. "He listens to heavy metal, and I actually got into classical music because of him. I knew it was something I liked, but I didn't know many of the composers, so he got me into it. We've both broadened each other's horizons."
In addition to being in the minority on the team when it comes to music selection, his size and the tattoos that decorate his arms make it easy to identify Robertson from the rest of the players - while also making him a formidable and unnerving presence to newcomers.
Smith finds it funny how people are intimidated by Robertson.
"Everybody has always said that the first time they met him they were totally intimidated, but I didn't see that," Smith said. "When I met him, I just thought he was a cool guy with a good sense of humor. I appreciated the fact that we would be able to work together."
The rest of the linemen have many reasons to be happy about working with Robertson this season. After being the young member of an experienced line in 2005, he is now the leader of the pack, trying to help out the younger guys. With his team-high nine pancake blocks through four games this season, Robertson has almost surpassed his total of 11 pancakes last season. He started all but one game in 2005, and tallied 29 knockdown blocks over the course of the year. In 2006, Robertson currently ranks second on the team in knockdowns with 13.
Offensive line coach Jim Michalczik thinks Robertson has grown as a player during his time at Cal and has enough experience to handle all of the pressure.
"Erik is such a level-headed person," Michalczik said. "He's a great leader because he leads by example. He always works his butt off. He's constantly working on his technique; he's getting better every day. The great players you just kind of point in the right direction and they go get it done, and he's one of those guys."
Another outstanding Cal athlete who thinks Robertson should pursue a professional career in both the NFL and with music is his fiancé, Kristina Thorson, the 2006 Pac-10 Softball Pitcher of the Year.
"Right now, I think he should pursue an NFL career because the opportunity is there," Thorson said. "He's young, in great shape and at the top of his game. I definitely think he has the work ethic and drive to become one of the top linemen in the country. He works harder than anyone else I know. Music will always be around, but there's only a short window of opportunity for an NFL career."
Like music, tattoos have also been an influential part of Robertson's life. He enjoys all of the time and preparation that goes into getting a tattoo. Though all of his tattoos have meaning to him, one of his favorites has extra special significance.
His older brother Shane passed away from stomach cancer at age 25. Robertson designed a tattoo which represents a letter he wrote to Shane.
"I was with him the whole week before he died," Robertson said. "It describes the conversations we've had and watching what was happening to him. It's just a little dedication to him. Part of my tattoo talks about how strong he was and seeing somebody go through that, even though he didn't win the fight, he fought really hard for a long time and kept a pretty good outlook through the whole thing."
As he entered his final season of college football, Robertson wanted to honor his brother and decided to dedicate this season to Shane. He feels his brother will always be watching over him, and Robertson uses that as motivation to succeed on the football field.
That motivation has driven the senior lineman to excel this year for the Bears, and it could drive him straight into the NFL, postponing his music career.
Either way, the well-rounded Robertson has the look and skills for a wide-open future. His teammates can learn from his example and benefit from his advice, both on how to block defensive linemen and what songs to listen to on the radio.