Linebacker McGraw aims to take Cougars to new territory
As a defensive team captain, middle linebacker Marcus McGraw exemplifies what it takes to be the leader of the UH defense. McGraw led the team in 2009 with 156 tackles and 75 solo stops, averaging 11.1 tackles per game,
good for fifth in the nation.
Lingering performances in the final two games of the 2009 season gave McGraw and his teammates motivation for next year. Setting the tone for the 2010 season, McGraw led the Cougars in Saturday’s season opener posting 11 total tackles, four solo, one sack and a forced fumble.
“We feel like we have a bunch of unfinished business out there,” McGraw said. “Their last opinion of us is probably not the best, so as a whole that is what we have our mind on coming out here and showing that we are a good team. I think we have a lot to prove to the national audience.”
McGraw and the rest of the defensive unit migrated to the 3-4 defensive front in the offseason. He said that the transition hasn’t changed his role on the defense, but that practice has helped make adjustments.
“When you play with the number one offense in the nation, you have to bring your A-game every day in practice,” he said. “By us doing that, we get better as an overall team. Defensively, the tempo we run helps us get conditioned and in shape for other offenses that do not even run that type of stuff.”
“I think we are better prepared after what happened last year. We put more focus on getting better, and with a new defense we have put a lot more emphasis on trying to be a perfect team and do better than we did last year.”
Love for the game
McGraw’s involvement with sports started at an early age, and from the start he had his heart set on playing football.
“Football has always been my heartbeat,” he said. “It’s the first sport that I played back in little league.”
His success in the sport carried on to Bowie High School, where he excelled in more than just football. As a junior and senior, he was selected to all-district first team and helped lead his team to a 13-2 record in his final year. McGraw’s talent captured the eyes of Washington State University, as well as Tulsa’s, but in the end he made UH his home.
“In elementary I played only football, but once I got into high school I couldn’t play basketball, so I did wrestling all the way through my senior year,” he said.
“I pretty much did sports year-round. Whatever sport came up, I did it,” he said.
The moments prior to kick-off are usually emotionally charged for players, but McGraw takes a different stance in getting prepared before the game.
“I just stay relaxed and listen to my music,” he said.
“Usually everybody jumps around five minutes before game time, I just relax my nerves and empty my head — because come game time, stuff is going to run through it left and right.”