ASU’s Antonio Pierce believes Merlin Robertson’s growth is highlight of 2020

Nov 14, 2020, 11:10 AM
Linebacker Merlin Robertson #8 of the Arizona State Sun Devils intercepts a pass intended for tight...
Linebacker Merlin Robertson #8 of the Arizona State Sun Devils intercepts a pass intended for tight end Jake Ray #18 of the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first half of a NCAA football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, November 7, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Arizona State co-defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce gushed about junior linebacker Merlin Robertson’s maturation and more during a Zoom call with members of the media on Wednesday.

The former NFL linebacker said that Robertson, who had 10 tackles and an interception against the Trojans, has been a bright spot defensively for the Sun Devils.

“I can say that’s the one good thing about 2020 with all the COVID going on is Merlin’s been steady and consistent,” Pierce said. “Really from [the 2019 Sun Bowl] against Florida State. It started then. It’s continued. He’s had a lot going on in the offseason.”

Robertson addressed his play against the Trojans, as well as the emotional impact of playing his first game since his father, Vincent, passed away in February.

The junior linebacker said he dealt with a range of emotions ahead of the game in his hometown of Los Angeles but that he was able to overcome them by focusing on the task at hand.

“At first, I got a little teary eyed but then again I wanted to do my business and handle my business and contribute to the team,” Robertson said.

Pierce said the coaching staff and everyone on the team’s side of the field was fired up whenever Robertson made a play in the team’s opener.

“I don’t know if you saw on the sideline, we were extremely excited and fired up every time that he made a play because it came to fruition,” Pierce said.

The third-year ASU defensive coach believes that Robertson’s opening week performance can be a springboard for a successful junior campaign.

“It’s not about the talk. Like coach [Herm Edwards] says, words in action, we put it on the field,” Pierce said. “Merlin put it on the field, he played his tail off. That’s a game obviously that’s very personal to him and that he needed for his confidence.

“To prove, not to everybody else but to himself, that the work that he put in on and off the field, he can show it to everybody. And I’m hoping and I’m praying that he has a healthy season and that he keeps going.”

Pierce, who played in 124 games across nine seasons in the NFL, believes that Robertson has a chance to play football at the next level.

“I know that his ultimate goal is to play in the National Football League,” he said. “I know it’s farfetched and I’m praying that that happens for him.

“I’m hoping that it’s this year, and that he helps us win games and keeps playing the way he’s playing because when he plays that well he brings a certain energy and passion and mentality to our team.”

Robertson and the Sun Devils had their home contest against California canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday after losing their opener against USC, 28-27, on Nov. 7.

He’s confident that his performance against USC is a sign of what’s to come whenever the Sun Devils take the field again.

“I felt like how I did on Saturday showed the work that I put in this offseason, which is more than I did last season,” Robertson said.

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ASU’s Antonio Pierce believes Merlin Robertson’s growth is highlight of 2020