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Player Profile: Nick Roach

LB Nick Roach, entering his 8th season in the NFL, played every single defensive snap for the Oakland Raiders last year. It was his first season in Silver and Black and he held together the middle of the defense throughout the 2013 campaign, leading the team in tackles and the linebacking corps in sacks.

The Northwestern graduate joined the Raiders as a free agent during the 2013 offseason after six seasons with the Chicago Bears. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers and was placed on their practice squad. The Chicago Bears signed Roach away from the Chargers in November 2007.

In 2009, Roach started 15 games for the Bears and in 2011 and 2012, he started 15 and 14 games respectively. He spent much of his time in Chicago learning from veteran LB Brian Urlacher, so when it came time for Roach to take control as the middle linebacker for the Raiders, he was ready.

"I learned what it was supposed to look like," said Roach. "I didn't really understand fully what it took to be a successful linebacker until my first couple years in the league. It came from being around those guys and watching what they did on the field, the attitude they brought."

Now, after years of having successful veterans to look up to and turn to with questions, Roach is one of those guys for the Raiders. "I embrace it because it happens," Roach explained. "I don't think I advertise like, 'hey, come get advice from me.' I'm thankful for the leaders I had, the guys I was able to learn from when I was a younger player and just being able to apply those lessons in my play and in my conduct in general. Young players, you just want to figure out how you're supposed to do things, so fortunately I had a lot of good examples of how that was supposed to go."



LB Nick Roach sacks the QB. Photo by Tony Gonzales

His teammates recognize his knowledge, professionalism and ability to make plays and Roach understands what it takes to be a productive middle linebacker. "First you have to know what you're doing because you kind of have to be the source of confidence for everybody else," he explained. "If you're not on point or if you're not sharp with your job, it kind of leaks throughout the rest of the team. Outside of knowing what you're doing, it's being decisive. Know what you're doing, be decisive and then of course it's just about the effort. When you're in the middle, you just feel like you can get to everything, so try to get to as many plays as possible."

Roach has been developing those skills since he started playing football his sophomore year of high school. The 6'1" linebacker originally ran track and played basketball. But when he tried football at the coaxing of the high school coach and principal, the Milwaukee, Wis.-native realized that was his sport.

After receiving only a couple of college offers, Roach chose Northwestern. He then went undrafted into the NFL. Often, professional players say they are extra motivated by their undrafted status. Roach didn't, and still doesn't, feel that way. "I'm not motivated by it because I agree with it," he said. "I don't think I should have been drafted based on what I did in college, and where I went to school doesn't put out a lot of draft picks anyway. At the time, I don't even know if I was the best player on our defense. I agree with it but I do appreciate coming in that way because it was along the same pattern as playing at Northwestern, being the underdog always, so that when you actually do have some success, people want to know how it happened."

His initial motivation was watching his mother raise him and his two siblings. "The fact that none of us ever got in any major trouble and none of us ever skipped school and did the things that you hear kids that are just disobedient all the time…I don't know how she pulled it off, working multiple jobs," said Roach.

And now his faith keeps him going. "And I think now, my faith has really put a lot of things in perspective for me in terms of what to expect from life, what things to put weight on and what are things you can't control," said Roach.

While family and faith are the cornerstones of his life, football has helped shape him. "I think it's unique just in terms of the game and the lessons it has in it about life," said Roach. "I forget who said it, but they were basically like if you can figure out how to be successful at football, not just in the game but being a professional football player in all areas of your life and figure out how to make that successful, you can probably figure out how to do pretty well when your career is over. There's a lot to manage – time management, there can be a lot of emotional stress, obviously the physical demands, so I think just balancing every angle of possible fatigue and stress and being able to be victorious over that, you walk away with a lot."

In his eighth season and second with the Raiders, Roach is comfortable in his role with the team and the place in his career. "Last year for the first part of the year it felt like the first weeks at a new high school or something," he said. "Not having to go through that again, and then of course, second time around with the defense, most of the mistakes that were made last year and the learning process have been eliminated and now we can kind of start taking the next steps for how we can take our techniques into big plays."

Roach wasn't able to play in Week 1 due to a concussion sustained during the preseason, but he's excited to contribute on a defense he feels can be much improved from last year. "I think last year a lot of the stuff we did, without taking credit from other teams, we just beat ourselves a lot and we didn't put ourselves in the best positions to just have a fair fight. I think this year with the second go-around for a lot of us, it'll be a lot cleaner and the competition will be a lot better."

He's ready for the team to perform for the always-supportive Raider Nation. "The fans…they're going to do what they do regardless of our record, which is respectable," said Roach. "I don't think there's any person on earth that could say Raiders fans are fair-weather, which is cool. I'm excited that we have a chance this year to really give them something to actually cheer about and see how crazy it can get."

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