Roach's Baton Rouge roots add extra to LSU matchup

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Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

Senior defensive lineman Malcolm Roach will play LSU for the one and only time in his collegiate career on Saturday. Because Roach is graduating one year before the series moves to “Death Valley,” it will be the closest he gets to playing in front of LSU fans or at Tiger Stadium.

“The fact was they didn’t want me,” Roach said in his Tuesday availability. 

Roach played high school football at Madison Prep Academy, which is five miles away from the LSU campus. He was recruited by several schools, LSU included. The Tigers went to see Roach play in high school, but didn’t communicate much beyond those few trips. Roach was never offered a scholarship, nor did he take an official visit to the campus.

Roach was a three-star recruit entering college, but not being offered a scholarship wasn’t the slight that most would think it is.

Growing up, Roach was more connected to smaller schools and Texas than LSU despite being a Baton Rouge native. His father was the defensive coordinator at Grambling State University, a historically black college three and a half hours north of Baton Rouge. As a kid, Roach stood on the sidelines of the Grambling Tigers’ games thinking about one day playing in the same stadium.

“Growing up my dream school was to go play for Grambling,” Roach said. “(I) always thought I’d be going to (an) HBCU and playing to be honest.”

Had he gone to an HBCU, he would’ve followed in the footsteps of his family. His father Mike Roach played linebacker at Southern University, an HBCU in Baton Rouge. His brother Mike Roach Jr. was an All-Conference safety at Grambling State.

Roach changed his mind about playing for Grambling once the idea of playing major Division I football became a real possibility. Texas had been a part of his upbringing since before he began to think about the next level.

“I’ll never forget the day me and my brother watched the national championship game (when) Vince Young scored the touchdown against USC,” Roach said. “Growing up, (Texas) was my older brother’s favorite team, so naturally it became my favorite team.”

Once Texas became an option for Roach, they were able to sign the Louisianian lineman by doing the one thing LSU wouldn’t do. 

“They offered me,” Roach said.

Roach is one of several people on the Longhorn sideline that have a connection with LSU. Head coach Tom Herman was offered the head coaching job for the Tigers in 2016 before being hired by Texas. Sophomore safety Caden Sterns was committed to LSU for six months before changing his decision and going to Texas. 

When asked how close he was to taking the LSU job, Herman refused to answer. Sterns felt the “vibe” he got from Texas along with its proximity to home were the biggest factors in his decision to choose Texas.

Some would think that with the magnitude of the game, the preparation heading into this game would change. But Roach doesn’t feel any different, regardless of the history between him and the biggest school in his home state.

“Every game is personal to be honest,” Roach said. “The people we’re playing aren’t my teammates. So I go into every game with a chip on my shoulder.”