Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


After changing mentality, Cromartie finding success

After being thrust into Wisconsin\’s starting lineup following an injury to cornerback Devin Smith, Marcus Cromartie has thrived opposite Antonio Fenelus.[/media-credit]

One season ago, Marcus Cromartie found himself buried in the depth chart of the Wisconsin football team’s defensive backfield.

He appeared in just five games in 2010, amassing five tackles. But one year later, he has found himself manning the starting cornerback position opposite All-Big Ten selection Antonio Fenelus.

Football is as much of a mental game as it is a physical one, and for Cromartie, all it took was a change in mentality.


“I think from where he was to where he is now, he’s definitely made some huge strides,” safety and team co-captain Aaron Henry said. “It’s amazing what confidence will do for a player, because Cromartie is the exact same player he was last year. It’s just crazy how a player’s morale and confidence goes up once they’re presented an opportunity or once they come off a rough year.”

Once cornerback Niles Brinkley graduated after last season, Cromartie, a redshirt junior, pushed hard for the open starting spot despite the presence of senior Devin Smith, who had already spent the entirety of his sophomore season as a starting defensive back.

Although it was Smith who initially would walk on the field in two-cornerback sets, Cromartie worked hard enough to earn a “co-starter” status along with Smith by season’s opening.

Smith, however, sustained a season-ending injury in the second game of this season, ceding his starting role to Cromartie. And although the 2011 season has been one of ups and downs for the new starting defensive back, the fact that he finds himself in such a role is a mark of his mental growth.

According to Fenelus, who has been a roommate of Cromartie’s since the two first arrived on the team together in 2008, said that as a younger player, Cromartie indulged in “too many celebrations” – a habit which has since been dropped.

When it comes to Wisconsin co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who also acts as the team’s defensive backs coach, that is just the type of thing he wants his players to avoid.

“‘Success is not a destination, and failure is never fatal,’ [that’s] something we talk about all the time,” Ash said. “Some guys have a successful game or successful play and they all of a sudden think, ‘Hey, I’ve arrived. I’m the guy.’ But the lesson they need to understand and learn is just because you were successful on one play or one game doesn’t guarantee you success the next time out.

“Cro’s one of those guys that had to learn that.”

So far this season, Cromartie has registered the seventh-most tackles on the team with 28, including 12 solo, and has deflected six passes and recovered one fumble. He has yet to record his first career interception, but that has not worried him much.

“It’s just really not about how I do at the end of the day; I’m really here to win,” Cromartie said. “I could care less about how my stats are; I haven’t even gotten an interception, but my [main] focus: I come out here to win.”

But interceptions are not necessarily a requirement for a defensive back to labeled a “playmaker,” anyway.

This past weekend, with Wisconsin up 21-10 over Purdue in the second quarter, the Boilermakers broke their huddle on the UW 41-yard line, attempting a fourth-down conversion to regain momentum. Quarterback Caleb TerBush dropped back and threw to wide receiver O.J. Ross on a fade route, but the pass fell incomplete thanks to solid defending by Cromartie.

Wisconsin took the ball back but subsequently turned it over three plays later, giving Purdue a second-chance at its own 48-yard line. But Cromartie snubbed them again, deflecting a pass over the middle that eventually landed in the arms of UW linebacker Mike Taylor.

“He really goes out there and competes every play, and if he makes a play, he just goes back and does it again,” Fenelus said. “There’s no celebration.”

“Cro,” as he is commonly referred to among team members, has held his own as a cornerback without much experience prior to this year. In his first career start against Northern Illinois’ accomplished passing game, the Huskies immediately targeted him, running five plays his way in their first two drives.

Cromartie responded with no first downs allowed, five tackles and one pass deflected on those two drives. However, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder later allowed a 39-yard reception, which eventually led to a touchdown.

Henry describes Cromartie as a player who takes a lot of mistakes like that “personally,” but so far this season, he has been able to tune out the nagging effects of those on-field slip-ups.

And to prove it, Cromartie naturally recited Ash’s message.

“You just got to bounce back from it personally, and I think I do a good job of knowing that success is never final and failure is never fatal.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *