Presbury tries on the CFL, might later star in shoe biz

May 29, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

His future lies in athletic footwear, but for now, Robert Presbury is chasing his dream career one more time.

For the past five years -- in places like Hamilton, Orlando and Philadelphia -- Presbury has tried to make it in pro football. Only once -- in Orlando with the World League -- was he successful.

Now, at the ripe football age of 28, the Aberdeen native will try again. This time it's with the CFL Colts in the Canadian Football League.

"I said I was going to give it up a couple of times after I got cut," said Presbury, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound defensive tackle who has been cut four times by three different teams.

"In my mind, I know I can play on that level [the NFL]. I just never had the opportunity. Sometimes you've got to be in the right place at the right time."

Baltimore could be the right place because Colts coach Don Matthews happens to be the same guy who gave Presbury a job in the World League in 1991 with the Orlando Thunder.

Presbury performed admirably, hence this opportunity.

"He's a good all-around defensive lineman," Matthews said between workouts at Towson State yesterday. "He's like a vet. He knows how to play, he sees things faster."

If this represents Presbury's best shot so far, it also might be his last.

"If I don't make it this time, it's on me," he said. "I'm [in] a situation where they know I can play. It's not going to be a political situation."

He is typical of the kind of player who turns up in the CFL: Good athlete, but flawed in the eyes of the NFL. Too short, the Philadelphia Eagles said -- not once, but twice.

Presbury, who turns 29 next month, was already preparing for his future outside football when the Colts appeared on the horizon. For the last nine months, he worked as an assistant manager at a Foot Locker store in Atlanta.

It's an employment opportunity he wants to pursue even if he makes the Colts. He would, he said, be willing to hold both jobs during the regular season.

"I'm seriously thinking about it," Presbury said. "There is life after football. Right now, there's Foot Locker. I'm not getting any younger. Injuries happen. This gives me something to fall back on. Eventually, I'd like to have my own store."

Between football tryouts, Presbury went back to school to get a degree in business administration. At Delaware State in 1987, he was chosen the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's defensive player of the year.

Baltimore fits conveniently into his long-term plan because it is home, after all. Presbury excelled in basketball and football (tailback and linebacker) at Edgewood High in the mid-1980s. His father, Robert Presbury Sr., still lives in Harford County. And he has an 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer, living in Joppatowne.

"So there were a lot of reasons to come back," he said.

With the Colts, Presbury essentially is competing for a spot on the defensive line beside Jerald Baylis, the league's outstanding defensive player of the year last season. Baylis joined the Colts as a free agent from Saskatchewan.

Two years ago, Presbury passed up an offer to join Matthews in Saskatchewan.

"I was pig-headed," he said. "I should've gone with him. But I'm glad I'm here now. I'm putting everything else behind me."

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