Inexperience, size add to Marquardt's intrigue

Feb. 23, 2013
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Pat Marquardt played college basketball at the University of Washington, so it only stood to reason her son, Luke, would follow in those footsteps.

After sprouting to 6-foot-1 his freshman year of high school, Marquardt made the seemingly logical decision to give up football and concentrate solely on basketball.

By the time Marquardt arrived on the campus of Azusa Pacific, however, he had shot up to 6-8, 220.

Upon his initial visit prior to walking onto the Cougars’ basketball team, he came across the school’s football coach, Victor Santa Cruz, and only then was Marquardt’s true destiny was revealed.

Luke Marquardt was a football player.

The Cougars initially tried him at tight end, but in the midst of his redshirt freshman year the problems on the offensive line resulted in Marquardt moving to left tackle where he spent the next 30 games of his collegiate career.

Despite missing his senior year with hairline fracture of his vernacular bone, Marquardt still was invited to his year’s NFL scouting combine, marking the Cougars’ first representative at the event since 2000.

Only two weeks removed from having his boot removed, Marquardt still isn't running, but measured in at 6-foot-8½, 315 pounds, making him the tallest offensive tackle in this year's draft and one of the class’ most intriguing prospects.

After doing 31 bench-press reps with his lengthy 34¾-inch arms, Marquardt estimates he talked to 25 teams during the combine, including private meetings with New England and Indianapolis but not the Packers.

Where some see lack of experience, Marquardt believes it's a strength than a detractor.

“I don’t view it as a challenge,” said Marquardt, who’s projected as a seventh-round pick by NFL Draft Scout. “It’s definitely something I’m going to have to overcome. Coaches and teams have recognized my talent and natural ability, and I feel like this is only the beginning. I’m just going to keep striving forward.”

Marquardt was eligible for a medical redshirt to return for another season, but Azusa Pacific is in probation in its transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II, making the Cougars ineligible for the postseason.

Confident in his ability, Marquardt jumped at the chance to declare, but he’s still a raw prospect.

That inexperience never was more evident than his first meeting with Azusa Pacific offensive line coach Jackie Slater, a Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle who played 20 seasons in the NFL.

Marquardt was unaware of those credentials, instead asking where Slater played college football.

“I asked him where he played, and he’s like, ‘A small school down in Mississippi,’” recalled Marquardt with Slater referring to Jackson State. “So I looked him up afterwards and it’s like of course, 20-year Pro Football Hall of Famer.”

Over the past two years, Marquardt has been the star pupil of Slater and now hopes to turn that into a professional career in a sport he never expected to excel in.

Although his off-the-field temperament suggests a mellow side, Marquardt has his edge. While he understands his credentials don’t dictate the highest quality of competition, Marquardt is confident he has what it takes to make it in the NFL.

“They all try to talk smack. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to talk crap to your face,” Marquardt said. “I’ll just put your head in the ground and dominate you. That’s how I talk and they shut up really quick.”

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