Snap decision: Marchese will walk on at Maryland

Athletes run in the Marchese family.

“My mom’s a runner,” said Joe Marchese, who’s not.

The Vernon Hills family boasted a pair of brothers on Stevenson’s varsity football team last fall, and while oldest boy Joe graduates, reinforcements are coming.

Twins Henry and Michael are eighth-graders. By the time they graduate in 2017, they might end up playing football with Jimmy. Listed as a 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back/quarterback last fall, the sophomore is playing his second varsity sport this spring as the baseball team’s starting shortstop.

Marcheses on marquees?

Maybe it’ll happen someday.

“(Henry and Michael) are like Jimmy,” Joe Marchese said. “My whole family, they’re skills guys. I was really the only lineman.”

Athletes walk (on) in the Marchese family, too.

John Marchese made the University of Iowa’s football team as a walk-on 30 years ago and played fullback for four years, including 1986, when the Hawkeyes played in the Rose Bowl. Now, his son Joe will be walking a similar path. Or, if he’s like his mom, running down it.

A two-year starting offensive lineman for a perennial state qualifier, Joe Marchese has accepted an invitation to be a preferred walk-on at the University of Maryland, which will be joining the Big Ten in another year. The 6-3, 230-pounder won’t play O-line, though. Rather, Marchese will long snap.

“I loved the campus,” said Marchese, who was all set on attending the University of Illinois and studying engineering, before, essentially out of a nowhere, came an opportunity for him to play major college football. “They showed a ton of respect for a preferred walk-on long snapper.”

Dad’s advice on how to excel as a walk-on on a Division I football team?

“Things have obviously changed since the ’80s,” eldest son said. “But he’s given me advice, and he talked to the (Maryland) coach and everything. My dad’s been really helpful.”

A bad break for Maryland’s Christian Carpenter was Marchese’s break. During spring practice, Carpenter, the Terrapins’ backup long snapper, tore his ACL. That left fifth-year senior Greg Parcher as the team’s only healthy long snapper. When that happened, Marchese received an email from Maryland special teams coordinator Andre Powell.

“The coaches from Maryland were in search for a high quality replacement,” Stevenson football coach Bill McNamara said. “After watching highlight films of many players and contacting coaches, Joe was in the running for the spot. I had talked with the Maryland coaches, and they came in to meet Joe and watch him work out at an open gym. They were impressed and had him in their top two candidates.”

On his visit to Maryland’s campus in College Park, the university and football coaches showed so much respect for Marchese that they got him into their engineering program, despite him having just applied.

“I’m really big on studies,” said Marchese, a two-time academic all-conference selection for the Patriots. “I was like, ‘I need to go into the engineering program for this to happen.’ We got to meet with a bunch of people, and they got it all worked out.”

Marchese started for the Patriots his junior year at right guard and his senior year at center. He served as the Patriots’ long snapper each season, honing a skill that he first learned while playing Pop Warner football. When he got to high school, he attended Kohl’s Kicking camps and got ranked on its website for his long-snapping skills.

“That’s how (Maryland) found me, actually,” Marchese said.

Funny, because when he handed in his Stevenson uniform last fall, Marchese figured he was done with competitive football and whipping footballs through his legs.

“There were some opportunities to play at some smaller schools, but not really as a long snapper because I didn’t write down that I was a long snapper,” Marchese said. “I was mostly a guard/tackle. I looked at the smaller schools, but I wanted to go to a big school, and none of those big Division I programs are looking for 230-pound guards.”

Then Maryland found him. What college football program doesn’t want a smart kid who embraces hard work, is versatile and is willing to accept his role?

Said McNamara: “We are very proud of Joe and his accomplishments, and are very confident he will be a great fit at Maryland with football and academics.”

“I saw it as an opportunity,” Marchese said, “and ran with it.”

It runs in the family.

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