Luke Marquardt never played in a varsity game for perennial state football power Skyline High School in Sammamish, yet he has an opportunity to carve out an NFL career as an offensive lineman.
“I just want to make a team, that’s all that matters to me,” he said. “Once I get on the team, I’ll work my hardest to earn a starting spot.”
At almost 6-foot-9 and 315 pounds, Marquardt is an impressive lump of clay for an offensive line coach to get his hands on and mold into an NFL lineman.
But in high school, jump shots, not pass sets, were the now 23-year-old’s focus.
Marquardt tried out for quarterback his first year at Skyline, but never advanced past the role of a backup on the freshman team. The coaching staff asked him to move to offensive line the following season.
Marquardt passed, deciding on full-time pursuit of basketball. The move made some sense because Marquardt had basketball talent in his genes. His mother, Pam Marquardt, was a four-sport athlete at North Kitsap High in Poulsbo who played basketball at the University of Washington.
Marquardt was 6-1 as a freshman, but grew to 6-8 by his senior year. He played little his senior season at Skyline, but decided to join Azusa Pacific’s basketball team as a walk-on.
During a basketball tryout at the California school, Azusa Pacific football coach Victor Santa Cruz saw potential, and asked Marquardt to catch some passes on the football field.
After the workout, Santa Cruz offered Marquardt some scholarship money to play football as a tight end.
Marquardt redshirted his freshman year for the Cougars, and played tight end as a sophomore. He was asked by the coaching staff to move inside to tackle when depth became thin because of injuries midway through the season and he obliged.
Marquardt said he weighed 260 when he made the switch from tight end to tackle. Reviewing the film after the season, Santa Cruz liked what he saw from Marquardt at tackle, and asked him to play there full time, telling him that he had a possible future as an NFL lineman.
Initially, Marquardt balked at the move, but a conversation with a family friend, former University of Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham, helped sell him on a position change.
Along with that, Marquardt got the chance to work every day with an accomplished former offensive lineman, Azusa Pacific offensive line coach and Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.
“I just tried to learn all of the skill sets that brought him success,” Marquardt said about working with Slater. “It’s definitely been huge. I improved a ton from my sophomore to my junior year from his coaching.
“He’s one of the most intense guys you’ll ever meet. He has one volume – loud. He taught me to be intense, dominate on every play and give 100 percent in practice, because it carries over to the games.”
Marquardt was the first Azusa Pacific player in 13 years invited to the NFL scouting combine in February, but did not participate in on-field drills because of a hairline fracture in his foot that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season.
However, Marquardt benched pressed 225 pounds 31 times at his pro day two weeks ago, and did some on-field drills with Slater to show some of his footwork.
Marquardt said he took visits to four teams, but Seattle wasn’t one of those. He hopes to be selected somewhere in the latter stages of the NFL draft.
“I want to attack guys and dominate every play,” Marquardt said. “You’re going to get a guy who works hard in practice and not just in games. I feel like the passion for football has just now started. It’s the beginning; it’s only going to rise.”
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN TO CONSIDER
Rob Rang, senior draft analyst with NFLDraftScout.com, reviews offensive linemen Seattle might select in each round of this year’s draft.
SECOND ROUND (56TH PICK), Kyle Long, 6-6, 313, Oregon
Rob’s rationale: Intriguing project. Big man with impressive athleticism. Played only three years of football after signing with Florida State as a pitcher. Son of Hall of Famer Howie, brother of Chris.
THIRD ROUND (87TH PICK), David Bakhtiari, 6-4, 299, Colorado
Rob’s rationale: Left tackle for the Buffs, but may not possess the length and flexibility to remain there. Good athlete who plays with some nastiness.
FOURTH ROUND (123RD PICK), Brennan Williams, 6-6, 318, North Carolina
Rob’s rationale: Highly athletic right tackle. His Dad, Brent, played defensive line for Seahawks from 1994-95. Won’t last this long if teams are convinced he’s healthy after torn labrum ruined 2012 season.
FIFTH ROUND (138TH AND 158TH PICKS), Earl Watford, 6-4, 300, James Madison
Rob’s rationale: Dominant small-school guard who has impressed scouts with his athleticism and tenacity. He had a solid week at the East-West Shrine Game.
SIXTH ROUND (194TH PICK), Jeff Baca, 6-4, 302, UCLA
Rob’s rationale: Tough, versatile offensive lineman with starting experience at guard and tackle. Some think his best position in NFL would be at center.
SEVENTH ROUND (220TH, 231ST, 241ST AND 242ND PICKS), Tanner Hawkinson, 6-5, 298, Kansas
Rob’s rationale: Former tight end emerged as a four-year starter at offensive tackle. Needs time in the weight room but an athletic, battle-tested project with some upside.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org