College football scholarships are nothing new at Skyline High School. Since 2000, the successful program has sent 29 players to the next level.
But the scenario is a little different for Luke Marquardt. The 2008 Skyline graduate hasn’t strapped on a football helmet or pads since he was a freshman — nearly four years ago. In two weeks, he will return to the gridiron to begin a collegiate career — after not playing a single down of varsity football as a Spartan.
“Some (people) are just stunned, they’re like ‘what’?,” said Marquardt, who was recruited to play tight end for Asuza Pacific University, an NAIA school located northeast of Los Angeles, Calif.
Marquardt and his family toured the Asuza campus over spring break. He was already accepted by the school, but he hoped to walk on to the basketball team. At 6-foot-10, 245 pounds, Marquardt liked his chances of making the team, but he also thought it was worth it to introduce himself to the head football coach.
The decision proved to be a great one.
“The head basketball coach didn’t even show up at the tryout,” Marquardt said. “He wasn’t even there. I thought ‘Wow.’”
One head coach was in attendance at the open gym, however, and he liked what he saw.
“He really impressed me with who he was and what kind of character he had,” said Victor Santa Cruz, Asuza head football coach. “He wasn’t a string bean, and he moved around really well for someone his size.”
Santa Cruz was so impressed, he asked Marquardt to come watch football practice later that week and run through a few catching drills. Fifteen minutes of workouts was all it took to convince the coach.
“He was like ‘Luke, I see you’re a great player. You have soft hands, you can catch and I’d like for you to be on the team,’” Marquardt said.
For Santa Cruz, offering Marquardt a scholarship was a no-brainer. He is the largest tight end Santa Cruz has ever recruited and will present several mismatches with opponents.
“It didn’t seem like a big risk to me at all,” he said.
Santa Cruz was also reassured by looking down his current roster and seeing wide receiver, Jon Davis. Like Marquardt, Davis never played high school football. According to Santa Cruz, the senior is high on a lot of NFL teams’ draft lists next season.
While only time will tell whether the same fate awaits Marquardt, Santa Cruz said he will have as good a chance as anyone to earn a starting spot right away.
“He’s like anybody else out there. If he can get after it, he has a shot,” Santa Cruz said.
For Marquardt, the opportunity is a dream come true. His true passion was always football. He played in youth leagues starting at age 10. But when his family moved to Sammamish from Texas his freshman year, his plans got thrown out of whack. He arrived two weeks after the season had started.
“They already had their plays down and everything,” Marquardt said. “They already had a set quarterback deal. I was just kind of bummed out about that because I wasn’t getting to play quarterback, which I played my entire life.”
Frustrated with the situation, Marquardt shifted his focus to basketball the next year. He played on junior varsity as a sophomore, but missed out on his junior year after undergoing surgery to remove dead cartilage in his left knee. A carry over from the injury and other issues within the team allotted Marquardt limited playing time as a senior.
But with his frustrations in past, Marquardt said he is ready for a fresh start. He said his knee continues to get stronger as the muscle builds up. He has worked on receiving routes with Vince Taylor, a friend and University of Washington wide receiver recruit from Eastside Catholic. And there’s no doubt Marquardt will be ready when he takes to the practice field for the first time on Aug. 1. The return has been a long time coming.
“I’m excited. I’m ready to hit some people,” he said.
Asuza Pacific begins its season Aug. 30 against Caroll College of Montana. For more information on the team, log on to www.apu.edu/athletics/football.