From Division III to NFL prospect: Marpet’s path to draft
Ali Marpet is one of the most unlikely prospects in this year’s NFL draft.
The Division III offensive lineman from Hobart College wowed scouts at the Senior Bowl against some of college football’s best, then measured up to other top prospects at the combine.
Marpet, 6-foot-4, 307 pounds, will share his path to the April 30-May 2 draft in Chicago with The Associated Press, starting with his reflections on an improbable rise, and his preparation for his pro day.
Q: How did an NFL prospect end up at Hobart?
A: “In high school, I think my senior year I was 235 pounds. My junior year, I was 205, so I even put weight on from my junior year to my senior year. I wasn’t rated an ESPN prospect or anything like that.
“I was playing offensive line and defense at Hastings High School (Hastings-on-Hudson, New York). So every other year we’ll send a guy to a D-III school at best.
“So I didn’t go to school thinking I was going to have an opportunity to go to the NFL. What I did was make an academic decision and went to the best academic school I could get into. I wanted to do finance, but we didn’t have a finance major, so I did economics. The one thing Hobart has is an excellent alumni base.”
Q: Were there any Division I schools interested in you?
A: ”(FCS) Fordham, by the time I talked to them, they were willing to offer a scholarship and wanted me to play defensive line. Marist, Holy Cross. No scholarship or anything like this. Just walk-on opportunities.”
Q: Did you have a player you watched growing up, thinking: ‘I want to play like him.’
A: “There wasn’t anyone who I thought, I want to play like him, because it just wasn’t real. It’s funny because growing up — I think this is pretty weird — I would create a player in Madden, I would make an Ali Marpet, and make him an offensive lineman, usually for the Giants. I would usually make myself a 6-8 tackle; I never got to 6-8.
“I remember having a conversation with my mom. If I ever want to play offensive line, I’d have to get to 300 pounds, which just did not seem like ... I’m not a 300-pound guy.”
Q: When did you realize professional football could be a possibility?
A: “After my junior season I was thinking I could actually play on, and I was talking with some alumni and some guys I played with and I was still deciding what I wanted to do, get an internship or work out in New Jersey. I worked at the DeFranco’s Gym in New Jersey.
“The summer after my junior year I did a workout for some scouts, Wunderlich test, measurables. Height and weight. My senior year, that’s when it started to get really real because there were scouts at our practice and stuff like that.
“After I got the Senior Bowl invite, I thought it would be a possibility.”
Q: Was there a moment at the Senior Bowl, where you were facing top players from the highest level of college football, where you thought you belonged?
A: “The first practice of Senior Bowl I was going against (Utah defensive end) Nate Orchard, who is a pretty good player.”
(Note: Orchard was second in the nation with 18 1-2 sacks last season).
“So that was the first rep I got in one-on-ones, with Nate Orchard. And I beat him on the first rep. And I was like ‘Ooooooh.’ I was kind of shocked myself a little bit. I was like, OK this is pretty cool. He was like the fastest D-lineman or something like that.
“It was also pretty cool because I was practicing guard up until the Senior Bowl. They kind of just threw me out there (at tackle). You don’t know how many times I went over my pass steps the night before in my head.”
Q: Your pro day at Hobart (in Geneva, New York, about halfway between Syracuse and Rochester) is Friday. What is your plan?
A: “I’m going to sit on the numbers that I did at the combine.”
(Note: Marpet ran a 4.98 40-yard dash at the combine, the fastest of any offensive lineman. He also bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times)
“At this point I don’t think it’s worth risking any sort of injury or anything like that to do extra reps on the bench or something like that. What I’m going to do is offensive line positional work, just so I can show that I’m fluid and I’m athletic and all that good stuff.
(Note: Marpet has been training with former NFL offensive lineman Bob Whitfield)
Q: The next step in the draft process after pro day is meeting with teams. Do you have any visits or private workouts already lined up?
A: “I think I’m around 12 either interviews or workouts, but I think that will go up.”
Q: You started preparing for the combine in December at Chip Smith Performance Systems in Atlanta, and even after the combine went back to continue training. Have you allowed yourself any down time?
A: “For me it’s not hard to stay motivated. I understand how rare this opportunity is. So when I work out in Atlanta and I’ve done well at the Senior Bowl and I’ve done well at the combine, I’m ready to go back to work.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL