When he was a Hastings High School Yellow Jacket, Ali Marpet dreamed of playing college football for powerhouse Alabama, but instead went to school upstate and lent his talents to the Division III Hobart College Statesmen.
Four years and more than 70 pounds later, the 6-foot-3, 307-pound offensive lineman got his chance to play in Alabama in January, as the first Hobart player ever invited to the Senior Bowl. His exceptional play there, against some of the top college athletes in the country, was followed in February by an eye-opening demonstration of speed, strength and versatility at the NFL Combine — pro football’s prime time casting call.
History : NFL players from the Lower Hudson Valley
Since then, the humble, soft spoken Marpet is being projected as a second- or third-round pick in this week’s NFL draft and his “came from nowhere” story is getting the kind of attention usually reserved for first round picks, Heisman Trophy winners and quarterbacks. He’s been featured on ESPN, NFL.com and in sports pages across the country.
And most reports haven’t even mentioned his mother.
“I guess it’s been helpful, seeing how my mom deals with publicity,” Marpet said during a Monday conference call. “Both of my parents have been extremely supportive throughout this process. I guess growing up with the attention they’ve received has been helpful.”
Marpet’s mom, Joy Rose, founded the “Housewives on Prozac” rock band, the “Mamapalooza” music and arts festival, and more recently, the Museum of Motherhood. Over the years she’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Journal News and many other outlets. His father, Bill Marpet, is also no stranger to glamor and publicity. An Emmy-winning director and cinematographer, he’s best known as founder and head of B Productions, the leading producer of fashion industry video in New York.
“One of the amazing things about our family is that each of us is extraordinarily different,” Rose said on Tuesday. “Ali took to sports, and it looks like he’s taking it all the way. His brother, Blaze, is studying for his doctoral degree in ancient Greek philosophy at Northwestern. His other brother, Brody, is loving life, working different jobs and reveling in being 25-years-old in St. Petersburg, Florida. His sister Zena is there, too — she’s a sciencehead. She’s an EMT and is at Eckerd College, studying to be a nurse practitioner.”
“And they all come from a rock ‘n’ roll mama with pink hair and a fashion guy father,” she said with a laugh. “I think it’s testament to the fact that we live in a world where we’re all connected, but we’re all different.”
But this week, she said, is about Ali.
“Obviously we’re all very proud of him and excited for him,” she said.
Marpet said during Monday’s conference call that while the media is focused on his small high school and college background, the NFL teams he’s met with and worked out for are more interested in his abilities.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to has told me ‘we don’t care where you come from — we care about whether you can contribute.’ I’ve always sure of my abilities and the Senior Bowl and Combine were both big confidence boosters — to see that I actually could compete with guys from bigger schools,” he said.
It’s been a busy few months, Marpet said. He’s been eating and working out a lot as he tries to bulk up for the NFL; visiting different teams that have expressed interest in drafting him; working to “clean up some technical things” in his game for an expected position switch from tackle to guard or center; talking to reporters; and studying for finals so that he can graduate on time with an economics degree.
“It’s been pretty difficult, but a lot of fun,” he said. “The best advice I’ve received is to enjoy the process. It’s really been a once in a lifetime kind of experience.”
He grew up rooting for the New York Giants, but Marpet hopes to be drafted “somewhere where I can make the biggest impact as fast as I can, whether it’s a team that’s re-building or an established playoff contender. It’s been really cool, visiting the different teams and seeing how the NFL does things … The media attention has been fun, but right now I’m excited about seeing how I can do at the next level. I’m ready to be playing football.”
Marpet will watch the draft at home in Hastings, with family and friends.
“We’ll all be in the basement, waiting for the big phone call,” he said.
Rose said she’s looking forward to it.
“My joke with Ali these days, because he’s gotten so big, is that his extra gravitational pull is bringing the whole family together,” she said.
The Ali Marpet scouting report:
– Played football and basketball at Hastings High School. Two-time all-league selection in both sports. Was twice named to the all-Section 1 team. Made All-State second team his senior year. Graduated in 2011.
– Division III All-America honors, three time All Liberty League selection, AP Little All-America team, Liberty League Co-Offensive Player of the Year and many other athletic honors at Hobart College, where he was team captain.
– First Division III player invited to the Senior Bowl, for top NFL prospects, in 20 years.
– Ran 4.98 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine – the fastest time among offensive linemen. Finished second in both the 20-yard shuttle (4.47 seconds) and the three-cone drill (7.33 seconds).
– Bench pressed 225 lbs. 30 times at the NFL combine — fourth highest among offensive linemen.
– Ranked as 80th overall prospect by CBS Sports, which also ranks him as the fourth-rated offensive guard.
– NFL.com analysis describes him as having: “Good foot quickness with ability to reach and hook opponents. Quick out of stance and into defender. Usually the low man using hips and arm extension to lock out and control his man. Has leg drive to drive his man backward and finish. Consistent with hand placement in run and pass. Plays with advanced technique for a Division III player.”