Former Quarterback Catches On
Hanover — Cole Marcoux trading cards are still for sale on eBay.com, vestiges of a time when the big New Yorker was a quarterback prospect, a reality TV subject and, for a brief moment, the talk of the college football world.
“I think Notre Dame should definitely go after this kid,” CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said in January 2010, after Marcoux starred in a high school all-star game on national television. “He’s got a rifle arm; he can make all the throws.”
After arriving at Dartmouth College, however, it turned out that throwing was a problem. At least the tight, targeted spirals required by the college game. Marcoux can definitely catch them, however, which is what he did last weekend against visiting Yale, snagging a pass with one hand just before exiting the side of the end zone. The reception, the senior’s 10th of the season, produced his first Big Green touchdown and the highlight of a football career that’s risen, fallen and risen again.
“There were times when I felt pretty down and it hurt,” said Marcoux, now splitting time with Dean Bakes at tight end in an offense that often has two of them on the field. “I had trouble sleeping at night. I had expectations for myself and goals that were unfulfilled. But I’m just not someone who can turn my back on myself and my teammates.”
A product of the Fieldston School in the Bronx, Marcoux began playing football only in ninth grade at an academically-prestigious institution that includes about 500 high school students. He was coached by a former Division I college quarterback, but hadn’t attracted any national attention before his performance at a Pennsylvania football camp led to him being cast in a Fox Sports Net reality show called The Ride.
On it, Marcoux won a contest and entry into the Aloha Prep Bowl, where he performed well enough to earn an invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Among Marcoux’s peers at the game were 11 players ranked as the top prospects at their positions by the recruiting site rivals.com. Marcoux was ranked No. 45 among senior quarterbacks and had verbally committed to Dartmouth, but his stock exploded after he was named the East team’s player of the game for completing 5-of-8 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns, one of them a 50-yard strike.
“I can’t imagine any high school football player who wouldn’t be interested if Notre Dame ever came calling,” he told the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.
“Notre Dame might just do that,” wrote Tribune reporter Eric Hansen, but in the end only Buffalo and East Carolina offered scholarships and Marcoux headed to Dartmouth. He arrived in the fall of 2010 amid chatter he might win the starting job as a freshman, but that was far-fetched thinking. The college game was infinitely more complex than what Marcoux had ever experienced, and he had a slight hitch in his passing form that troubled coach Buddy Teevens.
The hitch worsened and Marcoux’s motion became tortured. He descended the depth chart and before last season, asked Teevens if he could switch to slot receiver.
“Coach Teevens and I were both a bit upset about how things had developed,” Marcoux said. “It’s hard to learn that hard work may not pay off. You don’t understand why things aren’t going your way and why you can’t scratch and claw your way out of it.”
Marcoux, now 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, spent last fall learning to catch and block upfield. The learning curve took a sharp, upward bend when he moved to tight end for spring practice.
“I was more of a quarterback than a football player,” said Marcoux, who never played defense in high school. “But having a bigger body, it made sense for me to try and utilize that to help the team.”
Dartmouth’s tight ends also act as fullbacks at times, so Marcoux had to learn pass and run blocking along with new receiving routes and he had only 12 spring practices to show genuine aptitude. With tireless work ethic and the courage to initiate and absorb collisions, the pieces began to come together.
“He hadn’t been in the trenches, and that’s a real challenge,” said tight ends coach Kyle Metzler. “When you block as a tight end, you’re basically an offensive lineman, and that’s not the kind of stuff you grow up doing with your friends in the back yard.”
Marcoux interned last summer with Dave Howard, a 1982 Dartmouth graduate who is the president of MSG Sports and who runs the business operations of the NBA’s New York Knicks, the NHL’s New York Rangers and the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Five days a week after work, he would drive to New Jersey for football-specific sessions with a personal trainer.
“It was a pretty intense internship and some days I didn’t feel like driving 30 minutes out there,” Marcoux said. “But I wanted to become more powerful and explosive and be more of a threat on the field. So I’d bite the bullet and I wouldn’t get home until 10:30 or 11 at night.”
The dedication began to pay off when he caught four passes for 46 yards during the season-opening victory at Butler. It was a coming-out party of sorts for the new No. 12 and the celebratory feelings increased when his teammates mobbed him after the touchdown reception against Yale.
“That catch was an ESPN highlight-type shot,” Teevens said. “I’m happy for him and for us and glad for the example he’s set for all the guys who come in and it doesn’t go the way they’d like.”
Marcoux has excelled off the field as well. He won the William S. Churchill Prize, annually presented to a freshman male for academic achievement and citizenship, and had a 3.86 grade-point average that first year. Senior linebacker Bronson Green said his classmate is one of the team’s hardest-working students and well-respected across campus, not just in the locker room.
“We all admire Cole for what he’s done,” Green said. “The quarterback thing was disappointing because we all had high expectations, but that’s life and you need to adapt. He’s been a key asset to our offense.”
Marcoux said realization of his new and larger role on the team has sunk in gradually during the season’s first month. He already cherishes the memory of eating dinner with his family at the Hanover Inn after the Yale game, a group of about 10 people laughing and reliving a big victory over the Bulldogs.
“The support I’ve had from my family and close friends has been unbelievable,” he said. “They were at games my first three years when we all knew I wasn’t going to get in, and now I’m not only in the game, but I’m contributing. It’s a very different feeling when you win and you know you were an active contributor, that you helped put points up on the board.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.