By: Ken LaVicka
It seems hard to believe that at 6-2, 290 lbs., Ke'Tyrus Marks was an almost completely unnoticed college football prospect as late as this past November.
Marks, the Suncoast defensive tackle who signed on with Arkansas two weeks ago, is one of the more highly-touted recruits in the Razorbacks first class under new head coach Bret Bielema. Mid-way through last fall, however, nothing about Marks' Division I aspirations seemed promising.
Six games into his senior season, Marks didn't have a single D1 offer. Not one. When he made a mid-week visit to head coach Jimmy Clark's office in October, his frustration was evident.
"I started out heated. I was like, 'I have so many accolades and I don't have anything'," recounts Marks. "And then it went to me tearing up. It was like 'I don't know where I'm going to go to school, I don't know where I'm going to attend'."
The largest hurdle facing Marks was that not one shred of his game-film had made its way into the hands of a big-college coach during his junior year. It was a crushing, unacceptable oversight, but disturbingly understandable considering Marks had played under four coaches in four years. It was time to play catch-up and Clark, who had taken over the Chargers program in early March, found himself in what appeared to be a dire situation.
"There were so many things going on. As I was promoting kids to college coaches, I realized that nothing had been sent out from the year before. College coaches would get back to me and ask, 'Where has this kid been?'. I felt overwhelmed. I felt under the gun. I felt a lot of pressure because everything was a year late."
Clark's quest to gather attention for Marks began at the most basic level. He compiled a list of every college coach in the country, created a data-base, and began to send out Marks' film via mass e-mail blasts. He estimates that he and Marks tried to contact Florida Atlantic "about 100 times". Still, there was nothing except for a few handfuls of responses from FCS schools. The FBS programs were staying away.
While the promotion effort was there, the results weren't. It wasn't until chance conversations with some local counterparts that the Marks' hype machine began to power up.
While exchanging game film for their upcoming Week 4 showdown, Clark and Boynton Beach head coach Rick Swain discussed Marks. It was there that it was decided that Swain would help contact as many coaches as he could about Marks if Clark did the same for Boynton senior QB Jake Lutzen.
"It was all about just helping each other professionally," says Clark.
At about this time Clark also came into contact with North Broward Prep defensive line coach Kelcey Brooks. It was the correspondence with Brooks that really began to spark the process thanks to Brooks' work with the "Hidden Gems" recruiting service.
While Clark continued to pump Marks' film to the masses, Swain and Brooks would try to direct college coaches to the talented defensive tackle any chance they got.
"Coaches would ask those guys about finding a defensive tackle and it was like, 'Just send 'em to Suncoast!'," laughs Clark.
The push to Riviera Beach began paying off in mid-December.
UMass offered Marks on December 14th. Just days later, the long-anticipated formal interest from FAU came Marks' way, followed by Wake Forest and Western Kentucky.
"When FAU pulled the trigger and Coach Swain and Coach Brooks got involved, [the offers] came flying in," says Clark.
No one, however, could foresee the major player that would enter the fray late and make the most enticing flirtation to the suddenly sought-after Marks.
In January heralded Arkansas recruiter Charlie Partridge, who came with Bielema from Wisconsin, gave in to the pestering of Brooks and began a dialogue with Marks. Their initial conversations went well and by the mid-way portion of the month, Marks was planning a visit to Fayetteville to see the campus. Before that happened, however, Bielema went ahead and offered Marks.
"UMass offered and then I was like 'phew', at least I got one D1 scholarship," says Marks. "When FAU came around, I was like 'now we have something going'. NIU, Western Michigan, those came in. Arkansas? That came out of nowhere."
Once Arkansas was all-in on Marks, it was a mere formality. Marks took his official visit, committed, and just like that, the most sudden and unique recruitment of Palm Beach County's 2013 class was over.
With his player headed to an SEC school, Clark is a happy coach. He more than appreciates the efforts put forth by his friends to help Marks realize his dream.
"The main reason we help other coaches is because we're friends," explains Clark. "We're a tight-knit fraternity of guys and we like each other."
Clark stresses that while a number of coaches will rally to help a specific player catch the eye of recruiters, the top priority of all coaches is to help THEIR athletes. That said, most coaches agree that recruiting is the most difficult part of the job and they need to look out for one another.
Many high school football players want to play big-time college ball, just a select few can. Maximizing the number of Division 1 commits isn't easy, but in the end, most will exhaust their resources in order to fulfill the main point of high school athletics.
As Jimmy Clark puts it: "It's all about the kids."
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