Spring football was not just a time for current players on the Stanford roster to improve themselves and get ready for the much-anticipated 2003 season. It was also a time for a handful of incoming freshmen to visit the practices and advantage themselves toward a fast start in their debut campaign. The most intriguing visitor was without question David Marrero, who trekked 3000 miles from South Florida to Northern California for a week of Stanford spring football. At the conclusion, he took time to talk with The Bootleg about what he gained what he has planned.
Marrero came for the third of the four weeks of spring practices, and happened upon a very interesting time. The offense was sluggish at the beginning of the week, but the incoming tailback witnessed a grand emergence as the week progressed, including the 4/19 Saturday scrimmage that was universally hailed as the best of the entire spring.
"I have to admit it was a little unsettling watching the offense when I first got here," he reflects upon the Monday practice. "But they came a long way in just one week and that was great to see. I definitely felt this week showed me that I have an opportunity."
But the opportunity to play was a known quantity already for the prep All-American. This visit provided a greater educational opportunity for him, where he was able to sit in on team meetings, running backs meetings and watch practices up-close and personal. "The biggest thing I learned was the basic running package," he explains. "The numbering system is different from what I was used to in high school, so that is an adjustment. It's also about learning which leg to lead with, and where to hit the point of attack. I think when I start practices in the fall, I'll be able to come in and know where to hit the holes and make the runs. Now it's just a matter of showing up and doing it."
Don't think that Marrero was completely focused on the technical education, though. He was also very mindful of building chemistry with the 60+ returning players who will be his teammates in just a few months. "I felt that for one week, I was just like I was injured - with the team for everything but just unable to get in pads for the drills," he elaborates. "The chemistry was a really big deal. When I come back in the summer, I'll already know almost every player on the team. I've got some of their nuances down and can relate to a lot of them on a personal level. I feel like I'm pretty much accepted by the guys now."
More chemistry building transpired with future Cardinal teammates who, like Marrero, are currently still in high school. That included local quarterback T.C. Ostrander, who was out at almost every practice this spring, as allowed by his Menlo-Atherton baseball schedule. The two were nearly inseparable on the practice field. "We come from totally different parts of the country, so it was cool to get a feel for what he's like," Marrero opines. Another notable visitor who overlapped the same week was New York junior offensive lineman Alex Fletcher, who committed verbally to Stanford in February. Though Fletcher has nearly a year to go before he an sign his own letter of intent for the Cardinal, Marrero notes that they share a bond.
"He committed in February, and that's not far from when I committed when I was a junior last year," the fleet Florida phenom pontificates. "He's a good kid who likes to have a lot of fun, but knows when to get down to business. I can totally relate what he's going through, but I didn't have to sell Stanford much to him. He's pretty gung-ho, and Stanford pretty much just sells itself. Just being around me and T.C. should have been helpful for him, though."
And don't think the significance of Fletcher's commitment was lost on the erstwhile Stanford tailback. "Offensive linemen are the people who make or break you, so he's a big addition for us," Marrero allows.
The St. Thomas Aquinas junior was also sure to keep up his intensive spring training regimen during his week-long sojourn to The Farm, both lifting weights and running. The weight training, though, has been modified relative to what most of the rest of the incoming freshman class is conducting at this time, due to Marrero's track season. He has dropped his weight from 192 pounds to 185, and has focused on lifting lighter weights. "During the track season, it's tough to find days to lift," he admits. "But speed is my main priority right now, and it's been a fight to regain that. My knee injury at the end of my senior football season kept me out of action for a while, and the atrophy from inactivity took its toll. I had to rest my [knee] ligaments for a long time."
But Marrero has raced back into form and is running the best times of his life today. After what he admits was a "slow start" to the season, struggling to put his legs back into shape, he recorded personal best times of 10.52 in the 100m, a 48.9 split in the 4x400m and a 21.80 in the 200m. Marrero told The Bootleg late in April that he hoped to push his 200m time down into the mid 21's and his 100m into the 10.4's. But he surprised even himself when he dashed to a 10.40 100m time in the class 3A district 16 championships on May 1.
Up next will be the regional finals, held Thursday (5/8) in Fort Lauderdale, followed by the state championships the next Friday (5/16) in Gainesville. When asked if he has a legit shot at an individual state championship, Marrero says that the 100m is his best chance. "There are about four legit guys in the state, myself included, who can all run about the same times. On a given day, any of us could win it," he boasts. "But what I really want is a team championship for the school. We've been runner-up six times. But it's tough - Florida speed is second to none in the country."
Looking ahead to his future on Stanford's track team, Marrero enjoyed the chance to run on the renowned Cobb Track that the Cardinal team utilizes. He had previously seen the facility during his visits to The Farm, but this April trip was his first chance to really run on the surface. "It runs well and seems fast," he analyzes. "I'd put it up against the track at [University of] Florida, but it's the setting here at Stanford that sets it apart from the rest. The facilities here are just beautiful."
In a matter of weeks, though, it will be time to put away those track shoes and hunker down with the business of football.. Marrero says that he will have eight weeks of focused weight training on his own after the conclusion of the track season before he comes back to Stanford to join the team. Freshmen are not asked to report until approximately August 11, but Marrero is coming out early in July to get acclimated with the team during their summer workouts on the turn and in the weight room.
He predicts with what he picked up during his April visit, plus his gains in strength and speed, he will be ready come those August practices to hit the ground running - both figuratively and literally.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!