Praised as the “hottest topic in NFL war rooms” this year, Hobart College offensive lineman Ali Marpet ’15 was recently featured in Sports Illustrated (SI), continuing to garner high-profile attention as he continues on his path to the NFL draft.
SI writer Robert Klemko’s Monday Morning Quarterback piece, “T-Minus 28 Days: Meet the Upstart from Hobart,” says it has been more than two decades since an NCAA Division III football player has been selected in the top 100 of the NFL draft, but that Marpet is set to be well within that range.
Chip Smith, veteran trainer for more than 250 NFL players, says Marpet has certainly impressed: “He came here, and it was like he was a sponge, physically and mentally. He went from 290 to 310, and he went from 20 bench reps to 30 in a matter of months. We immediately started seeing him improving every day, in his strength, technique, everything.”
An economics major at the Colleges, Marpet also has been noted for his academic abilities. His agent, Andrew Ross, recognizes the national standout for his intellect in the SI article. Ross says, “Smart? I’d have him handle my money.”
From his impressive showing at Reese’s Senior Bowl to being the only DIII player at the NFL Combine out of 300 of the nation’s top football prospects, Marpet’s trajectory has been a whirlwind. At the Combine, Marpet ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds, the fastest 40 time among the offensive linemen at the Combine. Additionally, he had the fastest 10-yard split among the linemen, at 1.74 seconds. NFL Media analyst Charles Davis calls him a “must-see prospect.”
In March, he continued to impress NFL scouts, coaches and analysts during Hobart’s Pro Day. The event gave representatives from 10 NFL teams as well as the media an opportunity to watch Marpet operate on his home turf while he ran through a number of position drills, interviews and meetings.
Marpet is attempting to become the first Statesman ever taken in the NFL Draft and the first Hobart player to compete in the NFL since Fred King ’37. According to D3football.com, the last Division III player drafted was Albion cornerback Chris Greenwood, a fifth-round selection of the Detroit Lions in 2012. No Division III offensive lineman has been drafted since 1996, when Ethan Brooks of Williams went to the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round.
The 2015 NFL draft will take place Thursday, April 30 through Saturday, May 2.
The Monday Morning Quarterback article is as follows:
T-Minus 28 Days: Meet the Upstart from Hobart
Robert Klemko • April 2, 2015
Introducing Ali Marpet to the NFL has brought about a handful of firsts for Andrew Ross, a 19-year agent who’s never had a client garner as much attention—17 visits or private workouts with teams—as the standout from tiny Hobart College in Western New York has received since finishing his senior season four months ago. Marpet, a 6-4, 310-pound college tackle (and likely a guard or center in the NFL) was the first Division III athlete to be invited to the Senior Bowl in more than 20 years, and he’s quietly become the hottest topic in NFL war rooms in 2015.
“I started in 1995, and I’ve had five first-round picks, including Aaron Curry,” Ross says. “And it was nowhere close to this.”
Part of Marpet’s allure derives from the mystery surrounding his game. He went to the combine and blew away the field with 30 bench press reps and a 4.98 40. He was dominant against schools like Endicott College and Rensselaer, but how does that translate to the NFL? And the inevitable question: How did he end up at Hobart?
“I didn’t exactly come out of college as the biggest freak,” says Marpet, who attended Hastings-on-Hudson High in Westchester County, N.Y. “My high school was pretty small. It was always my dream to play at Alabama, but that wasn’t even remotely a possibility for me.”
The biggest schools interested in the 200-pound tackle were Fordham and Holy Cross. He chose Hobart and landed a merit-based scholarship for part of the $57,000 yearly tuition. During his junior year, an NFL scouting service came around and tested Hobart athletes. Marpet ran a sub 5-second 40 and scored high on the Wonderlic aptitude test.
“I think I realized that I had some of the same physical tools that some of the guys going to the NFL had,” Marpet says, “I thought I had a shot.”
The next two years couldn’t have played out any better if they were scripted. He was a conference co-MVP as a senior, never allowing a sack, then the Senior Bowl—a coup—then the combine. In between his final game and the combine, he trained with Chip Smith and former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Bob Whitfield in Atlanta, and blew the veteran coaches away.
“I’m in my 26th year doing this, and I was a little skeptical,” Smith says. “He came here, and it was like he was a sponge, physically and mentally. He went from 290 to 310, and he went from 20 bench reps to 30 in a matter of months. We immediately started seeing him improving every day, in his strength, technique, everything. He was the Giddy up and go, and we were the Whoa.”
As far as the other rookies could tell, Marpet might as well have been a D-I All-American.
Smith observed the SEC’s finest prospects gravitating toward Marpet, hanging on his every word.
“When Ali walks in the room, he’s like the pied piper,” Smith says. Smith, who has trained more than 250 current NFL players, says he shoots straight when scouts and coaches come calling. He has a deal with draft-eligible trainees from the jump: Come here, do the job and don’t create distractions, and I will vouch for you.
“But if you screw around,” Smith says, “I have to be honest with teams, because they have to be able to take me seriously when I go to bat for guys like Ali Marpet.”
Marpet is a “diamond,” Smith says, and all he had to do was polish it and point it at the sun: “He’s got to thank mom and dad for that athleticism.”
Thing is, mom and dad aren’t especially athletic, or especially large. Mom is 5-6, a grad student and musician. Dad is almost 6-feet, an Emmy-winning cinematographer and a big name in the New York fashion industry. Each day during Ali’s childhood, Bill Marpet worked long hours but always rose at 5 a.m. to work out.
“Watching that was huge for me,” Ali says. “You have to respect that.”
Ali considered a media path but ultimately majored in economics, with minors in philosophy and public policy. With his first NFL check, he plans on paying off his college loans, then put “all or most of it away.”
“Smart?” Ross says. “I’d have him handle my money.”
Where Marpet is picked (and how much that first check will pay) is anyone’s guess. The last D-III athlete taken in the top 100 was Ferrum College’s Chris Warren, the 89th selection in 1990. (Warren, who played 11 NFL seasons, began his college career at Virginia but transferred after two years.) Several evaluators I spoke with pegged Marpet as a second- or third-round talent. A handful of teams have evaluated him as a tackle, while most suggest that he would play guard or center. As a raw talent and a longtime tackle, he would have a significant transition to make regarding interior line technique. And yet on draft day, the biggest factor will have been Marpet’s ability to convince teams that he believes he is ready.
“They want to know that I believe I can play at the next level,” he says. “Confidence for me is huge. They want to know if I can mentally handle the transition. I know I can, and I think the tape shows that I can.”