According to Tampa Bay’s official depth chart, Ali Marpet ’15 is slated to start in the season opener at right guard, making him the only Division III rookie starting for any team in the 2015 season, and one of only a handful to do so in the history of the NFL. After a whirlwind path to the NFL, Marpet will begin the much-anticipated official start to his NFL career on Sunday, Sept. 13, when the Buccaneers open their season against the Tennessee Titans.
“For me it’s such a thrill knowing we have Ali, such a wonderful representative of the Colleges, playing in the NFL,” says Hobart Head Coach Mike Cragg. “I have never seen anyone who worked harder and dedicated himself more to his dream of playing on Sunday than Ali. We all love him, wish him the best and we will be cheering for him.”
The match-up is gaining a national spotlight with Marpet being one of two rookies starting on the offensive line. “This is the real deal now, everyone’s a little more excited, preparation is a little more intense now, everything’s a little more intense this week, so I’m ready to play,” said Marpet during a press conference on Sept. 7.
The season opener will air at 4:25 p.m. on CBS. Along with Hobart Dean Eugen Baer, members of the HWS community can show their support for Marpet on Sunday by posting photos of themselves, friends and family holding the MarpetMadness sign and using the hashtag #marpetmadness. Throughout Marpet’s debut, HWS’ social media accounts will provide live updates of the action.
Marpet’s road to the NFL shifted into high gear with his breakout performance at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January 2015, when he garnered widespread attention after helping the North team to a victory in the nation’s premier senior all-star game. During the week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl, Marpet switched positions, from left tackle to left guard, and “never once appeared out of place,” according to Sports Illustrated, which also named Marpet to its All-Senior Bowl offense team.
From there, he was the only Division III athlete invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February, where he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time, the fastest 10-yard split among the linemen, and placed fifth in the bench press. Leading up to the draft, Marpet 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 was then selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a second round draft pick, making him the first Division III player to be drafted since 2012 and the highest Division III draft since 1996, according to D3football.com. He joins just 10 other Division III players currently on active rosters in the NFL. Marpet also made Hobart history, joining just two other Statesmen listed as NFL draftees according to Pro-football-reference.com. According to the website, only four Statesmen have ever played in the NFL, and none since Fred King ’37, who appeared in only one game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937.
Since Marpet came on the radar in January, he’s garnered high-profile attention from national and international media, including the NFL Network, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports!, the Bleacher Report and The Boston Globe, among others. Praised for his athletics as well as his academics throughout the entire recruitment process, the economics major and philosophy and public policy double minor from Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. was noted twice in Yahoo! Sports articles for the caliber of his HWS education.
“If football doesn’t work out, this economics major – he hopes to go into finance one day – at one of the best schools in the country won’t hurt…And it doesn’t hurt that that there is an army of Hobart grads working at some of the best financial houses in and around New York City. He also wants to get his master’s degree in physical education – overachiever alert – so that he can teach econ and maybe coach a little, too,” Eric Edholm wrote in Yahoo! Sports’ profile of Marpet in January.
In the 2014 season, Marpet led one of the most effective offensive lines in the nation. He didn’t allow a sack for a line that ranked sixth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed (0.69/g). Hobart was also sixth in the nation in fewest tackles for loss allowed, yielding just 3.54 per game. Marpet was named to the AFCA and D3football.com All-America first teams and earned a spot on the AP Little All-America second team. The three-time first team All-Liberty League selection also garnered a share of the 2014 Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year award, the first offensive lineman to be so honored.
In his four seasons at Hobart, Marpet and his classmates posted a 41-5 record and captured four consecutive Liberty League Championships. The Statesmen also appeared in four consecutive NCAA Division III Football Championships, and reached the quarterfinal round in 2012 and 2014.