Last May, the Buccaneers selected Ali Marpet in the second round of the NFL Draft, making him the highest-drafted player in NFL history to come out of a Division III school. Marpet played his college football at Hobart College in upstate New York. Somewhat under-sized, he didn't have a single Division 1 offer to play football.
Pictures from Ali Marpet's college career (Photos: Hobart Athletics)
"Ali was a great football player," Hobart Head Coach Mike Cragg said. "Probably a little under-sized for Division 1. He only weighed about 235 at the time but he had great feet, played both football and basketball. We had him as a very good athlete, recruited him and were not sure whether we were going to make him offensive line or defensive line. Made him an offensive linemen but from there, Ali just took off growing – getting bigger, getting stronger and just going after it.
"Recruiting him, I think what we were really looking at was – we have a great school. He wanted to get into economics, possibly work on Wall Street. You can't find a better place than Hobart and William Smith for that. Then, all of a sudden, things turned around for him and he got bigger, stronger and football became a real strong priority for him."
Marpet started 37 of his 43 games at Hobart over the course of four seasons. By the time he had reached his junior year, Cragg knew that the NFL was a possibility.
A look at Ali Marpet's college training facilities at Hobart College (Photos: Hobart Athletics)
"His freshman year he was very good and we knew we had something special," Cragg said. "His sophomore year was just outstanding. But I would say it was his junior year that we really knew. We moved him to left tackle, let him be there and nobody was getting to our quarterback and he was just dominating. I knew it was Division III and there was a long jump between that and the NFL, but he became a dominant player his junior year where we knew we had something very special. That's when we started getting the film out to show the NFL just to see what their thoughts were."
By the time his senior season came, Marpet had established himself on a different level than his peers. Slowly, NFL scouts began to trek to Hobart more and more often to watch film and see Marpet practice.
"His senior year, all through the season and especially after the season, everybody was coming through here for NFL teams," Cragg said. "I've been here for 29 years and there's never been anything like what we went through – having all the teams come through and sitting here watching film every day on him, coming down to practices and going to games. It was quite an experience for us but it never fazed Ali. Ali just went out every day and went to his business. We did ours to make sure teams stayed focused on what was going on. Ali just stepped up every day for it."
Marpet arrived in Tampa Bay last spring and earned a starting job by the time the regular season had started. He was the Bucs' starter at right guard for the duration of the season, though he missed three games with an ankle injury. Marpet helped lead the way for Doug Martin, who finished the season as the NFL's No. 2 rusher. He was regularly graded as one of the best run-blocking guards in the league by Pro Football Focus. Cragg had been confident in Marpet's ability all along and believes the future is bright for his former pupil.
"His determination, his work ethic… he loves what he does," Cragg said. "He wants to go after it and be the best ever. I really believe that's what going to set him apart."