Mar­ley cher­ishes his family ties to reg­gae his­tory

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

Of­ten­times, the off­spring of cel­e­brated icons are ea­ger to dis­tance them­selves from their fa­mous rel­a­tives and forge their own path. Nico Mar­ley has the op­por­tu­nity to make his own name for him­self, should the un­der­sized line­backer stick with the Red­skins.

But Bob Mar­ley’s grand­son em­braces his family his­tory. If he can make it in the NFL, he hopes it draws at­ten­tion to his grand­fa­ther’s role in mak­ing reg­gae a global phe­nom­e­non.

“It’s a bless­ing, it’s a bless­ing,” Mar­ley said. “Be­cause, you know, how he helped so many peo­ple in this world. You know, the least I can do is just rep­re­sent his name in a pos­i­tive light and give back the pos­i­tive vi­bra­tions.”

There are in­dus­tries in which the Mar­ley name would likely help Nico get started, but foot­ball isn’t one of them. Mar­ley’s sto­ried DNA de­ter­mined his 5-foot-8 stature, one rea­son he has been over­looked by both col­lege and pro­fes­sional teams and a fac­tor more im­por­tant to coaches than an­ces­try.

“I don’t put any­thing into [his last name], I just watched him at the rookie mini­camp,” coach Jay

Gru­den said.

The Red­skins brought Mar­ley in as one of nearly 40 try­out play­ers at rookie mini­camp, and Mar­ley stood out. Gru­den no­ticed “this lit­tle line­backer” who had two in­ter­cep­tions, re­cov­ered a fum­ble and made about three tack­les for loss. It was enough for the Red­skins to sign him.

“I said, well, he de­serves an op­por­tu­nity, so we gave him an op­por­tu­nity,” Gru­den said. “As far as his name is con­cerned, he’s very proud of his name and all that stuff, but I’m just wor­ried about Nico Mar­ley as a foot­ball player, teach­ing him line­backer and see how we can make him fit in our scheme if we can.”

Mar­ley’s size raises the ques­tion of whether he could be bet­ter suited for strong safety rather than line­backer, but he has never been one to let his body­type make de­ci­sions for him.

At 200 pounds, Mar­ley also did de­fen­sive back drills at Tu­lane’s Pro Day, to which the Red­skins sent a rep­re­sen­ta­tive. But Mar­ley played line­backer all four years at Tu­lane, and it’s the po­si­tion where he feels most com­fort­able.

He fin­ished his ca­reer with the Green Wave with 319 total tack­les, including a school record 50.5 for loss, and earned first-team All-AAC hon­ors as a ju­nior and a se­nior. Be­cause of his size, he re­lies on his in­stincts and his will­ing­ness to be coached.

“See­ing where the ball goes, lis­ten­ing to coaches’ tips, what coach says, you know,” Mar­ley said. “Watch­ing film, game plan, just all through­out prac­tice, what the coaches are telling me, I do.”

Mar­ley’s fa­ther, Ro­han Mar­ley, was an­other un­der­sized line­backer and had a suc­cess­ful play­ing ca­reer along­side War­ren Sapp, Dwayne “The Rock” John­son and Ray Lewis at the Univer­sity of Mi­ami be­fore go­ing pro in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League.

Tu­lane was the only Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion school to of­fer him a schol­ar­ship to play in col­lege, but Mar­ley im­me­di­ately proved that he could con­trib­ute. He started all but one game his fresh­man year, then ev­ery game as a sopho­more, ju­nior and se­nior.

Still, he was not in­vited to the NFL Scouting Combine or any of the big show­case games. That has been a pat­tern with Mar­ley, who has out­per­formed ex­pec­ta­tions at ev­ery level of foot­ball, only to be over­looked by the next level up.

Mar­ley is used to this, so much so that he didn’t quite be­lieve it when the Red­skins called to tell him they wanted to sign him.

“I kind of wanted to make sure it wasn’t a dream.” Mar­ley said. “I was like ‘Yeah? You sure?’ And then I was just ex­cited. I called my fa­ther right away, I called my mom, I was like, ‘We’re go­ing to be Red­skins.’”

Even among his mil­len­nial team­mates, Mar­ley said most still know of his grand­fa­ther, who died in 1981 — or at least are in­ter­ested in lis­ten­ing and learn­ing.

“It’s lovely to see that even after so many years, 36 years, he still holds such a heavy weight even in Amer­ica,” Mar­ley said.

Mar­ley cher­ishes the fact that he can call him­self Bob Mar­ley’s grand­son. After turn­ing his try­out into a roster spot, Mar­ley can now call him­self a pro­fes­sional foot­ball player, too.

How long will it last? The an­swer will de­pend on whether or not the lit­tle line­backer can keep sur­pris­ing peo­ple.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Red­skins line­backer Nico Mar­ley wants to rep­re­sent his grand­fa­ther Bob Mar­ley pos­i­tively.

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