Only a few months removed from his eighth grade graduation ceremony, Marquez North had already developed an expansive fan club as a junior varsity running back in rural southeastern North Carolina.
Three games into his freshman jayvee season at Lumberton High School, the 14-year-old hovered over others in the huddle and caught the eye of several coaches in the area, becoming “the next big thing” to hit Robeson County. By the end of the Pirates’ eight-game slate that year, North had 30 touchdowns and averaged more than 150 yards rushing per contest, plowing over defenders with a lanky frame and out-running others with great speed.
The game plan? Get out of Marquez’s way.
The following fall, Lumberton coach Mike Brill had his next star — scheduled to take snaps in a modified Wing-T. Brill, who just finished his 30th season as a high school football coach, has plenty of experience in the scouting department and knew after a 48-yard burst in the first quarter of the opener that North wouldn’t be at Lumberton for long. Nearly a decade earlier at nearby South Robeson, Brill coached current Baltimore Ravens fullback and three-time Pro Bowler Vonta Leach. With similar poise and ability, North was a future gem that was too big for his current surroundings.
North transferred that winter to pick up more of the spotlight, suiting up at several positions in football-rich Charlotte at Mallard Creek High. With his 22-touchdown, 1,600-yard sophomore campaign at Lumberton as an option quarterback a distant memory, the buzz really began on North when he was unleashed in the spread. No longer the focus under center, North excelled in the passing game with a knack for making the first defender miss and out-muscling defensive backs with a 215-pound frame.
His highlight film quickly made its way around the country and created much intrigue. Several big-time programs kept in touch on a regular basis while Urban Meyer gave the honor roll student a phone call shortly after arriving at Ohio State. That’s how big the former junior varsity quarterback had gotten.
On Wednesday night, North’s prep career came to a close after he ended a two-team race and instantly became one of the cornerstones of Butch Jones’ inaugural 2013 signing class at Tennessee after committing to the Vols over North Carolina. North’s decision pushed the Vols to 25th overall in 247Sports’ latest team recruiting rankings and ignited a bevy of cheers from Volunteer fans via social media. North is the fifth four-star to pick Tennessee and joins three other wide receivers who should challenge for playing time as true freshmen.
As someone who has seen North up close and spoken several times with the goal-oriented standout, the SEC, specifically Tennessee, is getting a can’t-miss player. Think Cobi Hamilton’s strength with Cordarrelle Patterson’s speed. In Jones’ attack, North will shine.
Photo Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE