June 24, 2016
When IMG Academy 4-star linebacker Santino Marchiol committed to Texas A&M on Tuesday, he filled a void for head coach Kevin Sumlin‘s 2017 recruiting class. Marchiol is the first linebacker to commit to the Aggies this recruiting cycle.
Marchiol‘s pledge will also allow him to answer a “what if” question that he’s had in the back of his head for months.
What if he could be like the guy down the street?
Before Marchiol was a linebacker for IMG, he lived in the Denver area and was a standout at Cherry Creek High School. He transferred to IMG in January 2015.
While in Colorado, before he committed to Texas A&M, Marchiol had the opportunity to receive periodic advice from someone he called “the cool guy down the street.”
Marchiol hopes to one day trade Texas A&M football stories with that guy.
“Von Miller’s my neighbor back home,” Marchiol said.
Yes, that Von Miller. Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker. Super Bowl 50 MVP. Four-time Pro Bowl selection. Butkus Award recipient in 2010 as a college athlete and again in 2012 as a professional.
Marchiol and Miller are separated by a few houses in Colorado. Miller moved to Colorado the Broncos drafted him in 2011 as the No. 2 overall pick. Since then, Marchiol said he’s not only relied on advice from Miller but done everything he could to mimic Miller’s work ethic to become a quality linebacker and better football player.
“I really admire him and want to try and be like him one day,” Marchiol said of Miller. “With him coming from A&M, it really made me consider it more because of the influence he’s had on my childhood.”
Marchiol chose Texas A&M over offers from Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Stanford, Nebraska and others. He became the Aggies‘ 14th pledge and the fourth 4-star commit of the 2017 class.
Marchiol said he first spoke with Miller when Miller visited Cherry Creek. They began chatting about where they lived and found out they were in the same area.
Marchiol said they also talked about what it took to be better than the competition.
“His house, first of all, is entirely covered by 100 trees, so you can’t see into it,” Marchiol said. “But I know that he’s very laid back, and he’s about his work. That’s why I admire him so much. He’s focused on his craft and wants to be the best at what he does.
“I’ve asked him what it takes to play at that level. He said to keep away all the distractions, and just be the best you can be. That’s really what you’ve got to do, especially in high school.”
Now standing 6’3″ and weighing 224 pounds, Marchiol can be an answer for an issue Texas A&M has had in previous years. The Aggies are always on the hunt for big, physical linebackers who can fare well against the ground-and-pound offenses in the SEC.
Playing at IMG has helped Marchiol prepare for the next level. He’s lined up at the “Stinger” position, a rover spot, for IMG, and he’s expected to see time at weak-side linebacker in IMG‘s defensive package.
“One of the great things about him is his versatility,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said. “I think his primary attribute is that he plays fast and with really good natural instincts. That goes back to the coaching he’s had throughout his career as a player.
“I was excited for him about A&M. I’ve known Coach Sumlin from way back when he was an assistant at Purdue and I was head coaching in Indiana. I know they do a tremendous job with recruiting, and I thought Santino would be a good fit.”
Marchiol said he’s “always had a dream” to play SEC football and loved all of his unofficial visits to Texas A&M. His first came as a freshman, and he also visited during his junior season in late March. Marchiol most recently visited Texas A&M two weeks ago and took in a recruiting barbecue.
Marchiol is the son of Ken Marchiol, who saw time at linebacker in the NFL. Ken Marchiol and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have known each other for years. Together, Mazzone and defensive coordinator John Chavis worked hard to land Marchiol, a top-300 player nationally and the No. 13 inside linebacker in the 2017 class.
“He’s a dependable guy, a guy you won’t have to worry about, because he’ll get it done,” said Michael Fletcher, linebackers coach at The Opening who most recently coached Marchiol at The Opening Charlotte regional in April. “He’s a very vocal kid. I think he understands that he has to be. At the end of the day, he can be a stat-sheet stuffer. He’ll have checkmarks in every category.”
Miller was someone who filled the stat lines for the Aggies from 2007-10. According to his Sports Reference page, he had 181 career tackles (104 solo), 33 sacks and seven forced fumbles for his career. He led the NCAA in sacks in 2009 with 17.
Miller’s numbers make for lofty goals for Marchiol, but it’s a challenge he isn’t afraid to take. Playing against elite talent at IMG has helped him realize there is no such thing as taking plays off, which has helped fuel his drive to become better each day.
“IMG is different. If you like football, it’s not the place for you. You’ve got to live it, love it and breathe it,” Marchiol said. ” There’s meetings, film, practice, workouts … and it’s Monday through Saturday. You’ve got to be on your stuff every single day, because you’re with the best players in the country.”
Wright added: “He’s able to process quickly and play fast. Being able to do that and having the natural instincts have helped him to become a very good football player. Any time you have a kid with his athleticism, size and football IQ, you have a chance to be special.”
Playing in front of 100,000-plus at Kyle Field is something that gets Marchiol excited about college football. Getting the opportunity to be taught by Chavis and Sumlin, he said, is “like a dream.”
Marchiol said he likes how Texas A&M’s coaching staff gives young talent the opportunity to show themselves worthy early in their playing career. At the linebacker position, a shot to see immediate playing time could work in Marchiol‘s favor.
Graduating early to join the Aggies for the spring is part of Marchiol‘s plan. He also said he’s working on two IMG teammates to join him in College Station in 4-star quarterback Kellen Mond and 4-star wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon.
And when his college career is over, Marchiol said he hopes to have the same kind of stories that Miller had.
“Him just telling me to stay focused, that motivates me,” Marchiol said of Miller. “He’s something special. He’s that dude.”
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports‘ composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles
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