Stu Markley represents the future of Johns Hopkins football. If first impressions are lasting, the Blue Jays' future looks pretty good.
Markley, a sophomore who transferred from Columbia University and the Ivy League this fall, has been a smash hit for the Blue Jays -- figuratively and literally.
The 6-foot, 210-pound inside linebacker leads the team in tackles with 137, or 43 more than runner-up Ed Lineen, also an inside backer.
In a year when new head coach Jim Margraff was hired too late to recruit, Markley represents the new wave of football player that is expected to matriculate to Hopkins. Not coincidentally, Margraff was an assistant at Columbia before arriving in Homewood. He had, in fact, recruited Markley for the Lions.
"I never enjoyed recruiting a player or a family more," Margraff said. "Stu Markley is what we want Hopkins football to be. He's an excellent player, a good student and a great guy."
Markley, a native of Wilmington, Del., says he enjoyed Columbia football. The downside was living in New York City. "It just hit me, 'I don't want to go to school here,' " he said. "It hit me like a brick in the face."
There have been no bricks in Baltimore, though. At Hopkins, Markley strengthened a defense that included tackle Frank Gangemi, nose guard Dave Erfle and free safety Brian Hepting, and together they launched a football rebirth. The Blue Jays are 4-4-1 going into tomorrow's season finale against arch-rival Western Maryland at Homewood Field. They are seeking their first winning season since 1985.
Western Maryland enjoyed a comeback of its own this season. A victory would give the Green Terrors (6-2-1, 5-1) their first Centennial Football Conference title, and their first football title of any kind in 27 years.
Markley hasn't experienced the Western Maryland rivalry yet, but he already has an appreciation for the emotion that surrounds the game.
"We've both gone through the bad times," he said. "This season was a big step for their program. The winner will get it all; the loser will have a bad taste in its mouth for the rest of the year."
Hopkins' revival started with Margraff, a no-nonsense coach who once quarterbacked the Blue Jays. He quickly let the troops know how things would be run. His first team meeting last summer was to start at 7 p.m., and at 7 o'clock sharp he locked the doors to the meeting room. After the meeting, he opened the doors to find 15 stragglers. "I told them they wouldn't play if they were late again," Margraff said.
Then there was the discipline he imposed in the offseason weight program, which was run by team captains. Margraff insisted all weights be placed back on the weight rack or the floor pads, but not on the rug. Putting weights on the rug, he said, "was the same as being offside, or not going in on the punt team."
Margraff also posted a list of 10 goals for the season. One, for instance, was to win back-to-back games (last year Hopkins went 1-9). Another was to win a game on the road. "We've met five and we have a chance for three more [in the finale]," Margraff said.
He also showed his defensive priority when he moved Gangemi, a three-time all-conference offensive tackle, to defense. That's where Markley made an impact, moving from the Division I-AA program at Columbia, to Division III.
"When I came down, I wanted to start right away and be an impact player," Markley said. "They have been putting me and Ed Lineen in situations where we have to make the tackles. Dave Erfle is a great player, and he ties up three blockers. That opens things up for me and I can shoot through."
Markley finds his inspiration in the slogans that defensive coordinator Bob Benson dispenses to the team.
"He says, 'Carry a gun,' and 'If you can't run with the big dogs, don't bark when they go by,' " Markley said. "It's an attitude, like nobody pushes us around. It's 11 men to the ball all the time."
Markley figures this year's success will be a springboard for Hopkins' once-slumbering program.
"Emotion is by far the most important thing we're dealing with," he said. "You're talking about a team that was emotionally drained the last few years.
"Recruiting is going to skyrocket here. Coach Margraff and Coach Benson are phenomenal recruiters. We'll be getting a lot of big bodies to anchor the line. Everything is looking good. We want to come off this season with a big bang."