Military uniform didn't suit ex-Midshipman Brady

September 06, 1998|By Kevin Modesti | Kevin Modesti,LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -- Marcus Brady, the redshirt-freshman quarterback, came to Cal State Northridge by way of Navy. That's the part his new teammates find hard to believe.

They understand why he left the U.S. Naval Academy before completing the "Plebe Summer" boot camp. But why on earth or sea did he sign up for a military school in the first place?

Marcus just isn't soldier material. He's so quiet, so placid, so courteous, you imagine that in the event of war, he'd be the etiquette officer, in charge of requisitioning the napkins.

He admits he was naive.

"All I knew about [Navy] was the football, the national TV, the Army-Navy game, playing Notre Dame," he said. "I never really thought of going into the military."

Thus, in July 1997, when he reported to Annapolis, Md., and had squad leaders barking in his face -- "So you're the so-called superstar from San Diego!" -- he had a perfectly Marcus-like reaction.

He laughed. Right in Sgt. Carter's face. As a result, Marcus' squad led the camp in pushups.

"He's always been a pretty good kid, and when that was happening, I don't think he knew how to take it," said Marcus Brady Sr., a former San Jose State defensive back.

The quarterback's father was disappointed but hardly shocked to get a letter from Marcus, begging to come home.

And to start looking for a new college. He'd been recruited by Ivy League schools, Stanford and Montana, but they wanted him to play another position, the better to exploit his speed. Brady wanted to play quarterback, where he'd been all-league for Morse High in Southeast San Diego.

His dad phoned Northridge. When the Matadors coaches heard he came from the high school that produced USC safety Rashard Cook and tight end Lonnie Ford, they invited him for a recruiting visit. When Brady learned about the Matadors' emphasis on passing, he'd found a home.

Now, you might ask, if a guy isn't cut out for the military, how does he handle football, where the field maneuvers are just as grueling and the drill sergeants are just as loud? The answer is quite nicely, thank you.

Saturday night, when Northridge opened its 11-game season at Boise State, Brady was the starting quarterback, chosen to replace the graduated Aaron Flowers, the school record-holder in almost every passing statistic.

As gentle as he is, don't expect to see him chewing out teammates for bad blocks and errant pass routes. But in every other way, new Northridge head coach Ron Ponciano thinks he has picked the ideal quarterback to build around.

He's smart, a mechanical engineering major and math minor who had no trouble absorbing offensive coordinator Ron Phenicie's playbook while red-shirting last season.

He's an all-around athlete, a pitcher and basketball player as well as a quarterback in high school, with scrambling ability that will make up for a lot of freshman mistakes.

"He might be my best cornerback," Ponciano said, "if he played that position."

And the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder is the best-conditioned Matador. Which, the coaches say, goes to show what a straight arrow the 18-year-old is.

This summer, although the coaches encouraged players to stay near campus and work out under team guidance, Brady went home and lived with his father, a juvenile probation officer, and mother, Emily, a commercial banker. He took summer school at Southwestern Junior College and worked as a food server at the San Diego Convention Center. And he ran, lifted and stretched so much, the neighbors thought Marcus Sr. was operating a boot camp of his own.

But that was just Marcus Jr. "He was, like, on a mission," his dad said.

Then, with the coaches watching and charting every run and pass, Brady outperformed incumbent Josh Fiske and three other quarterbacks.

Ponciano said Brady separated himself from the pack with his poise against the pass rush. "[Other quarterbacks] kind of flinched," the coach said. "Marcus didn't."

He laughed in the linemen's faces, as it were.

After that, the image of young Marcus at the Naval Academy, laughing at some bully in brass, had even more meaning for the Northridge coaches.

"That's exactly what I'd expect him to do," said quarterbacks coach Jeff Kearin. "If you tried to hit him with pressure, he'd giggle at you. You're not going to break him. You're not going to scare him."

Anchors aweigh, Marcus.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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