The following is the first in a series about former BPS athletes currently playing their sport in college.
Former Brighton football standout Jonathan Marrero isn’t the type of athlete to let opportunity pass him by.
So in the fourth week of his freshman season at Springfield College last fall, Marrero jumped at the chance to step in for his team’s injured quarterback in the third quarter of their home game against the Rochester Yellowjackets before finishing the year with eye-popping numbers: 10 touchdown passes for 533 yards.
More impressive was his total of 794 all-purpose yards.
“I’m extremely proud of him for what he’s done so far at Springfield," former Brighton head football coach James Philip said. “Jonathan’s the kind of person that when given the chance, he’ll take full advantage of it.”
Marrero jogged onto Springfield’s Stagg Field in that third quarter against Rochester as a young player itching to prove himself. In his first play as a member of the Pride, Marrero completed a short pass. Although it was just a short gain, that first small success carried much more meaning to the rookie quarterback.
“I was definitely nervous,” he recalled. “Especially being in the huddle. But after that first play, all the nerves went away. And I just played the game.”
Marrero finished that game with 43 yards rushing and a touchdown pass en route to leading Springfield to a resounding 44-14 victory. In the last seven games of the season, Marrero led the Pride to five more victories.
“My first season at Springfield went really well,” Marrero said. “We finished [with] eight wins, three losses but didn’t make the playoffs because we didn’t win the conference. That was a little disappointing, but I think we’ll keep getting better as a team this year.”
Marrero attributes much of his success at Springfield to solid coaching and support from the Boston public schools community.
“I’ve got to hand it to my Brighton coaches,” Marrero said during a recent telephone interview. "They taught me respect and to not let the outside world affect me while I was playing football. And also my family for being supportive.”
As a BPS student at Another Course to College in Brighton, Marrero started for Brighton under the tutelage of Philip for all four years. His freshman year he played wide receiver and cornerback where his athleticism, vast football knowledge and knack for leadership were quickly noticed by his coaches. They moved him to quarterback as a sophomore.
As a junior, Marrero led the Bengals to the Division 4A Super Bowl for the second year in a row against Northeast Regional. Despite losing both times, Marrero had solid games and in a 38–14 loss in the rematch, Marrero had two touchdown passes in the second half.
“Those games (against Northeast) taught me how to stay composed in big situations,” he said.“Once I got to college, it helped me as far as keeping calm during our games.”
Aside from his success on the field, Marrero is also described as a good student and a true gentleman.
“My Brighton coaches really prepped me well,” he said. “I was also fortunate to have gone to ACC, which helped me out with the college process.”
“He never had a problem with his grades, he never missed practice,” Philips said. “But most importantly, he led by example. I wasn’t surprised at all by his success at Springfield.”
In Week 7 of the season at Springfield, Marrero earned the Division III weekly Golden Helmet award for his outstanding performance against the Merchant Marine Academy where he tallied seven touchdowns, tying a Springfield school record.
He notched other notable achievements at Springfield: Three Liberty League rookie of the week awards, being recognized as the Springfield College Male Maroon athlete of the week, and being selected as the MVP of the ECAC Division III Northeast Bowl after leading Springfield to 31-8 victory against Alfred University.
Over the course of his rookie season, his head coach at Springfield, Mike DeLong, quickly noticed Marrero’s mental and physical adaptation to football at the collegiate level.
“Jonathan really developed as an athlete this year,” DeLong said.
“He really gained a good grip on what we’re trying to do offensively, and his work ethic definitely earned the respect of his teammates. That and he’s tough as nails. He really surprised me with how quickly he caught on to our system.”
And what he's learned, he wants to pass on.
“Advice I’d give to younger BPS athletes is remember to keep up with your school work,” Marrero said. “You have to do well academically too, and you have to try and stay level headed and focused on both school and sports.”
Marrero is currently living and training in Connecticut this summer, close to Springfield where he looks forward to improving his game and continuing his studies. He is majoring in sports management, while minoring in business.
“I’m really looking forward to next season,” he said. “We’ve got a really strong team coming back, with a lot of returning sophomores and juniors. I definitely have high expectations. I want to go undefeated.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.