Travis Marion is the ideal example of what junior college football is all about.
The Virginia native was forced to go the two-year school route after a less-than-serious approach to high school. Despite his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and good speed, Marion barely played as a freshman. And when he did, he was known more for his drops than big catches.
But the Merced College wide receiver worked hard in the summer and emerged last fall as one of California’s elite deep threats (39 catches for 997 yards and six touchdowns). He ranked No. 1 in the state in yards per catch (25.6) and third in per-game average (124.6).
He went from junior college mop-up player to Division 1 prospect being courted by North Dakota and Rhode Island. The only thing that prevented him from participating in Wednesday’s National Signing Day were the last few classes he needs to square away this semester. That’s OK with Marion, however. The sophomore has learned patience in his time at MC.
“Honestly, I had no other option this season,” Marion said. “I had to go hard for it or it wasn’t going to happen. I’d already missed my opportunity to play four-year football the first time. I couldn’t let it happen again.
“I don’t mind missing out on signing day. I’m just grateful to have schools interested in me. I just need to finish up things here in the classroom and everything should fall into place.”
No Blue Devils put pen to paper with letters of intent on Wednesday. It was probably for the best with head coach Bob Casey already quite busy due to the birth of his daughter, McKinley, on Tuesday. Still, Casey said he anticipates that 12 to 14 of the school’s 18 sophomores will be playing football at new homes next year.
Included in that group are a handful of players already on their new campuses and getting ready for spring ball. Center Edward Lomeli (Merced High) and running back Cory Chapman (Buhach Colony) are at Friends University in Kansas. Wide receiver Trunell McMillon will be hauling in passes at Graceland University in Iowa. Offensive lineman Gary Womack is attending Hastings College in Nebraska and quarterback Javon Smith will be tossing passes north of the border at Acadia University in Toronto.
Defensive tackle Sione Tongamoa is the Blue Devils other Division 1 prospect. Casey said he’s being pursued by North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Sacramento State, but like Marion needed to finish out the semester. Casey believes Robert Askew, James Gardner and Isaac and Carlos Diaz also will be making their decisions in the next couple weeks.
“We should be right around 75 percent of our sophomores moving on when it’s all said and done,” Casey said. “That’s a little lower than the 80 percent we like to have, but it’s still a very good class. It just continues to prove that local guys will get their chance to keep playing if they put in the effort here.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.