With Iowa choice, Stevenson's Marchese is on firm footing
The piece of turf that Henry Marchese picked off of the field at the University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium is still sealed up in a Ziploc bag. Eight years later.
It's a prized keepsake from one of his greatest childhood memories.
A long-running tradition at Iowa is that after the last home football game of the season, fans are allowed to run onto the field, and interact with the coaches and players.
Marchese, now a senior at Stevenson and a football player himself, used to go to most Iowa home football games with his family … until his own sports schedule got too busy. Then it got tough to go to a lot of games. But in grade school, Marchese was a super fan, a regular.
"I was about 10, and we had just beaten Minnesota 12-10 and we rushed the field after the game and I pulled up some grass so that I could take that with me," Marchese said. "I also got to run up to my favorite player, Adrian Clayborn (now with the Atlanta Falcons). He was one of the best defensive players in the country that season.
"I just remember thinking how cool it was to be talking to Adrian Clayborn, slapping his pads. He was a hero to me. I couldn't believe I was on the field at Kinnick with him."
Marchese also finds it hard to believe that he will soon be on the Kinnick Stadium field regularly himself, perhaps someday becoming a hero to a younger Hawkeye fan just like him.
"I can't believe I'm going to be running onto that field in front of 80,000 people," Marchese said. "I'm going to be so nervous."
On Wednesday, which was college football's National Signing Day, Marchese inked his national letter of intent to play football next year for the Hawkeyes. He will be a wide receiver for Iowa, where the Marchese name is familiar.
Marchese became a diehard Hawkeye fan because his father John played football at Iowa, too, as a running back.
"My whole family is so happy about this, especially my dad," said Marchese, a two-time all-stater for Stevenson. He helped the Patriots win a state championship in 2014 when he was a sophomore on varsity.
"My dad had a great experience there. The head coach at Iowa now (Kirk Ferentz) was actually an assistant coach when my dad was there. They've been reminiscing a lot (during Henry's recruitment) about what the team was like back then, about what Iowa City was like back then."
Marchese, who holds Stevenson single-season records for receptions (63), yards (1,053) and touchdowns (16), got his official offer from Iowa in early January. He also had offers from Miami of Ohio, his other finalist, Bowling Green, Army and Central Michigan.
"I tried to take this process very patiently. This wasn't a decision just for signing day, this was a decision for the next four to five years and beyond that," Marchese said. "Academics was No. 1 for me and I wanted to go to a good school and get a good degree. The academics at Iowa are really good. I also like the football and the atmosphere there.
"I fit perfectly at Iowa."
The Iowa coaches thought the same thing, and not just because Marchese is a legacy player. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Marchese is a solidly-built wide receiver who can burn with his speed, and block with his size.
"They told me they liked my size and speed and ball skills and how physically I play," Marchese said. "They run the ball a lot at Iowa and they like how I down-field block. They think I also use my speed well."
Marchese is the fourth person in his immediate family to play Division I college football. In addition to his dad John, brother Joe played center at Maryland and brother Jim is a linebacker at Illinois.
On top of that, two cousins, Quinn and Hayden Baker, played at Northwestern. And Uncle Dan Enright played at Army.
Marchese's twin brother Michael, also a senior at Stevenson and a star on defense, is still going through the recruiting process and will likely be playing college football next year, too.
"Seeing my brothers and cousins play college football … it's just cool that it's finally my time," Marchese said.
"I think the coaches (at Iowa) liked how important football is to my family. And I think they liked that I have had Iowa in my heart since Day One. They know how important the Iowa Hawkeyes are to me."
Marchese plans to celebrate his full-circle journey by going on a little shopping spree. More Iowa gear.
"A whole section of my closet is already Iowa stuff … shirts and pants and hats," Marchese said. "A couple more things can't hurt."
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