By Matt Noonan
CAMBRIDGE, MA – On Wednesday, Springfield College freshman quarterback Jonathan Marrero was named this week’s Div. II/III Golden Helmet Award recipient.
Marrero earned the award following his performance last weekend against Merchant Marine where he tallied seven touchdowns (four through the air, three on the ground) in the Pride’s 66-13 victory. His four touchdowns matched a school record, which was set by Kevin Cahill in 2000.
The freshman quarterback started his first game three weeks ago against Union College, a game the Pride dropped, 49-21, but despite that particular loss, Marrero has improved greatly over the past couple of weeks, according to head coach Mike DeLong.
“Each game you see him getting better and better as he’s coming up to speed,” stated the head coach.
“This past week he really put it together. And what did he do? He ran for 144 yards in half of a ball game. We had him out of there very early in the third quarter [because] he took a shot [and] after he took that shot early in the third quarter, we got him out of there, but he ran for 144 yards, three touchdowns and during those touchdown runs he’s doing a lot of things that we can’t coach, he’s making a lot of people miss him out there and he’s very, very elusive.”
DeLong also commended his quarterback for his four touchdown passes, too.
“He threw for four touchdowns – all really strong plays where he stepped up and threw for confidence. The four touchdowns tied a school record held by another former [Golden Helmet Award] winner, Kevin Cahill, so again, his performance when he three four and ran for three with a seven touchdown day in a half a game was really, really impressive,” said DeLong.
After the luncheon concluded, Noontime Sports caught up with Marrero to discuss his award, as well as his achievements thus far on the gridiron.
Before receiving this award, what’d you know about it?
“I didn’t even know about the records I tied in the game [last Saturday], but I just wanted to play the game, I didn’t know about the award, didn’t know what it meant, didn’t know who it was for, so this was the first time I heard about it.”
Coach DeLong explained during the luncheon that prior to your first snap this season, you sustained an injury. What exactly happened?
“On the first day of preseason, we had done the conditioning test and I pulled my hamstring, which was the first time I ever pulled it. It was the first time I was ever injured, so it was new to me.”
So, you never sustained an injury at Brighton High School?
When Coach DeLong announced that you were going to start your first game, what sort of emotions did you experience?
“I slept probably about two hours [that night]. I had a lot on my mind about how I was going to do, play calls and making my reads. My quarterback coach Tim Brady told me we can’t be successful unless [we complete] 85 percent of our reads. Anything less than would not come out victorious and I guess Union had 63 percent of my reads, Hobart had 70 percent [the following week] and we didn’t win either, so I had a lot on my mind about making the right reads, the fact that I could try to lead this team, and triple-option is hard, but at the same time it’s easy, so it’s just one of those things where you find the balance and find the comfort zone.”
Once that first offensive series concluded, how’d you feel?
“Everybody after that first series [had confidence] and knew we could [execute].”
Going back to this past week’s game, how were you able to be so successful against Merchant Marine and come away with seven touchdowns?
“Usually when we come out victorious, we usually score on the first drive, and against Union and Hobart we didn’t score on our first drive, we actually scored probably on the fourth series of the game, but [in] the Merchant Marine game we drove down the field, got the ball probably at the 20, drove down the field and scored right away. It was on an easy midline play we call our middle option, but after that I think personally what I thought was once [my teammates] saw that a freshman quarterback was able to step up and score, [they said let’s] carry him and let’s do this and once I scored it was just back and fourth scoring, everybody just came together and it all just happened so perfectly. I don’t know how, but it just happened.”
Your coach has commended you for your leadership and work ethic, so what has changed since arriving at Springfield?
“My maturity, definitely. I’m definitely a lot more on higher standards now. For me coming in and playing quarterback everything was fast, my passing wasn’t that great, but I came here and everything just kind of slowed down. I [feel] like that can make my right reads without having to rush something or make a bad throw or anything like that, so I feel it kind of slows down and settles down. My mindset is just like you can do this, you’re above this level, and when I [step] onto the field I don’t think of myself as a freshman, but another athlete, so I think that’s what kind of drives me.”
Was it a tough transition going from high school football to college? Did you experience any challenges going from a spread offense at Brighton to a triple-option offense at Springfield?
“In Brighton, we did run double-wing my freshman and sophomore year, but I asked the coach to switch to the spread. To go back to triple-option is kind of a bummer, but having to go from shotgun, feeling comfortable not having to drop back to being under center for every single play is definitely a big transition. Yet, I think how you approach the offense is what you’re going to get out of it and I approach triple-option as a spread because there’s nothing I can’t do.”
With three games under your belt, do you feel that you’re becoming more comfortable in your role?
“When I first started, Coach would give us a quiz every meeting and I’d always get [the questions] wrong. [I didn’t] know who my read was, who my pitch to was, I’d always get them wrong, but now it’s a no brainer. I know how to read a defense, I know when they switch up front to the five fronts or four fronts, and Coach Brady helps me a lot. He has confidence in me and that’s one thing that I like to see, [which is] having coaches know I am in the spot for a reason, they all believe in me and that’s what [helps] me make myself better. And there’s not one day that I don’t go without watching film.”
When you’re watching film, what have you noticed and how you corrected those mistakes?
“Yeah. Even against Merchant Marine, I did a lot of bad things. We scored seven touchdowns in the first half, but I wasn’t getting enough depth on my rollouts, the mesh with the fullback wasn’t good enough, so it’s just little things like that I have to pick up on.”
Finally, how special was it to have your family attend the luncheon and see you receive this award?
“It means a lot. My first game I was injured, but they still showed up. I told them I wasn’t going to play, and they still came. The second game of the season they showed up again, I wasn’t going to play, and then the Rochester game when Rob Merckling went down, I told them there might be a chance that I could play, but it wasn’t definite and they showed up anyway and things just turned around for me. They’re always there, whether it’s a Little League baseball game or Golden Helmet Award they’re always there.”