Land of 10 has embarked on a series of Next Generation articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the class of 2017 signees. Land of 10 Iowa writers Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse are visiting the Iowa incoming freshman class to show you more than 40-yard dash times and recruiting rankings. Each week, Land of 10 will introduce the Iowa fan base to one of the new Hawkeyes. Up this week is 3-star WR Henry Marchese.
VERNON HILLS, Ill. — As the final seconds ticked down in a 12-0 Iowa victory over Minnesota, 11 year-old Henry Marchese knew there was only one thing to do.
Storm the field.
It was a Kinnick Stadium regular-season finale tradition. So he jumped out of the stands on Nov. 21, 2009, and joined his three brothers and parents on the turf.
This wasn’t time for high-fives. Henry was a man on a mission. He led his brothers through the thousands on the field toward Adrian Clayborn. The defensive end, with 5 tackles and 1 sack, was instrumental in the shutout.
For Henry, nothing could top talking to Clayborn. The fact the 6-foot-3, 282-pound Clayborn looked bigger in person than from the stands didn’t stop him. He reached up and tapped Clayborn’s shoulder while shouting “good game.”
The future NFL first-round pick turned around. No one in the family remembers exactly what Clayborn said. It may be better that way. The words don’t matter. The moment does.
“It left a big impression,” Henry said.
He is from the Chicago suburbs, yet grew up on Iowa football. His father, John, was a walk-on running back and a member of Iowa’s 1985 Rose Bowl team.
All Henry wanted to do was play football for the Hawkeyes. Turning his childhood dream into a reality proved to be a harder, more time-consuming and mentally draining process than he ever imagined.
Uncertainty dominated his past year until Iowa offered 12 days before signing day. In February, Henry signed with the Hawkeyes and will wear a black-and-gold jersey like Clayborn once put on.
“Now I could be the one the little kids chase down,” Marchese said. “I can be a role model for them. It’s kind of surreal to think about.”
But first, he needed to chase down the scholarship offer. It proved tougher to catch than Clayborn.
• • •
The four boys peppered John Marchese with Iowa football questions. Henry Marchese brought the topic up more than anyone.
John indulged his kids, talking about former Hawkeyes star Ronnie Harmon, tales of dorm room high jinx and teammates falling asleep in film sessions.
“I have a million of them,” John said.
They were more than funny stories. The father passed down lessons learned from coach Hayden Fry to his offspring.
Be on time.
Show others respect.
Be a good person and student.
“It’s a part of how they grew up, all of them, to an extent,” John said.
Henry reveled in it. He grew up with more Iowa gear in his closet than anything else. He rattled off players’ names and their stats.
Henry was maybe 6 for his first Iowa game. He developed an affinity for Kinnick Stadium, tailgating and the Tigerhawk logo in elementary school.
Henry searched on YouTube for highlights from his dad’s 1982-1985 games. John only recorded 4 career carries so Henry scoured the frames to find his dad on the sidelines. The Iowa Rose Bowl game against UCLA is a personal favorite. The family recently watched the game on the Big Ten Network. Henry surprised John with his consistent ability to announce his screen time before it happened.
“Out of all of them he’s the one that probably spends the most time on it so it probably doesn’t surprise me he ended up being a Hawkeye,” John said.
Henry wanted to be one since he played as a second-grader. The Clayborn moment only intensified his feelings.
The older he became the more of a reality it became. All of his brothers played Big Ten football and each did the same thing, taking the best opportunity available as signing day approached.
His oldest brother, Joe, just finished up playing at Maryland. Jimmy is a redshirt sophomore walk-on linebacker at Illinois. His twin, Michael, is also walking on at Illinois, setting up a sibling rivalry for the next several years.
“It just evolved as he went from youth to high school,” his mother, Julie, said. “He saw the people ahead of him. It started snowballing.”
The ultimate goal, though, never changed.
“I love Iowa,” Henry said.
• • •
The first lesson in recruiting is that tape matters. A strong on-field resume is required for a scholarship.
The second lesson in recruiting is tape is almost never enough. Unless the prospect is a certified standout, like Iowa 5-star defensive end signee A.J. Epenesa, a program must be sold on a teenager.
“He understood what it was about,” John said.
Recruiting can be as much marketing and sales as anything else. A prospect must get his name out there and show why he fits what a team wants.
It’s why Henry searched out programs. He followed up with coaches. He kept in contact and always made sure to shake hands and maintain eye contact during in-person meetings.
Henry didn’t hold a job in his junior or senior year at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill. There was no time. Recruiting was his work. After school, sports and homework, his spare time went to his football future.
“You have to do it constantly,” John said. “I think that went a long way.”
Henry always updated his Hudl highlights, pulling plays from each game. He mixed in blocking plays with his touchdowns to demonstrate his all-around ability.
Henry utilized a social media plan, using it to pass on film to coaching staffs. It became a great tool to communicate, too. He could update coaches on his schedule and stats or check in with someone he didn’t hear from in a few days.
Henry carved out time to contact new programs. His first tweet or direct message would include his film. The second would be his football bio, introducing himself with his basic information.
“It’s hard work,” Henry said. “Some schools may not be attracted to you if you want them to be, and you just got to go day by day and hope for the best.”
Recruiting doesn’t really come with an offseason. He plugged along, spending 12 to 14 hours a week on it, more if he ended up in an hourlong call with a coach.
The constant grind took its toll. Henry needed to figure out if he was interested in a program, if the team really wanted him and if coaches were being truthful, promising more than they could deliver or straight-out lying. The anxiety levels rose the longer the recruitment process played out.
“It’s a business,” Henry said. “You have to fully grasp that to understand recruiting and how it works. It is stressful for basically being a client for their business. It’s like you are applying for a job. You don’t know if you will get it or not.”
It all felt worth it when Iowa reached out. Henry started talking with the Hawkeyes the winter of his junior year, after he earned second-team all-state honors with 981 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. The interest was mutual, but Iowa planned to take its time. Henry was fine with it. He understood that’s how the team operates.
“I was very excited,” Henry said, “but I knew it was a long process and I had to weigh my options, but that was always No. 1.”
Offers came from MAC programs. He was in contact with most of the Big Ten.
Henry was up for anything if it improved his odds for a scholarship. He went to a Rivals camp to increase his exposure last summer. He participated in 7-on-7 drills and trained at EFT Sports Performance with future Iowa teammate Ivory Kelly-Martin.
“Determination is his biggest strength,” Stevenson football coach Josh Hjorth said. “If he really wants something he’ll go for it.”
So Henry headed out to a series of team camps. He hit Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin before his senior year.
It was as much about giving the coaches a chance to see him in person as gauging the programs. He claims nerves never got the best of him — even at Iowa.
“It’s playing football,” Henry said. “It doesn’t need to be all stressful, just being fun and being loose.”
Going to Iowa and talking to the staff brought back the old memories. It felt like home and family. Similar feelings rose up on other visits, but returning to Iowa City reminded Henry why the Hawkeyes were his first love.
• • •
Faith and patience.
It became Henry’s recruiting motto. He believed he would end up at the right program, be it Iowa or elsewhere.
Still, his heart fluttered a bit every time he received an Iowa recruiting letter and his calls with recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell and linebackers coach Seth Wallace were encouraging. He chatted a bit with former wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy, too.
The first conversation with coach Kirk Ferentz came late in his senior football season. For Henry, it was like meeting with the president. He looked up to Ferentz for as long as he could remember. The nerves arrived before the call did. They were worse playing for a state football title as a sophomore, but this wasn’t far behind.
He tried not to embarrass himself. Ferentz asked about his season and his family. They discussed who he is and the people who surround him. When he hung up he let out a sigh.
“It was a relief,” Henry said. “I wasn’t that bad with him.”
No, he didn’t torpedo his shot at a scholarship. He tried fighting off thoughts on whether talking with the head coach was a good sign. His recruitment was a long way from over and he tried not to get too excited. His goal was to adhere to his faith-and-patience approach.
The pressure and thoughts around his future were a lot like his recruiting. It was always there but, unlike with recruiting, he tried not to mull it over every night. The closer it came to signing the harder it became to ignore. It’s only natural when an offer isn’t there in early January to wonder if it will come. The constant questions from classmates and those around town about his college plans didn’t make the situation easier.
“My parents told me to be patient,” Henry said. “It was hard, but I tried to do it.”
Henry didn’t want recruiting to affect his football season. The sport also served as a distraction from the recruiting process. He didn’t think about which coach to contact next during practice or under the Friday nights lights. Henry led Stevenson to the playoffs while again earning second-team all-state honors. He set school records with 63 receptions, 1,053 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Henry kept in touch with Wallace throughout December. The scholarship seemed close. It arrived during a school visit on Jan. 19. Wallace offered during Marchese’s lunch hour. It caught Henry off guard.
“I thought it wasn’t true,” he said.
Wallace assured him it was. Henry quickly texted his family, coaches and told close friends. He committed three days later and didn’t publicly reveal it until Jan. 24.
“I think it was the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on his face,” John said.
Iowa rewarded Henry’s faith and patience. He became a Hawkeye eight days before signing day. It was a great feeling, but his emotions were equal parts happiness over the news and joy for a burden no longer being there.
“All the pressure and expectations just go away,” Henry said. “I have a place and it was the biggest relief because I’m committed and recruiting, the entire stressful process, is over.”
Henry can look back on it all now and smile. It’s when thinking about the hours spent talking with coaches and the trying nights mulling over his future that a realization hits him, a lot like how he got Clayborn’s attention years ago.
“I actually do connect my recruiting story to how Iowa runs its program,” Henry said. “How hard work, being a good citizen, having good character and being an overall good person is important even when you face some tough bumps along the road on the way to your ultimate goal. That is what Iowa football is.”
For the complete Iowa NextGen series, click this link.