Mike Marrow was a pretty big gift to drop into Greg Dempsey's lap at Central Catholic.
Marrow showed up last spring when his dad, Vince, returned to his alma mater, the University of Toledo, to join the football coaching staff.
The younger Marrow came with some impressive numbers, from the 6-foot-2 in height to the 240 pounds in weight to the 810 rushing yards last season at New Albany (Ohio) High School. When the Marrow family car pulled into town, recruiters from Alabama, Nebraska, Penn State and other such places were right behind.
Even a coach like Dempsey, with a state championship and three straight City League titles to his credit, has to pinch himself when manna drops from the heavens like that.
But there was one potential problem. The Irish already have a big-name, big-game, big-time tailback in Brad Rogers, not yet signed, but otherwise sealed and all but delivered to the University of Iowa. Like Marrow, Rogers also is a linebacker on defense.
There could be conflict here, a clash of titans, so to speak. These things don't always work out.
"It can be a touchy situation," Dempsey said. "It only works if Brad and Mike made it work. And that was taken care of real quick. The real story here, or the best part of the story, is what great friends they've become."
After Vince Marrow called to schedule a school visit, Dempsey caught some video snippets of Mike on the Internet and saw the kind of talent that might be headed for the Cherry Street campus. The first person he called in was Rogers.
"I didn't want Brad to be blind-sided," Dempsey said. "He handled it great. I think he realized a little help is not a bad thing."
Rogers, the only freshman who dressed for the playoffs during Central's state title run in 2005, rushed for nearly 650 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, but it was a nicked-up, banged-up, black-and-blue type of year.
"I got hurt and was slowed up late in the season and we didn't really have anybody to come in and give me a break," the 5-10, 220-pound Rogers said. "So when coach Dempsey told me about this, I figured it couldn't do anything but help the team even if it meant fewer carries for me. Mike and I will rotate in and we'll both always be fresh."
That has to be a scary prospect for Irish opponents, the first of which will be Bowling Green on Friday night at Gallagher Stadium.
Marrow, who since arriving at Central has verbally committed to play college football at Alabama, admits that he was a little surprised at how he was welcomed with open arms by Rogers and other members of the Irish team.
"Brad was already the star here, but he was really cool about it," Marrow said. "We've been to each other's house and stayed the night a few times. We've become good friends. I think we're very respectful of each other."
The two are a lot alike, both soft-spoken, quick with a laugh, not the least bit cocky. And they know their merged talents have created some serious expectations. Even Dempsey doesn't shy away from Chuck Webb-
Myron Bell comparisons, referring to the Macomber running back tandem of the late 1980s, guys who later played at Tennessee and Michigan State, respectively
"But I preach every day that great players and college scholarships don't automatically produce state championships," Dempsey said. "A lot of people are labeling this team as a sure-fire thing because of these guys. But these are just two kids. Granted, they're great kids and great talents. But we have 86 other guys who will also determine how this season goes."
Dempsey certainly likes the depth that the Rogers-Marrow combination brings to the team, and not just on offense. Defensively, they'll join with Dave Pickerel, a City League wrestling champion and a third-year starter, to give the Irish what should be the area's most formidable linebacking corps.
Expectations are huge but time is short. They will be together for just one season before Rogers heads to Iowa and Marrow to Alabama, where he'll play for Nick Saban, who was his dad's coach in 1990 at UT.
"A lot of people expect big things because of our names and where we are going," Rogers said.
"We do have a lot of talent," Marrow said of the Irish. "But we have to keep working hard and everything has to mesh."
It already has meshed at the top, which was the first and, just maybe, the biggest hurdle.
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