WEB EXCLUSIVE: In His Own Words... Chris Marinelli
Sept. 3, 2009
With the departure of stalwarts Alex Fletcher and Ben Muth, fifth-year senior has inherited the leadership role on the offensive line. A veteran of 28 career starts, Marinelli helped pave the way for one of the most successful running attacks in school history last season, as the Cardinal racked up 2,395 yards on the ground, which the second-highest total in school history.
A native of Braintree, Mass., Marinelli grew up in a football family. His father, Jim, played at Northeatern, his uncle Joe at New Hampshire and his cousin Mike at Penn. Chris is a double major (classics and economics).
GoStanford.com recently spoke to Chris about his time in the Stanford program, the camaraderie of the offensive line, his New England upbringing and other topics of interest.
In His Own Words…Chris Marinelli
What makes the Stanford football program unique?
Hands down, the guys on this team. It is what sold me to Stanford in the first place. You never know what might change in a program, (I've had six offensive line coaches in four-plus seasons) but you know for a fact that your teammates will always be in that locker room when it's time to grind. We are a bunch of hard nosed guys who love ball, yet seek the highest success in life. We have some conversations in the locker room (i.e. one the other day was the 12 Labors of Hercules, and politics/religion are often hot topics), where someone will stop and say, 'I don't think other locker rooms are talking about this stuff.'
What did you write your Stanford admissions essay about?
Well there were actually four or five essays if I remember correctly! But one that stands out to me was a more narrative style essay where I was asked to tell a story that described myself as a person. I wrote about my final Halloween dressing up. I think I was like 16 or so (too old I know), and all my friends were resistant to the idea of trick-or-treating one last time. But I figured I'd have some fun with it and go all out. I cut a bunch of cereal boxes up and taped them to my body. Then I covered them in reddish paint to look like blood. Of course, I was a 'cereal killer'. We all got a good kick out of it, and it made the night somewhat less embarrassing.
Tell us about your major?
I have two majors. The first is classics, or classical studies, where I have taken coursework from all sectors of the field; language, history, rhetoric, politics, philosophy, art, athletics. This major was more exciting for me and of personal interest. Coming from a Jesuit high school, I took 4 years of Latin and 3 of Greek prior to Stanford. I became a self proclaimed 'Homeric Scholar', and still draw many inferences to the heroes of epic poetry.
My other major is economics. It is arguably the most challenging major here and the professors are the best any institution can offer. I hope to go into finance after football kicks me out, so econ was a perfect beginning for that. I've also indulged in a variety of coursework, from micro to macro, to finance, to econometrics, etc. A few times these classes have seemed overwhelming, but I have learned infinite amounts from them.
What has been your quintessential Stanford moment as student?
Continuing from the last question, there have been many high points as a Stanford student (and some low). But when it comes to the penultimate moment, I am going to have to talk about a project I am working on right now. I am working one on one with an economics professor, Roger Noll, to get an econometrics paper published that I have been working on for a while now. The premise of the paper began by using regression analysis to determine how each position group should tailor their NFL Combine training to succeed in particular drills so that they may increase their draft stock. However, that has since evolved. I have the data from every player who attended the Combine from 2000 until 2008, and have observed this data inside and out for trends. It looks as if the current direction of the piece could be nullifying the significance of the Combine, and creates real telling evidence of when or how a player gets drafted. But that conclusion will be released when the paper is, and I will let the econometrics do the talking.
What are you really talented at (not athletic related) besides football?
I would say some humor related qualities; quick wit, jokes, story-telling, impressions (although Dembesky is hands down the best our team has to offer in this department). I also trash talk with the best of them, and the locker room is loaded with conflict around NFL and NBA playoff time (CELTICS IN 2010!). But most importantly, I pride myself in being very headstrong in my training efforts, and try to do everything right without cutting corners. I think all in all, we've got an offensive line unit that lives this way, day in and out.
You are Stanford’s most experienced offensive lineman with 28 career starts. Where has been your greatest area of growth?
My physical growth has been steady, and I have learned some 'tricks of the trade' over the last three years. But my growth in the mental aspect of the game has been tremendous. I remember it took me one and a half years to learn the offense fully, but now I feel as if I could coach a college offensive line running this system. This has made the game much simpler and has slowed it down considerably. I understand team’s trends and schemes, and ultimately see them before they come, one thing which made playing as a redshirt freshman quite an adventure.
Offensive linemen have a unique camaraderie. Describe how Stanford’s offensive line has grown together over the years?
I think we have learned to insist that we carry the burden of this offense. You will never meet a more prideful group of guys who want the pressure and game plan to be put on them. I'd like to take some credit for that, but I think it is all due to the older guys that I learned the game from. Alex Fletcher is the godfather of this unit and its way of thinking, and my man Benny Muth was what brought us all together last season. We hope to fill those two holes and have a much better season this year. Also, recently we have undertaken a new persona. The idea started when I told the guys about my father, Jim Marinelli. He has made an honest living, busting his you-know-what, for nearly 30 years as union guy. Local 88 Tunnel Workers in Quincy, Mass. is where he began. He is still in this field, although he has climbed the depth chart so to speak. And this is right in line with Coach Harbaugh's 'Blue Collar Identity' that we have made our own. But everyday, my Dad (you did too Mom!) got up before the sun, went to work with his lunch and hard hat and grinded until after dark, went to bed, got up and did it again. As an offensive line we hope to run the same course of living. Demand no glory, but be dependable and ready to grind every day (hard hat on). So we got to thinking, we open up holes too. And it became that we would become 'The Tunnel Workers Union', or just 'UNION' for short. Come catch us digging some tunnels near you this fall.
What does your position coach do really well that gets the most out of your abilities?
Drev's (Tim Drevno) and Coach (Greg) Roman demand perfection. Simply put. They are too of the most precise men I have ever met, and they will not let you get away without using perfect technique. There were some growing pains for the unit with this in the spring, but I think our mindset has changed and we've learned that every inch and step matters. This will help us a lot in the fall.
What’s the toughest conditioning drill at Stanford (please be as descriptive as possible)?
Conditioning? It's all easy! I'm only kidding, Coach (Shannon) Turley's conditioning is extremely well thought out and individualized to maximize each unit's conditioning. The winter 6:00 a.m. period is a grind, but I would have to say that the summer is where the most demanding days are found. The struggle is to be perfectly conditioned by the beginning of camp, so that practice time can be optimized with the ball. The way we do it, is two days a week are conditioning games, where we face our fall schedule. So for example we will open up on June 24th with Washington State I believe. These days are four quarters of furious conditioning, and if one person should fail (miss a time, turn with wrong foot, do not get foot over a line), it is a loss for the team. The hardest conditioning is our conditioning test, which decides if you can play in camp or not. I firmly believe this is the best test in the country, and covers all facets of perfect conditioning. The test is four quarters. The first quarter is six 10-second tempo runs, which are straight sprints with length by position group (skill has 90 or so yards, big skill has 82 or so, and line has 70 I believe). The second quarter is four cut 120's, which are sprint 40 yards, cut and come back 40 yards, then sprint 40 yards back (the times are staggered by group: 20-22-24 seconds I believe). The third quarter is six 7-second tempo runs, which are like the first quarter. but shorter and faster (length breakdown is 55-50-45 yards). And the fourth quarter is a 300-yard shuttle, which is 25 yards and back, six times (the times for this are 64-68-72).
How do you manage to balance the scheduling demands of playing football and maintaining a rigorous academic schedule?
It is all about time management and balancing priorities. You understand every day when you will have football and when you will have class. Then you must be able to use your 'leisure' time to get homework done, treatment, rehab, film, sleep, food, etc. This was tough as a freshman, but once you get into a pattern and figure what works for you, it's pretty easy.
How satisfying was it for you to be a part of an offensive line that helped pave the way for the second highest-rushing total in Stanford history last year?
It was nice, but we are never satisfied. The biggest statistic for us was 5-7. No Rose Bowl, no bowl game, no respect. It doesn't matter how many yards we rush for, how many tackles Toby breaks, or how many opposing linebackers Patch takes out. It's all about W's, and that is our goal this year: ROSE BOWL.
Tell us a little bit about your New England upbringing?
It was on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Palo Alto upbringing. Inconsistent weather, most people are service economy or union workers, rockier beaches, etc. It is probably my most proud characteristic. There is a tremendous swagger that people have back home, and it's just a mental attitude. It cracks me up because every time MTV comes out with a new Real World, there is some belligerent, incoherent, funny accented guy from Boston on the cast. So that the image that always gets put to us (that and Goodwill Hunting/Departed). But being away helps me recognize and laugh about it too. There is just a certain arrogance that people have to represent the Blue Collar upbringing they, or someone in their family line, has had. Be it Irish, or Italian, or Puerto Rican, etc. people take immense pride in what they are and do not let anyone tell them differently. It has been most important in my life, because few schools wanted to take a chance on a no name, white kid from Boston. But I showed them I could play and that I won't stop working and won't back down. There is a reason why a lot of the people I know back home have a 'B' tattooed somewhere on their body. My only regret is that my accent has mitigated over the last 4 years.
Tell us about your background in Latin?
I have taken something like seven or so years in Latin, although I am not as good at it as I would like to be. But it has been a very helpful tool for me. It gives you the power to expand your vocabulary given that most English words can be broken down into their Latin, or Greek, roots. But I have learned the most from the thousands and thousands of lines I have translated and by simply reading what authors had to say in antiquity. A lot of it is really cool 'Gladiator' type war documentation, a lot is about romance, a lot of humor, a lot of alternate ways of thinking. It has expanded my horizons drastically, and I find myself often trying to embody the heroes and heroines of the ancient world.
Tell us about the passion of a Boston sports fan?
I don't think I could describe it; go to Fenway, or the Garden, or Gillette one time and find out. The first time you hear, 'HAY, Jetahhhh.... YOU SUCK!' You'll get the idea. People, including myself, live and die with those teams, and during my lifetime I've been very fortunate to see a lot of titles. However, there was a certain 80-some-odd year curse that my fellow Bostonians remember quite well.
What were some of your favorite sports memories growing up?
Boston Red Sox World Series champs in 2004. I remember when my Drew Bledsoe-led Pats got crushed by Favre in the 1996 Super Bowl, heartbreaking. But on a personal level, we had a group of kids from Quincy, where I grew up, who were awesome athletes. We had the same 8-10 guys who made up our basketball and baseball teams. I remember a period from like, 10 to 13 years old, where I swear we never lost in either of the two sports. And we are talking about playing hundreds of games, like two basketball and one baseball tournament in the same weekend! These are the best kind of guys, who I am still friends with. One is a pitcher at Bentley College in Mass, one is a pitcher for UConn who has been drafted, and one is an all-league basketball player at Westfield State in Mass.
Do you have any pre-game routines?
I’m very superstitious -- have to sleep in the same bed at the hotel, listen to a lot of Tool, Audioslave, type stuff before games, wear the same clothes I did when we last won, etc. As far as pregame goes, I am big into smelling salts for a pick-me-up, and a lot of talking. I am not one of those guys who can just sit in silence before a game, I have to be up talking to guys on the time and coaches about our gameplan and what we need to do. From there, it's just man up and execute.
Who has been the biggest influence in your football career?
Two people: My father and Chris Dalman. Two of the best guys I have ever been around, who shy away from the limelight but are the most dependable, hard-working guys in their field. I hope to be as successful in what I do as they are at what they do.
What do you like to do away from football?
Chill with the boys, kill a lot of zombies with ray guns, concerts, trips, and enjoy the many fortunes of the Bay Area.