Off the field Owen Marecic is humble, he deflects credit to others and he’s really smart.
“When he puts on that football uniform, he transforms into the Incredible Hulk,” said Elliott Almond, the Stanford beat writer for the San Jose Mercury News.
Almond recently spoke with The Orange and Brown Report about his days covering Marecic, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the 27th pick of the fourth round.
For a fourth-round pick, Marecic had some national name recognition. In his senior season, he garnered that national attention because he started at linebacker and fullback. Against Notre Dame last September, he scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and 13 seconds later he intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards for another touchdown.
Make no mistake, Almond said, the Browns did not fall in love with Marecic because of the national attention he garnered as the only NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision two-way starter.
“He got a lot of national attention because he started both ways,” Almond said. “It was a little gimmicky. He wouldn’t have garnered that national attention otherwise. I will tell you this, the Browns didn’t draft a gimmicky player. The Browns drafted him because of his intangibles.”
As a junior, Marecic was the lead blocking back for Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart. In 2009, Gerhart rushed for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns on 343 carries. That offseason, Stanford was thin at linebacker and coach Jim Harbaugh found a replacement in his offensive backfield.
“Harbaugh said Owen is the most complete football player he’s every played with or coached,” Almond said. “He loved Owen. And that comes from way before all the hype. I swear he put Owen on defense because that defense was no where near what Harbaugh wanted it to be mentality wise.”
The defense needed a spark and Marecic provided some of the electricity. In 2009, Stanford was ninth in total defense, allowed opponents to convert on third downs 43 percent of the time, had only 21 sacks and were last in the Pac 10 in red zone defense.
Entering 2010, Stanford hired Vic Fangio as the defensive coordinator and Stanford — with Marecic starting at linebacker — improved. The Cardinal finished second in overall defense in the Pac 10, first in scoring defense, second in rushing yards allowed per game and third in passing yards allowed per game. Fangio’s move to a 3-4 helped and so, too, did Marecic’s leadership. Still, Marecic didn’t fool anyone: He is a fullback first and foremost.
“Teams would blow by him,” Almond said. “He got way better last season, you can see his improvement, but he was really great at fullback. That is his only place in professional football.”
In the professional ranks, Marecic would be too slow and too small (6-foot, 248 pounds) to be a linebacker, but fullback fits him perfectly physically and mentally.
“Fullback may be the place I feel at home best,” Marecic said in a post draft conference call.
Fullback is one position the Browns have had talent. Thanks, in part, to Lawrence Vickers, the Browns have had a 1,000-yard rusher three of the last four seasons.
Yet, when the NFL business resumes, Vickers, 28, is an unrestricted free agent. With a move to the West Coast offense Vickers suddenly becomes more expensive. It may be a perfect situation for Marecic to win a job.
“I understand that it’s a huge challenge and that challenge attracts me to the sport and to the opportunity,” Marecic said. “I know that all of the work is out there to be done and nothing is set right now but I’m going in confident and willing to do the work necessary. I know I have tons to learn and lots to improve on but I’m excited to take the next step in this process.”