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Bucs rookie Ali Marpet, family living their wildest dreams

Five-sixths of the Marpet family: from left, Zena, Blaze, father Bill, Ali and Brody. Missing is mother Joy Rose, whose rock band is Housewives on Prozac.
Five-sixths of the Marpet family: from left, Zena, Blaze, father Bill, Ali and Brody. Missing is mother Joy Rose, whose rock band is Housewives on Prozac.
Published Aug. 23, 2015

TAMPA

Ali Marpet walked to the crowd of fans pressed against the orange snow fence surrounding the field at One Buc Place after a training camp practice.

His attack was premeditated.

The Bucs' 6-foot-4, 307-pound rookie guard singled out a young blond who virtually disappeared in his meaty arms.

"Ew! You're soaked (in sweat)!" screamed his sister Zena, helpless in her attempt to escape holding by the lineman.

Bill Marpet, the 64-year-old patriarch of the family, roared in approval.

That Ali was drafted by the Bucs was serendipitous. Two of his siblings, Zena and brother Brody, live in St. Petersburg. Another brother, Blaze, attended Eckerd College, as did Zena, and now is seeking a doctorate at Northwestern.

The Marpets (pronounced mar-PET) plan to attend all of Ali's games, especially the ones at Raymond James Stadium. Bill will miss the Sept. 13 regular-season opener because it conflicts with Fashion Week in New York City.

"This is a whole different world for me," Bill said of NFL training camp. "I'm used to working with supermodels and gay men and stuff. This is not normally my thing. There's a lot of testosterone around here."

As a Division III player from Hobart College in upstate New York, Ali overcame big odds to arrive in the National Football League. But to understand him as a person and a player, you must start with his wonderfully diverse celebrity family.

"Yes," Zena said. "We're a bunch of wild cards."

• • •

Wearing earrings and his long gray hair pulled tightly back into a braided ponytail, Bill might not be the face in a crowd you would pick out as the dad of an NFL lineman. But on closer inspection, his athletic build and lean physique prove he is a man who works to stay in shape.

"Even though I consider my dad artistic, he still coached me in Little League and basketball growing up," Ali said. "I wouldn't say he's a health nut, but at the same time, for breakfast every morning he has coconut milk and wheatgrass. No dairy, no red meat or anything like that."

Bill was raised in New York's Westchester County and attended a year at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., before transferring to the New York University's film school in the early 1970s. It was there he discovered his passion for not film but video.

An Emmy Award-winning director and cinematographer, Bill founded B Productions in 1983 while directing live runway video for the top fashion designers in New York. His business grew from a one-man camera shop in New York to the leading producer of live-event video whose designer clients over the years have included Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors.

Before Ali was drafted, his only link to the NFL was knowing supermodel Gisele Bundchen before Tom Brady did.

"I went to a couple fashion shows growing up," Ali said. "Yeah, it's cool. But at the same time, I don't know, but the fashion shows never really interested me. All the swag and things like that … it's not really me."

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Ali's mother, Joy Rose, was a member of Housewives on Prozac, a rock, disco and blues band that played from 1997-2008 (his parents divorced 13 years ago). Housewives on Prozac gained acclaim with its songs about domestic challenges. They include Eat Your Damn Spaghetti, I Don't Think Like My Mom and Fuzzy Slippers, which has lyrics such as "I wipe the baby's chin with my college diploma and wonder how did I ever get here?"

The group has been described as The Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Brady Bunch mom Carol Brady.

"We'd go to her performances back in the day," Ali, 22, said. "My brothers were a little older and not as fond of it. I was in the fourth grade and didn't really care. It was all right. I couldn't do it, so I had to have respect for it.

"It definitely was a little embarrassing at times being driven around in a black Suburban with Housewives on Prozac in pink writing on the car."

Zena said Ali is the only member of the family besides her mom who isn't tone deaf.

"I remember saying, 'Teach me to sing!' " Zena said. "He was just a natural.'

• • •

As a football player, Ali was overlooked coming out of high school. The biggest schools to recruit him were Holy Cross, Fordham and Marist, but by then he had decided to commit to Hobart for its academics.

Playing in the NFL was the furthest thing from his mind. As a 252-pound freshman, he was off the NFL radar. BLESTO, a scouting service used by more than a half-dozen teams, got onto him when he was a junior, and by his senior year, he had received an invitation to play in the NFL Players Association's Collegiate Bowl. But his big break came when former Browns general manager Phil Savage added Ali to the Senior Bowl roster.

It took Ali one passing drill to know he belonged there.

"When he hit 300 pounds and ran under a 5-second 40-yard dash, those are the things that got him noticed," Bill said. "The big break was the Senior Bowl. I almost had a heart attack when he did his first one-on-one there. I was wondering, 'Is this all a farce? Is he just going to roll over?' But it was like, 'Oh. He did all right.' And it really kept ramping up."

Bucs offensive line coach George Warhop worked out Ali in Syracuse, N.Y. Ali was among the players who made an official visit to the Bucs, who drafted him in the second round with the 61st overall pick, the highest selection ever for a Division III player.

Ali made his NFL debut in the Bucs' 26-16 preseason loss at Minnesota on Aug. 15. He wasn't perfect, but Bucs coaches are raving about his combination of athleticism and power. In Wednesday's practice, he got the best of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, blocking him to the ground twice.

"There were a couple times where I think Gerald was getting a little frustrated," Ali said. "But going against him every day is going to make both of us better."

• • •

Ali and Brody, who works for a chiropractor and tends bar on the weekend in St. Petersburg, will share an apartment this year in Tampa. Finding one was problematic, mostly because, as Bill said, "everything is too expensive for Ali. He doesn't want to spend that much money. He's miserly."

Ali doesn't disagree.

"I'd say I'm frugal," he said. "I'm definitely careful with how I spend my money. I'm aware the NFL is not going to be 15-plus years, so you've got to be careful."

His cautiousness might affect his relationships.

"We'd just like to have him with a girlfriend, but I don't know. That may take a long time," Zena said.

"Now he's a little skeptical. He met somebody, remember?" Bill said.

"Yeah, but he didn't want to say he was a football player," Zena said.

He could talk to potential girlfriends about his family. The fashion video­grapher. The punk rock singer. Music, fashion.

For the Marpets, there will be nothing like NFL wild-card weekends.

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