TAMPA — To appreciate the giant leap that offensive lineman Ali Marpet is making, going from tiny Division III Hobart College in New York to be a second-round draft pick of the Bucs on Friday night, consider his head coach.
Mike Cragg has coached at Hobart since 1996, with only one player so much as making an NFL camp and still never playing in a game. Hobart's last NFL player was in 1937, which is to say Marpet's selection Friday was celebrated not only at Hobart but on small-school campuses across the country.
"He didn't do it just for Hobart. He's going to carry this for Division III, and Division III couldn't ask for a better person to be carrying it for them," Cragg said. "This is a guy you want representing you."
Marpet, 6 feet 4 and 307 pounds, played tackle at Hobart but will compete for a starting job at right guard with the Bucs, who traded up into the second round to grab him.
"Perhaps my favorite guy, and (coach) Lovie (Smith) will tell you the same thing, in the draft from O-line was Ali Marpet," Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. "Just a guy we rooted for. … Our scouts did an excellent job of digging him out early."
Marpet, who went to Hobart as an undersized 230-pound prospect out of high school, earned a rare invitation to the Senior Bowl and shined in Mobile, Ala., impressing teams by holding his own against prospects against major-conference colleges.
"The Senior Bowl was huge for me, because I was able to show teams I could step up to the competition and play with the speed and size of the next level," said Marpet, the second of two offensive linemen drafted by the Bucs on Friday. "I know the NFL is obviously a bigger jump than the Senior Bowl, but I honestly think I can make the same jump."
Cragg said scouts visiting Hobart called him a rare "30-30-30" prospect: more than 30 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press, a vertical leap of more than 30 inches, and a Wonderlic score of more than 30.
If quarterback Jameis Winston was the most well-known player in college football, Marpet might be the most anonymous player in the draft, thrilled to have a chance to prove himself and put Hobart on the national map this fall.
"When I met with Coach Smith, we talked about offensive line play and how important it is to him," said Marpet, who didn't play before a crowd of larger than 1,997 fans his senior year. "Offensive line play is everything, I think."