Football

Belgrade’s Derek Marks commits to Bobcats

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Derek Marks is sticking with football and the Belgrade senior is sticking with the Bobcats.

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Despite receiving some early interest from Big XII (Oklahoma, Missouri) and Pac 12 schools (Stanford) for his prowess as a track and field standout javelin thrower, the current Panthers defensive end will continue to play football for Montana State. Since giving his verbal commitment to Montana State’s coaching staff during his junior season last fall, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder’s recruitment on the gridiron has picked up as well. He received an offer from the University of Montana. He received an invite to Washington State’s individual camp. He accepted invitations and attended camps at Washington and Oregon. He’s received pretty serious interest from the Huskies and Wyoming.

Marks

Marks

“I’m definitely playing football in college and I definitely want to be a Bobcat,” Marks said on a Monday in August days before his Panthers opened up their 2015 season at Butte Central. “It was an easy choice. I talked about it with (MSU freshman safety and former Belgrade standout safety) Brayden (Konkol) all the time, playing college football together forever since we were freshmen and up. Playing college football has always been a big goal and I’ve always been a Bobcat fan.

“I fell in love with the coaching staff. I love (defensive line) Coach (Bo) Beck. They have a lot of talented guys come out of there with the Buck Buchanan winners and the All-Americans. You look at that and it’s hard to not want to play there under a good coach like him.”

Beck has been Montana State’s defensive line coach since Rob Ash took over as head coach in 2007. Beck has helped mentor All-America selections like Dane Fletcher, Dan Ogden and Zach Minter and Buck Buchanan Award winners Caleb Schreibeis and Brad Daly. All but Minter are Treasure State natives. Marks has worked the long line of success throughout his childhood and adolescences. When the chance came to join the legacy, he jumped at it.

“Committing last year takes off a lot of pressure,” Marks said. “I can just go out and lead my team, play football, have something to look forward to and work towards. All those incoming freshmen defensive linemen are all already up there working so I have to work my butt off to keep up and get some playing time when I get up there. It’s just trying to get better and keep grinding toward the goal.

“I can be up there every weekend for the scrimmages or games if I want. I can go to practice. It’s fun. I stay in contact with Brayden a lot and a lot of the players since I’m up there so often. I’m already getting used to the team.”

Marks plans on majoring in mechanical engineering. He wants to get a minor in aerospace engineering with designs on working for Boeing.

“I’ve always liked airplanes and I used to want to be a pilot,” Marks said. “Working with my dad, I just like working with stuff so I thought mechanical engineering.”

Marks

Marks

As a junior, Marks was a Class A first-team All-State selection on both sides of the ball. He caught 11 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns, was a key blocker on the perimeter for Belgrade’s option offense and even took some snaps at quarterback, something he’ll continue to do this fall. Defensively, he notched seven sacks as the Panthers earned a No. 1 Class A ranking only to fall to Dillon in the quarterfinals of the playoffs for a second straight season. Belgrade has won the last two Central A conference championships.

“He knows the game very well,” said Belgrade head coach Eric Kinnaman, a standout MSU running back in the late 1990s. “Right now we have him working three different positions on offense and three different positions on defense. He’s the kind of kid you have to get the ball in his hands or maybe not necessarily in his hands but run to his side. You have to make him part of your offense because he is that special. Defensively, you have to have him make plays. You have to have him involved no matter what.”

Kinnaman has coached Panthers who went on to become Bobcats like defensive end Brad Smith, wide receiver Matt Thibault, Konkol and now Marks. Kinnaman has known Marks and his older brother, Dillon, and Konkol, their cousin, since they were little kids.

“It’s fun watching Derek and seeing his progress,” Kinnaman said. “Him and Dillon have matured into the men they are right now. Derek has grown up. He’s going to be one of our captains this year. It’s not just a given either. That kid has worked his tail off between working out at (Belgrade assistant and former MSU wide receiver) Josh Lewis’ or in the weight room or helping other kids out. He’s a really good kid and I couldn’t ask for a better leader than him.”

Marks and Konkol committed just hours apart last fall. Konkol’s decision came shortly before Montana State outlasted Idaho State 44-39 in Bozeman last November. Marks committed shortly after the game.

An early commitment can be cause for concern, Kinnaman said. But Marks hasn’t changed one bit since giving his promise to MSU.

“I think he’s glad he made the decision early,” Kinnaman said. “It’s interesting to see how he would make that transition. Being offered as a junior can definitely get to some kids heads and they think they already have it in the bag. That’s not necessarily true. They can always pull the scholarship if the talent isn’t there during the senior year. But nothing has changed for Derek. He still works his tail off. He doesn’t think he’s better than anyone else. He is the leader of the team and he treats the youngest kid to the oldest kid the same way. I’m so happy for him.”

Derek Marks high school film

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Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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