One of three rookie minicamp tryout players signed by the Redskins this week, linebacker Nico Marley is ready to make the most of his first NFL opportunity in Washington.
At just 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, Nico Marley has always felt like an underdog on the football field.
His height is closer to that of a slot receiver than of a productive linebacker. He received just one Division I scholarship offer. He wasn't invited to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine despite being a two-time first-team All-American Conference selection.
All of the doubts about a career in professional football didn't stop Marley from pursing his dream, though. Shortly after the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft, Marley had three offers to be a tryout player at upcoming rookie minicamps.
He chose a tryout from the Washington Redskins over the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals.
Impressing at last weekend's rookie minicamp at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va., Marley was signed by the Redskins on Tuesday.
"The Redskins, they reached out to me right after the draft within 10 minutes of the last pick, right around that time," Marley told Redskins.com. "Then there was the Saints and Cardinals, they also extended the same rookie camp invite. I chose Washington, I had a good conversation and something just told me to come here so I chose Washington. The Saints, I was in New Orleans for four years. I just really felt Washington."
Marley was just a two-star recruit coming out of Cyprus Bay (Fla.) High School and received three offers: Tulane, Bryant and Duquesne. Wanting to play at the highest level of college football, Marley chose to attend Tulane.
The Washington Redskins defense and special teams held their second rookie minicamp practice of 2017 on May 13, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
In four seasons for the Green Wave, Marley appeared in 49 career games and collected 319 tackles (200 solo), 50.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, six passes defensed and four interceptions.
During his senior season in 2016, Marley led Tulane's defense with 88 tackles along with three sacks, three fumbles forced, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
Those numbers showed that Marley can be a positive player on a football field, but now in the NFL he understands he's starting with a clean slate.
"At this level, nobody owes you anything," Marley said. "College is college and nobody owes you anything and I can't say 'I did this. I'm proud of this from college.' But there's a lot of different things they look for in this league. I understand. I am a grown man and understand there's different things they are looking for. Ultimately, I think me doing that helped. It gave them the OK to give me a rookie camp invite. It wasn't something like, 'We will sign him.' They were like, 'Let's give him a rookie camp invite and see if he can compete with the rookies that we got.' That's how it helped me."
Marely joins an inside linebackers group that includes returning starters Mason Foster and Will Compton along with Pro Bowler Zack Brown, who was a late free agent addition signed last month.
He know that it will be somewhat of an uphill climb to make the active roster, but he's going to be someone who leaves it all on the field.
"I don't mind the discredit; they will see," Marley said. "That's something me and my dad talked about, just the lion heart mentality. Just being a lion, you see your prey and you go and get it. You are just somebody who wants to go and get it, the King of the Serengeti. You wake up, you have to be faster than the slowest gazelle. It's just the lion mentality and the lion heart. It's just what my dad instilled into me for the longest. I'm going to do me and I'm going to give them everything I got so that when I leave whenever that time is, it's not because anything that I did."