Life doesn’t always take the path we want it to or expect it to, and defensive tackle Jeff Marx knows that firsthand.
Marx was a four-year football letterman at Ursuline. He gathered four all-district selections, All-Ohio honors as both a Junior and a Senior, the “Five Blocks of Granite” award which is given to the top five offensive linemen in the Ohio Valley, and was selected to play in the Ohio North-South Senior All-Star game. He did all of this while being an accomplished powerlifter and an honor-roll student.
Out of high school, Marx fielded offers from Navy, Army West Point and Youngstown State before he would decide to commit to Navy. He enjoyed the football aspect but the longer he spent there he realized that he needed to pave a different road for himself.
After some time searching, Marx had narrowed down his potential schools to Duquesne and Slippery Rock University. He shared that his final decision was heavily based on how welcoming the coaching staff was and the positivity that appeared to surround the football organization.
“What really made me want to come to the Rock was the coaches, it felt like a family atmosphere,” Marx said.”
It was clear the developing brotherhood between the players and coaching staff had a positive impact on Marx. It was also clear that Marx had a positive impact on Slippery Rock’s on-field production. He helped transform Slippery Rock’s 13th-ranked run defense in 2017 into the 2nd-ranked run defense in 2018.
Marx undoubtedly played a large role in this production, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by talking to him because of his humility. He always gives credit to the playmakers around him and the coaches for putting him in the right position to make plays.
“I credit our success to the family atmosphere, our competitiveness on the field, our trainers who take care of our bodies day in and day out, our weight room staff that gets us ready for each game having us explosive and strong, that’s where I really credit our success to,” Marx said.
Head Coach Shawn Lutz unquestionably had a large impact on Marx’ early success. As the former defensive line coach, Coach Lutz typically has a strong bond with the position group.
“He’s really just become a great role model. We have a great relationship,” said Marx.
That 2018 season culminated in a national playoff berth and a PSAC championship appearance. Unfortunately, neither title would be assumed as The Rock fell to West Chester University in the PSAC Championship and Notre Dame College of Ohio in the 3rd round of the NCAA Division II National Playoffs.
This didn’t prevent the team from growing and building commoradory.
“Playing on that team was really special,” Marx said.
Despite not bringing home hardware, the bar had been raised.
“We really set the standard by practicing hard every day, competing against each other. We really rose the standard for years to come,” said Marx.
The framework for the 2019 season had been created and it was time to execute, which they absolutely did. Slippery Rock football opened up the series by dropping 62 points on Wayne State University and collecting the win. They would go on to win every other regular season game to finish undefeated.
Marx would capture his second First Team All-PSAC West honor after starting all 14 games and accumulating 7 TFL, 1 sack, and one fumble recovery. Marx once again gave all of the credit to those around him. He commented on the coach’s and trainer’s ability to bring the best out of their players.
“It speaks to how well they prepare us,” said Marx.
The Rock had a full head of steam and was looking for vengeance in a return to the PSAC Championship game. This year they would be facing off against Kutztown University. Momentum and intensity alone, however, cannot carry you to victory. The Rock offense was rolling, putting up 21 points on 3 passing touchdowns in the first half. Kutztown had also found its rhythm, answering with 28 points before the 3rd quarter.
Just like Marx’ unexpected life changes with switching schools, a coach’s game plan often needs to fluctuate. The 2019 season PSAC Championship game is a fitting example of this. We can’t be sure what was discussed in the locker room at halftime, but it worked. The Slippery Rock defense came out in the second half and put on a defensive clinic.
“You know, the defense played great that half we only gave up 7 points I believe,” said Marx.
He was correct. The offense had also stalled somewhat. With time running out, the Green and White sideline started to become nervous that a second straight PSAC championship loss was just over the horizon.
“Being down [7 points] with like 4 minutes to go it was like man are we gonna get this thing?” Said Marx.
The defense had done its job. The offense now needed to mount a 15-point comeback after not scoring once in the third quarter. Roland Rivers proceeded to guide his squad down the field for three scoring drives that eventually culminated in a go-ahead Charles Snorweah 8-yard touchdown run. Slippery Rock held their first and only lead of the game with 25 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter.
Kutztown would drive well into Slippery Rock territory and line up to attempt what would be a game-winning 51-yard field goal. Dean Krcic lined up his kick and missed.
“Winning that game was really special,” said Marx.
Just as everything was looking up, Jeff Marx would be thrown a series of Curveballs.
The entire next season would be canceled due to COVID-19 and if the team wanted to sustain its success they would have to focus on succeeding in the classroom and staying in football shape individually.
Despite the frustration of missing the 2020 season, The Rock was still coming off of a PSAC Championship and were ready to build on it.
The White and Green once again vanquished Wayne State University to start 1-0 and a winning streak. The same trend of reflecting the 2019 season continues as Slippery Rock football jumped out to a 3-0 start, but a wrench had been thrown in the works as defensive cornerstone. Marx suffered a season-ending injury when a short stick concept forced a missed tackle that led to an offensive lineman falling on Marx’ leg, severely damaging the structure of his foot.
Marx had to draw on his family and football brotherhood more than ever.
“It was a hard road but I knew I was gonna get through it okay with, like, the people I have in my life. My mom, my dad, my girlfriend now and then my brother… It made a huge difference to have people that cared really a lot about me,” said Marx.
All of the problems and frustration of the past 2 years only added coal to the fire heading into this 2022 season. Outside of a frustrating one-score loss to Indiana University, Slippery Rock football has steamrolled their competition. Excluding that game, they have accrued a 5-0 record and an astonishing 183-57 scoring margin.
Marx himself has put an exclamation point on the season with an utterly dominant 2.5 sack, 3 TFL performance against Seton Hill where SRU football came out with a 30-2 victory.
“The team chemistry really came along a lot… To see us bond a lot, come together, and become like brothers, that brotherhood really came to set in. I think that’s what’s really making this 2022 team really special,” said Marx.
It will likely take an undefeated season from here on out for SRU football to make playoffs. Marx commented on a few ways the team can improve both physically and mentally.
“It all comes down to preparation… Competing hard, preparing well, studying on film better, I think that’s what will really take us to the next level,” said Marx.
Marx has also developed into somewhat of a leadership role as an upperclassman and he places emphasis on never losing focus on what’s most important both on the field. He vocalized that everyone can always continue improving and how to do so.
“Just being accountable in the weight room… You gotta get the job done in the classroom too.”
Looking forward to the rest of the season, The Rock has a defined set of goals as a clear championship-caliber team. It may take some help from Gannon University and others to return to the PSAC Championship, which Marx noted would be a very welcome development as The Rock has the firepower to beat anyone in the section, but he has his sight set further as well.
“If we win out we’re gonna make the national playoffs… If we can grind out a couple of wins to win the national championship, that would be about the biggest dream of my life you know? That would be awesome to get a ring in Texas,” said Marx.
These potential games and goals coming up are undeniably exciting, but Marx is also looking forward to his future past football which is getting closer every day. He participated in an internship at Pitt in 2021, where he focused 3 months on becoming a more informed athletic trainer. He garnered more experience in Hubbard, Ohio as well when he trained high school student-athletes.
Marx expressed interest in being a strength coach while also entertaining the possibility of opening up his own gym if ever given the opportunity. Much like his athletic career, Marx’s future aspirations are also very much open to change. In the same vein, they will likely undergo unexpected occurrences that are hopefully for the better.
“I have a few different options that I wanna take… I really like working with highschool athletes,” said Marx.
Marx has had more than a few twists in his academic and athletic careers but nearing the end it would appear as if he wouldn’t change a thing.
“Transferring out [of Navy] turned out to be the best decision of my life… this University as a whole has really meant a lot to me,” said Marx.