As a sophomore in 2013, Gabe Marks led Washington State in receptions (74) and receiving yards (807).
The 2014 season was supposed to be his chance to shine. But instead of building on the previous year’s success, Marks spent the season on the Cougars’ scout team, racking up yardage on WSU’s defense.
As the Cougars’ season opener against Portland State approaches, Marks is eager to remind everyone that he can contribute to the team in a big way.
“People don’t really know what happened to me or why I redshirted,” Marks said. “They think I disappeared or something. So it’s good to show everyone that I can still play a little bit.”
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The Cougars opted to redshirt Marks last season -- an unusual move for a player going into his junior season. To that point, 2014 had been a rough year for the Venice, Calif., native. In the winter, Marks was arrested for his part in a bar fight that ended in his citation on four misdemeanor charges. Then in fall camp, he sustained a concussion that was “the final nail in it for me,” Marks said.
At that point, Marks could have stepped aside or stopped working. He chose, instead, to use his redshirt year as a learning opportunity. Now, looking back, Marks says he’s a more mature version of his 2013 self.
“I was like 17 when I started here, I was still a kid and I was pretty immature to be in the position I was in,” said Marks, who played 12 games as a true freshman in 2012. “I’ve grown up a lot since then. I’ve had some growing pains and stuff like that, and had some things happen that probably shouldn’t have happened if I was smarter, but it’s all been for the best.”
One of those was an incident at Stubblefields in February 2014 that resulted in Marks being cited with fourth-degree assault, second-degree criminal trespass, being a minor intoxicated in public and frequenting a tavern as a minor.
At the time, the Pullman Police Department said Marks, then 19, got into a “dispute” with another patron, and upon being asked to leave the bar, he punched one of the employees.
The minor intoxicated in public charge was eventually dismissed. Marks pled guilty to the assault charge and was sentenced to community service and probation. His probation ended in August, and the case is now closed.
After a recent fall practice, Marks declined to talk about the bar fight, saying only: “It was just a mistake. I was just being a kid and made a mistake.”
He stresses that redshirting last season gave him a chance to grow up both on and off the field.
“I really got to take a step away from the game and just work on myself and just being a better person and not being all business,” Marks said. “Before that, I was playing immediately since I came in. I never really got a chance to step away from the game and just be a kid and enjoy being who I was.”
On the scout team last year, Marks took it upon himself to push the Cougars’ defense, and his effort really impressed the WSU coaching staff.
“What I saw was just how hard he competed every day over there. You look up and Gabe’s screaming or Gabe’s making a play or maybe halfway starting a fight over there. It’s just him competing,” outside receivers coach Graham Harrell said. “You love to see that. It’s tough to go from being the team’s leading receiver to being on the scout team for a full year. That’s hard.
“That’s the sign of a kid who loves playing the game and is going to give it everything he has. That’s what makes him good.”
Marks is a much more polished receiver now, Harrell said.
“If you watch film of him from when he was younger, a lot of the time he’d just freelance out there and do his own thing. He’d get the ball sometimes when he did it, so he got rewarded for it. But within this offense, you have to do things on timing and depth,” Harrell said. “One thing I think has really helped him and is just a sign of maturity is him being so much more disciplined on his route-running and things like that.”
There is, however, one thing about Gabe Marks that has stayed the same.
“I have the same competitiveness, and the same fight for the ball that made me good. I’m just stronger and more aware of who I am on the field and where I fit in the scheme of the offense,” Marks said.