ESPN 150's Marquez North focuses on fall

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Shortly after dropping the season opener 27-6 to Butler on Friday night, ESPN 150 wide receiver Marquez North (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek) had little interest in talking about colleges coming after him or listing favorites. In fact, he said he has put recruiting on the back burner and is focusing on helping his Mavericks return to the playoffs.

“I am still not into the recruiting thing,” North said. “I am just trying to get better with my teammates and work on the season. I have not even decided yet on any official visits. It has been a while since I spoke to a college coach. I cannot even remember.”

Following Friday’s game, North mentioned North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee as schools recruiting him the hardest. His father, Ramondo North, also mentioned Ohio State but cautioned that distance could play a factor in his son's decision.

“I know Ohio State is after him hard, and although he is open to any school and he liked them when he was younger, he is a Carolina boy -- so any school that is close to down South is likely going to be better for him,” Ramondo said. “We've got nice, warm weather here.”

One place North is not likely to enroll for college is in Columbia, S.C. Ramondo North said he and his son were invited by South Carolina to attend a game last year, but upon arrival the coaching staff did not know who he was and did not have tickets for them. That ended any interest by North for the Gamecocks.

Early on, it appeared North was a lock to be a Bulldog.

“Georgia had first dibs on Marquez,” Ramondo North said. “He went to a game and came home loving Georgia and saying he was going there. He loved A.J. Green and had him all over his phone. He went to a camp there the next year, and he had just converted to receiver from quarterback, so he was kind of raw at the position. The coaches at Georgia had seen film of him and they liked him, but they were not head over heels for him like other programs. They did not contact him like other programs, and he did not really hear from them for a while. Then one day he came home and said they came by the school and offered. I called Tony Ball and he talked to me about how they do things differently there, but I never really heard from him since then. Marquez has not said anything about talking to them since, either, but I am not sure.”

The Gators, meanwhile, signed a five-star out of Mallard Creek last year, and that connection is helping them with North.

“I do not know much about Florida, but I know they contact him and he talks to D.J. Humphries,” Ramondo said. “He likes them. He clicks with the Florida boys. Anytime he is at a camp, all of them like him. Even when he went to USA Track and Field and won the Junior Olympics’ 110 hurdles when he was 12, he would be hanging out with boys from Florida.”

The Tar Heels have location on their side, and they are making a push for the four-star wideout.

“North Carolina is in-state and they have been on him the hardest,” Ramondo said. “They call, they come to see him at school when it is allowed, they write letters every day, and he has friends and family there. He likes the spread offense they are about to put in as well.”

Another ACC program is in the mix for the No. 133 prospect in the country, but young talent at the position might be affecting the Tigers’ chances.

“Clemson is after him hard, too,” Ramondo North said. “I like Clemson, but I think they have a lot of skill players. They like Marquez because he is big and can be a good fit for them, but he is not too keen on being the second man. It would be like Batman & Robin and he would be Robin, but he was like, ‘Nah, I am going to be Batman.’ They do have a shot though.”

Do not count out the Volunteers either, as North was impressed by a trip to Knoxville this summer.

“One day he woke up and said he wanted to visit Tennessee, so I said let's go,” Ramondo said. “Tennessee likes him and he likes them as well.”

Ramondo North was a standout receiver in high school and college. He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2001, and spent time with the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- and he was on the active roster when the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII. He also won a World Bowl ring in 2002 with the Berlin Thunder.

Growing up, Marquez had a head start in learning the game of football.

“I used to watch a lot a film, and when he was around 6 he would watch film with me,” Ramondo said. “He started playing football when he was 8, and they had him at quarterback. They would call a play, and he would change the play. They brought him to the side and asked him what he was doing, and he would say, 'That play is not going to work because they are in Cover 2.' The coach asked him what they were in now; he looked at the safeties and said they were in man. I had to tell his coach he can read defenses, and then they would give him two plays to audible into at the line of scrimmage.”

It was not all smooth sailing for Marquez on the gridiron.

“At first he quit,” Ramondo said. “He said he did not want to play, and I told him just because I played did not mean he had to play. But his grandma went off on him and said, ‘He is not quitting the rest of this season.’ That same day I had to take him back to practice, and it all snowballed from there.”

Since then, North has emerged as one of the most coveted wide receivers in the country for the 2013 class.

“One thing I have tried to teach him about is that football is going to end at some point,” Ramondo said. “Every coach is going to tell you that they can win national championships with you, but in three years there will be somebody else much better than you waiting to take your spot, so what you have to lean on then is your degree. That is why he is genuinely focused on things other than recruiting right now.”

While Marquez might be concentrating on his senior season, it has been hard to completely ignore his recruitment.

“The process is tiring for him though,” Ramondo North said. “Every day his mailbox is packed and he is tired of trying to read all of the letters. I had to change his number because it would always ring with someone wanting to either recruit him or talk to him about recruiting, and he does not want to talk about it with his friends around.”

Marquez’s father says he will not have a say in where his son goes to college, but he does plan to put his foot down on when he goes to college.

“It is crazy because they write and call every day, but Marquez does not want to do anything now,” Ramondo said. “I told him he has to have his top five by the fifth game so we can start going to see these schools and be done. I want him to go to a school that has a good football, basketball, track and soccer team so something is always going on. That way once football is over it is not boring on campus. The college decision will be all his, but I did make the decision that he would graduate in December and enroll in college early.”