By Joseph Staszewski
Draft day disappointment wound up being the best thing to happen to former Holy Cross football star Dean Marlowe.
After being passed over in the NFL draft, the Flushing native landed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent. And now, he will be on the sidelines for Super Bowl 50 when the NFC Champions face the Denver Broncos Sunday night.
Marlowe, who played his college ball at James Madison, found a perfect match in Carolina.
“It’s a big break,” former Holy Cross coach Tom Pugh said. “He went in as a free agent and they signed him right away. Sometimes when you get drafted you get buried and you can be out of the league fast. As a free agent, you can look to see where you fit.”
He is the first Knights player to be part of a Super Bowl team for at least 43 years, according to Pugh. Former St. Francis Prep tight end Marco Battaglia was the last Queens player to reach the big game, with the Panthers in 2003.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Marlowe, the No. 2 strong safety on the team’s depth chart behind veteran Roman Harper, fits the Panthers’ physical style. Pugh described him as “a hitter” who “can give it and take it.” He made an impression in Carolina right away. He collided with a receiver, despite not being in pads, during his first weekend of rookie minicamp with the Panthers.
It got the coaching staff’s attention despite it being a non-contact day.
“We love his size and physicality, and you saw the play he made today,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera told The Charlotte Observer after that practice.
Marlowe had 12 interceptions during his career at James Madison, where Pugh said he filled out his tall and lanky frame. He was a captain at Holy Cross, where he averaged 7.4 tackles per game and was a First Team All-CAA selection. Marlowe showed off his athleticism his senior year at Holy Cross, when he was thrust into the quarterback job for the first time. All he did was compile 2,297 yards of total offense and 27 touchdowns, along with completing 62 percent of his passes.
“He never came off the field,” Pugh said. “The only time I got to talk to him was on offense when we had a timeout [by our opponent] on defense.”
The former TimesLedger Newspapers All-Queens Football Player of the Year hasn’t seen the field much with Carolina, suiting up in just four games. Marlowe did find his way into the team’s celebration photo right behind quarterback Cam Newton after the conference title game victory. He told the team’s website after learning he made the roster that he was happy doing whatever the team needed from him.
“Everybody has a role. Whatever role they give me, that’s what I’m going to pursue,” Marlowe said. “It’s been a ride, from my last college game to the combine and everything.”
He is in a prime position to receive ample playing time later in his career, because he’s sitting behind and learning from the 33-year-old Harper, a 10-year veteran in the league.
With Harper recovering from an eye injury suffered in the Panthers’ NFC Championship victory over the Arizona Cardinals, there is a chance Marlowe could be in uniform for Super Bowl as insurance. Nothing would please his former coach more.
“I hope he suits up for the Super Bowl,” Pugh said. “I’ll be happy.”
Just as pleased as Marlowe should be that his phone didn’t ring on draft day.