POUGHKEEPSIE – With an undergraduate enrollment of about 5,500 students, Marist College is certainly not the first place professional scouts look for future major league athletes. But when standout defensive end Terence Fede became the first Marist football player to be drafted by an NFL team in 2014, the whole school felt a “sense of pride,” said Red Foxes head coach Jim Parady.
“It was so exciting,” Parady said. “For a smaller program like ours, you only have maybe 20-25 I-AA kids make it each year in the NFL. So for him to hear his name called on selection day was very exhilarating for everybody on this campus.”
Despite being a seventh round pick (234th overall), Fede beat overwhelming odds to make the Miami Dolphins roster that season and even blocked a punt to win a game against the Minnesota Vikings in his rookie campaign.
Fede had “all the measurables” and first caught the attention of scouts in his sophomore year. Years later, he has become the icon of Marist football – they gave away Terence Fede bobbleheads last year and there is a big plaque in the Marist Athletics office that tells all about the program’s most notable alumnus.
But on the opposite end of the wall is another plaque just like it, this one with the name Jason Myers on it. In March 2015, Myers – a Marist graduate – signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, becoming the second ever Marist alum to play in the NFL. His situation was a bit more unique than Fede’s though, as it took three years between graduating and suiting up for his professional debut.
A kicker, Myers was unable to showcase his talents the way a defensive end like Fede could during his time at Marist. After graduating in 2012, he worked with former NFL kicker Michael Husted, who runs his own kicking camp, and he kicked in the Arena Football League for a while. The hardest part for Myers was getting an “in” to the league, and once there, he very quickly showed that he deserved the starting kicker position.
“[The Jaguars] had three kickers,” Marist sports information director Mike Ferraro said. “They let one of them go, then Josh Scobee got traded a few days before final cuts, so it [became] Jason’s job.”
The most special thing about all of this, Ferraro said, was when Fede and Myers played against each other in a game last September.
“To have a game when they got to play against each other and have Marist on both sides of the field, I feel like it really helped get our program’s name out there [and] the school’s name out there.”
The Red Foxes football program is not the only Marist athletic program that has seen history being made recently. Kevin McCarthy, a former Marist pitcher, was called-up by the Kansas City Royals on September 6 and made his debut three days later. He became the first Marist baseball player to play in an MLB game.
Red Foxes head coach Chris Tracz flew out to Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday to see McCarthy pitch in a game against the Indians, which the Royals lost by a score of 4-3.
“It was really neat to see him in a big league uniform, walking out with the other guys on the staff and in the bullpen,” Tracz said. “Then [watching him] warm up and then actually pitch – you get lost in the profession of coaching so much and then you see this guy that came here at 17 years old and now he’s pitching in front of 20,000 people for the Kansas City Royals. It’s pretty neat.”
Tracz said that on Marist’s annual scout days, about 15-20 professional scouts would come to see the Red Foxes’ crop of prospects. Several players were drafted in the time that McCarthy played for the team, so scouts from their respective teams had to be there anyway. After his sophomore year, he had an excellent summer in the Coastal Plains League, so all of that combined gave McCarthy a lot of exposure.
The coach also said that McCarthy’s arm and athleticism are two of his best qualities that have propelled him to the MLB, but there is one other trait that is perhaps his most important.
“He always had this intangible thing – his personality,” Tracz said. “Things never really bothered him too much, he was a very easy-going guy. When he got on the mound, he was extremely competitive but he was able to differentiate his worlds and have fun with a lot of things, and I think that is a key in professional baseball more than anything.”
Asked if he saw this coming, though, Tracz said it’s not something he could have predicted.
“To say that I thought he was going to pitch in the big leagues when I saw him throwing a clinic at Marist – no. I thought he could help us win games, and if things started to go right he’d have a chance to play professional baseball. Obviously, he took all that and ran with it.
“He was the first player [from Marist to make it to the MLB] and that’s awesome.”
Not every Red Fox-turned-pro ended up in the North American major leagues, though. A trio of recent men’s basketball graduates are playing professional basketball in different parts of the world, all with the same dream of eventually making it to the NBA.
Former Red Foxes captain T.J. Curry graduated in 2015 and is currently playing in Puerto Rico.
“For T.J. to be able to play is a wonderful thing for him,” Marist head coach Mike Maker said. “He was a very popular man on our campus, he was involved with a lot of different things on our campus.
“He’s a tough kid, could really stretch a defense from three, and I think he was connected, not only to our coaching staff but to his teammates as well, and I think it’s fabulous that he’s continuing his basketball career.”
Phillip Lawrence, who graduated this past spring, signed just last month to play in Galway, Ireland.
“I think he’s had the most interesting path,” Maker said. “With three different coaches [at Marist], I don’t think it was easy for any of those guys.
“Phil had an unbelievable junior year and then senior year, had some challenges, but for him to have an opportunity to play in Ireland speaks volumes about his resiliency, his character, and he’s a very intelligent player and young man.”
And then there’s Chavaughn Lewis, who played in Lithuania last season and is playing in Belgium this year. He’s a special talent, and Maker is a huge fan of his.
“I only had the pleasure of coaching Chavaughn for one season,” Maker said, “but I think he’s a bubble kid for the NBA. He’s at a high level of European basketball, very similar to Jared Jordan.”
Jordan and Rik Smits are the two most notable Marist alumni basketball players – they each played in the NBA. Maker believes that if Lewis works on his jump shot and his ball-handling skills, he can make it too.
“There’s a big ceiling for Chavaughn because he can go by anybody, doesn’t care who’s guarding him, and he’s fantastic. I think he’s right behind those two with regard to his name and the opportunities he has of fulfilling his dream.
“He’s close – Chavaughn Lewis is close.”
It seems like it is only a matter of time before Lewis becomes the next Marist alum to make it big.