Former Largo, Fla. star linebacker Mike Marry never dreamed it would turn out the way it has.
This time last year, Marry, a 6-foot-3, 225 pound prospect, was in his senior year at Largo and in receipt of around 30 offers from Division I schools.
He took an official visit to Iowa State last October and the Cyclones appeared to be in good shape with Marry. Having former Largo teammate Leonard Johnson on the roster helped the cause in Ames as Johnson was busy setting kick return records as a true freshman. With a 3.75 GPA, Marry was also intrigued with Duke, and then there was Ole Miss, where former teammate Dexter McCluster was a star in the making while running the Wild Rebel for Houston Nutt.
Marry waited until Jan. 23 to take an official visit to Ole Miss and while it was thought that trip would either push Ole Miss over the top or Marry would go with Iowa State over the Rebels and Blue Devils, he continued to wait.
As the clock ticked, Ole Miss' class continued to balloon with commitments and Marry's once committable offer obviously turned into an offer with a condition - if enough prospects who signed failed to qualify, Marry would have one of the 25 spots allotted for new signees, if they qualified, he'd have to grayshirt (delay enrollment until January).
While Iowa State coaches were waiting by the fax machine for Marry's paperwork to come in last signing day, it arrived on the Ole Miss campus instead - Marry signing with Ole Miss despite never making a public verbal commitment.
When Marry showed up last summer to go through workouts on the Ole Miss campus, it was assumed he'd be on the fall roster. However, while Marry was permitted to use Ole Miss' facilities to work out under NCAA rules that allow inbound signees to do that, he was actually still in a hold mode waiting for the fate of several signees to be determined including Bobby Massie, Darius Barksdale and Jamar Hornsby.
While Hornsby didn't make it to camp due to legal issues, Massie and Barksdale did, leaving Marry at number twenty-six in a 25-man situation. Ironically, Barksdale, who took the last slot among the 25 newcomers, lasted only a few days into camp before withdrawing due to medical issues. Unfortunately for Marry, once Barksdale had practiced, his scholarship was used for the year under NCAA rules, which still left Marry without a spot.
Marry reacted by returning home and rumors surfaced that he would seek to transfer to Iowa State. Ultimately, Nutt did some re-recruiting and after several days of soul searching, Marry returned to Ole Miss, this time enrolling as a part-time student, which will not affect his eligibility for the future.
On Saturday, instead of dressing with other redshirt freshmen, or even perhaps being on the field along side true freshmen star linebackers D.T. Shackelford and Joel Kight, Marry was standing on the sidelines with numerous other prospects that Ole Miss hosted.
"I want on the field so bad that it hurts," Marry said on Sunday evening. "It seems like forever since I've played in a football game."
While it's assumed that Marry is an automatic addition to the Rebels' roster next spring, there is a reason he was standing with other prospects last Saturday - he is one.
Under NCAA rules, since he didn't enroll at Ole Miss as a full time student and accept financial aid, he is eligible to be recruited by any school.
"I haven't heard from anyone," Marry said. "You would have to think I'm going to re-sign with Ole Miss. I'd say that there's about a 90 percent chance I'll re-sign with them."
Marry said he returned home to Largo when fall practice started and there wasn't a place on the roster just to think things over, saying at first he didn't know what to do. Ultimately, there were a couple of things that led him back to Ole Miss.
"I'd have to say that the biggest thing is the freshman class," he said. "I made a lot of friends during the summer and the freshman class is really focused on this program. I want to be a part of that. I also like that the coaches are really player's coaches and I really like how they coach up the players."
In addition to his friends made in the freshman class, he also has had McCluster to lean on.
"Dexter has been kind of like a big brother," Marry said. "He comes and picks me up and takes me over to his place to eat. He's been great."
Marry said it's been a big transition to get accustomed to the small town atmosphere in Oxford as compared to living in Florida, but he's been helped along by making a lot of friends.
The standout performance of Shackelford and Kight also hasn't gone unnoticed by Marry.
"Those are two really good linebackers," Marry said. "I can't wait to get on the field with them.
In the meantime, Marry is taking two courses this fall and waiting on next year when he can become a fulltime student, re-sign with Ole Miss, and get on the football field next spring. He said he's currently taking only two courses - English and theater - and working out on his own. But the theater class is not for a future in acting.
"No, I'm not going to be an actor," the soft-spoken Marry laughed. "It's just a required class I have to take."
(Editor's note: As a grayshirt, Marry will not be listed as a 2010 prospect nor listed as a commitment for next year's signing class).