On paper, the wide receiver is a fairly straightforward position: catching football.
But some can catch better than others and in his time as a player few were as good as Brennan Marion, Pitt’s wide receivers coach. While the job is one that Marion has coveted since entering the coaching profession, it took a few detours from her original goal to get there.
He initially wanted to play in the NFL – and he did to some extent. But after an injury that forced her to retire before playing a snap, Marion turned to training. After shattering his dreams, instead of festering with thoughts of “what could have been,” he did what he had done all his life: work to become the best in his field.
After graduating from nearby Greensburg-Salem High School in 2006, Marion packed her bags and left western Pennsylvania for California with a friend, where he would light up the college-level grill at De Anza College. But it wasn’t just peaches and cream.
Marion did her fair share of couchsurfing, bouncing around different houses, apartments and even crashing into the press box at De Anza football stadium. All in pursuit of his dream of signing a professional football contract.
“We had nowhere to stay”, Marion noted on ESPN’s First Take in 2010. âWe stayed in the locker rooms, in the press box and in different places around the schoolâ¦ we were there to fulfill our dreams and we weren’t leaving until we did. “
Tulsa’s coaching staff noticed what Marion was doing at De Anza and offered him a spot on their roster ahead of the 2007 season. He embodied the phrase “diamond in the rough” in his time with the Golden Hurricanes.
He broke the NCAA single-season capture yard record, averaging 31.9 yards in 2007, and was named to the All-Conference USA squad in both seasons with Tulsa.
Things were starting to fall into place for Marion – the move to California to play De Anza and refine his game led him to Tulsa, giving him the chance to be drafted into the NFL.
Marion and her Golden Hurricanes reached the United States Championship Conference game against East Carolina in 2008. Three losses with only more that one minute remaining on the clock, the Golden Hurricanes were rolling. Needing a big game, Marion’s quarterback called his number, sending Marion down a corner road smashing towards the sideline.
But when Marion planted her foot in the grass, her knee gave way and he, along with his NFL Draft stock, fell into a heap. The ball floated through the air towards the sideline and the East Carolina defense intercepted it – play over.
Tulsa was a U.S. Conference finalist and Marion ripped his ACL a few months before the NFL draft. Some may have thought their journey was over and gave up.
“It reminded me that nothing in my life has ever been easy”, Marion noted on ESPN. “I just tightened my boots and got back to work.”
This vision of life paid off. The Miami Dolphins signed him to an unwritten rookie free agent contract in 2009. But the dream was short-lived – the newly signed, snap-hungry rookieripped his ACL in training camp.
His NFL career was over before he even started.
Marion did a short stint with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, but finally decided to try her hand at training in 2010 by taking a position as offensive coordinator at James Logan High School in Union City, in California, in the Bay Area.
After coaching a few high school teams, Marion moved up to college in 2015, overseeing the offense at Arizona State before moving on to other offensive coaching positions with Oklahoma Baptist, Howard University, and William and Mary before accepting. the wide receivers coach position at the University of Hawaii in 2020.
As he continued to roam the country throughout his coaching career, he impressed head coaches, just as he had done during his time as a player. Marion began to make a name for herself in the coaching world after transforming attacks and developing receivers into nationally recognized players, including wide receiver All-Mountain West, Calvin Turner Jr.
The wide receivers coach position in Pitt, near where Marion grew up, became available in early 2021. With a large group of receivers and a nationally recognized team, many coaches across the country had its eyes riveted on work. But eventually, Marion made it to the top of Pitt’s list and the job was hers.
“We did a national search to find our new wide receivers coach and boy, did we ever go national by finding him in Hawaii,” head football coach Patrick Narduzzi noted. “We had a ton of interest in this position but Brennan Marion has clearly reached the top.”
While that wasn’t her initial goal as a hopeful teenager in California, Marion fulfilled one of her dreams, to become a coach where it all began in western Pennsylvania.
“Dreams really come true”, Marion noted. âI am extremely honored and grateful to have the opportunity to return home and serve the football program at the University of Pittsburgh. Coach Narduzzi and his team have built something very special. I can’t wait to get back to Pittsburgh and work in our wide receivers room.
The reception hall welcomes back the experience of seniors in red shirts Tre Tipton and Taysir Mack. Marion isn’t the only person Narduzzi pulled from Hawaii, either, bringing in senior transfer wide receiver Melquise Stovall.
But the group’s headliner is sophomore Jordan Addison. Addison led the Panthers in receiving yards in his freshman year and drew national praise, being named to The Athletic’s Freshman All-American roster and finishing No. 2 in the ACC Rookie of the Year vote. But according to Marion, he wants to reach new heights this year.
âHis goals are so high,â Marion said. “All I have to do with him is say ‘come on, man. You want to be a first round pick. You want that pressure. You want to be that guy. And he’ll ride it that way. So it’s just the subtle things with him that push him to take his game to another level. “
Addison knows where he wants to be and Marion knows how to get there. Addison said the former NFL wide receiver taught him a lot during his first nine months with the team with new drills and lending his wisdom to young athletes.
âHe introduced us to some new exercises, different versions, different types of steps as you go into your route,â Addison said. âHe taught us a lot.
The second student’s work ethic and ambitious goals will draw comparisons to those of Marion when he was Addison’s age. But Marion maintains he doesn’t remember his youth when he watches the second – he thinks he’s better.
âHe’s a lot more humble than I am,â said Marion. âTalent side, of course. He has it.
One of Marion’s most important jobs in her new role is to find more receivers like Addison – motivated, talented high school football players with lofty goals. He hit the ground running in scouting department, netting three three-star prospects, placing him at No.20 on 247Sports’ top scouting list in the ACC. Narduzzi hopes Marion’s youth will help her connect with rookies and attract more high-profile rookies.
âHe’s a great teacher of wide catcher play and has exceptional recruiting links in key geographies for us,â said Narduzzi. “She’s an energetic person who builds relationships and connects people.”
But most of all, Marion wants her receivers to do what receivers do: catch football.
âThe first thing as a receiver is to catch the ball,â said Marion. âNow we just insist on catching the ball. We do it every day. There will never be a day when we don’t catch the ball. Everything we do either ends with a take or begins with a take.
Stephen Thompson contributed reporting.