Players talk about it all the time and how it often tips the balance between one school and another come signing day: This coaching staff felt like “family” or this school had “a family atmosphere.”
When he sits in recruits’ living rooms with Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow said he doesn’t have to fake family.
“When I go recruit kids, I tell their parents, ‘Look, I know this guy who I’m recruiting for,’” Marrow said of Stoops in December during the new early national signing day when UK signed a bulk of its 2018 class. “‘There’s a lot of guys who go recruit for other coaches across the country and they really don’t know them. They’re just recruiting for the guy. I know this guy, I know what he’s all about, I know what he stands for, I know where he comes from.’”
Marrow, the Cats’ tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, can tell his own personal story of playing for Ron Stoops Sr., Mark Stoops’ dad at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio. Marrow was a star tight end, but he also tells the story of how the elder Stoops turned him into a star nickelback for one game.
Ron Stoops Sr. needed someone with Marrow’s speed and size to match up against an opponent, so he drew up plays for the then-tight end. He helped him see exactly where the ball was going to go on that night out of specific formations.
“You’re going to have two or three interceptions,” Marrow remembered Ron Stoops Sr. telling him before the game, convincing him he knew more than he probably did.
“It was all about how he coached me,” Marrow said this summer, looking back on his deep roots with the Stoops family. “I ended up with three interceptions in that game. I didn’t appreciate it until I got a little bit older and I was reflecting back on it. This dude was a genius.”
There’s a lot of guys who go recruit for other coaches across the country and they really don’t know them. They’re just recruiting for the guy. I know this guy, I know what he’s all about, I know what he stands for, I know where he comes from.
Vince Marrow, UK recruiting coordinator, talking about Mark Stoops
Sometimes on visits with recruits, Marrow tells the story of how he met Mark Stoops, long before the UK head coach was even a high school standout at Cardinal Mooney.
Stoops’ uncle, Bob, came into the inner city of Youngstown at the time and coached Marrow’s older brothers at Youngstown South, taking over a struggling program and making it successful.
“That was my first time ever hearing the Stoops name,” Marrow recalled in May. “It was real bad there and (the older Bob Stoops) came in and changed the culture, changed how they looked at everything. … Back then, you knew there was something about that family.”
Marrow got to know his now boss Mark Stoops on those high school sidelines when they were just little boys, throwing a football back and forth during practices and games.
“We go in a lot of these homes together and here’s what I say when I’m recruiting a kid, ‘I’ve been knowing Mark since I was 9 years old now, 10 years old,” Marrow said.
It’s a powerful — and genuine — message that Marrow said resonates with parents looking for that family atmosphere to send their sons.
The UK recruiting coordinator added: “It’s easier for me to recruit for him and recruit about who he is.”
But with that long history, also come some things the UK tight ends coach said he’s not quite ready to share with parents.
“I’ve got people who want to know what (Stoops’) nickname was and I’ve still never told nobody that,” Marrow laughed.