JACKSONVILLE – Sen’Derrick Marks isn’t surprised. Not with any of it.
Yes, the Jaguars’ defensive tackle knows he’s fortunate. He knows things have worked out well for him the last 16 months. And he knows he’s in a good place – the best place imaginable, really.
His gamble on himself? The decision to join a then-struggling franchise.
And to do it on a relatively low-paying one-year deal.
All happened in March 2013, when things were as uncertain as they could possibly be for Marks. What has happened since brought security and a spot as a respected veteran leader. So, yes, Marks is happy.
But in no way is he surprised.
“It’s been like that all of my life,” Marks said recently during the Jaguars’ 2014 offseason, which continues this week with a three-day veteran minicamp Tuesday through Thursday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields.
Marks shrugged as he said it, and if the words sound cocky, they weren’t.
Cockiness doesn’t describe Marks, and actually, it’s sort of tough for teammates to describe him, maybe because he’s sort of one of a kind.
“Funny,” newly signed defensive tackle
Marks is always on, and never quiet …
“He’s a spark of energy,” defensive tackle
… and usually pretty unfiltered.
“Oh, he’s going to speak his mind,” Hood said. “He’s never going to be fake around people. He sticks by his word, too.”
“Big. Ugly,” Babin said, hiding a smile. Presumably.
But while teammates give Marks as much as grief as he gives, they were quick to point out that he’s an important element in a defensive line room with new faces in all places.
“It makes the workplace a little more fun,” Hood said.
As much as he has been a locker-room leader, Marks has been a very good player for the Jaguars. Good enough to register 34 tackles last season, best among Jaguars defensive tackles, and his four sacks led the position, too. The four-year extension he signed late last season was the payoff of a modern-day football gamble.
Marks when signing with the Jaguars asked for a one-year deal rather than two because he believed he would be a good fit in Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley’s system, and he believed he would play well enough to merit a second Jaguars contract.
That’s what happened, but while many saw Marks’ choice as a gamble, he didn’t quite see it that way. And if he did, he never much worried about it. As Marks sees it, he is rather blessed. He may not have had much growing up, but neither did he lose family members as a child, and violence never struck close. He said his mother and stepfather did a good job raising him, taught him the importance of believing in your decisions and living with them afterward, and he said he believes his background is why he lives comparatively without worry, and without regret.
“I have no problem failing,” Marks said. “That was the way I was brought up. Whatever cards you deal me, I’m going to play them. I just take everything in stride and run with it.”
And had it not worked out last season? Had he been the backup – or even released – instead of emerging as a core player?
“Then my gamble didn’t work,” he said with a shrug. “It’s like going to the casino and putting down $200 and the dealer beats you. You’re either going to get up and walk away or you’re going to play again.
Marks said his approach has been the latter, to live in the moment. His favorite quote, one that hangs in his house: “Life isn’t about the decisions you make or the accomplishments you achieve. It’s about what you do once you get there.”
“That’s all I go by,” he said. “You make a goal. You achieve it and you don’t stop. I live my life that way – in every aspect of whatever I do.”
That’s a quote with definite Bradley overtones, which hardly is a surprise considering the connection Marks felt with the Jaguars’ head coach immediately last offseason.
This was last March, remember, before Bradley’s reputation spread around the league and before the buzz of national approval that has started surrounding Bradley this offseason.
Marks said he didn’t need national buzz. He liked Bradley immediately, liked what he heard, thought it felt right. He made his decision. And he trusted it.
“When I came in and met Gus, I knew,” Marks said. “I knew he wasn’t putting on a front. He was who he was. I went with that.”
Now that he has done that, and now that he has signed an extension, Marks said things are different. Young players look to him, and he said he does have a sense of needing to take the right approach, to set an example.
Marks said he always has done that though as the oldest of eight siblings. Marks said his family always looked to him and still do. He said he learned long ago to be comfortable with that. So, if young players or new players are looking to him, he figures the only thing do is lead by example.
“The only way I can tell ZIggy or (rookie) Chris (Smith) how to get better is me go out and get better,” he said. “I just walk my walk. I guess I do the right things by being myself. I know these young guys are watching me. But in the end, I have to be myself. That’s all I can do. I came up that way.
“I’m going to stay true to myself. I’m just going to be me.”
And however things turn out, Marks said he can’t see that changing. And if he did?
Now, *that* would be a surprise.