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Hesperia's Reece rises to the top
Marcel Reece was supposed to be done playing football until the 2013-14 season kicked off.
The Hesperia graduate and Oakland Raiders fullback was coming off a career year in which he caught 52 passes for 496 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
Because of his big season, Reece was named a first alternate for the Pro Bowl, with Baltimore’s Vonta Leach getting the call to represent the AFC.
But when the Ravens beat the Patriots in the AFC championship game, Reece suddenly had to pack his bags and head for Hawaii. Players whose teams reach the Super Bowl do not participate in the Pro Bowl, and as the first alternate, Reece got the call to play in the NFL’s all-star showcase.
“It was exciting,” Reece said. “It’s an honor just to be considered by your peers and coaches as one of the elite players in this league. We play football at the highest level in the world and to be considered one of the top guys in the league is definitely an honor.”
The Pro Bowl berth marked the pinnacle of a long journey for Reece. After graduating from Hesperia in 2004, he played one year at Chaffey College before transferring to El Camino College. He then played two years at the University of Washington, but was not selected in the 2008 NFL draft. The Miami Dolphins signed him as an undrafted free agent and put him on the practice squad, but then cut him. Oakland picked him up, and while he stuck on the roster, he appeared in only two games in his first two seasons.
But reaching the level of a Pro Bowler after everything — no scholarship offers out of high school, two junior colleges, going undrafted, getting cut and then barely playing — has earned him the admiration of many within the Raiders organization.
“He’s come a long way,” said Raiders running backs coach Kelly Skipper, who has coached Reece since he came into the league in 2008. “It’s a testament to his hard work and dedication. He found a home at fullback. He was able to pick up and learn a new position and he molded himself into a Pro Bowl player. He’s a versatile player with very high character. ... He’s starting to reach his potential.”
The Pro Bowl experience was enjoyable, Reece said. While he only touched the ball once — one carry for one yard — he said he was grateful for the opportunity to be there.
“The week leading up to it was one of the most humbling and fun weeks I’ve had as a football player and an athlete,” he said. “It was just some of the most elite athletes in the world, all together in one hotel in one city having a great time playing football, talking about football. I talked to a lot of guys you don’t normally get to talk to about life, not just about football. I think that was the most fun part of it.”
The future looks bright for Reece. At 27 he’s still in his prime, and he showed an ability to be a triple threat — rushing, receiving and blocking. But even if his role changes, as it has for the past three seasons as he’s gotten more playing time and developed his skills, he plans to do everything he can to help the Raiders get back on the winning track.
“For me, it’s just whenever my number is getting called, it’s being able to step up and do what’s asked of me,” he said. “Whatever is going to help this team win games is what I’m going to do. I love having the ball in my hands and I love having that pressure and those opportunities, but it’s all about playing within the game.”
Kyle Glaser can be reached at email@example.com or at (760) 951-6274.