AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific offensive tackle Luke Marquardt agreed to a free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers immediately following the NFL Draft Saturday, wrapping up a busy couple of months that included his participation at the NFL Scouting Combine in February along with a well-attended Azusa Pacific Pro Day earlier this month.
“While I’m disappointed I didn’t get drafted, I know that God just had a different road,” said Marquardt, who was unable to undergo most of the physical testing associated with the Scouting Combine while recovering from foot surgery. “It’s been tough with my injury, and I know it scared some teams off, but I’m glad the 49ers came through. Right after the draft ended, the offensive line coach called me right away to offer me the free agent contract. They’re a great team with great competition and great coaches, and I’m just thankful that they’ve given me this opportunity.”
Marquardt had hoped to become the first Cougar player in 26 years selected in the draft since the Kansas City Chiefs selected Christian Okoye in the second round of the 1987 Draft, but the process that ended up unfolding to leave him undrafted did nothing to damper his enthusiasm for the organization that ended up signing him.
“San Francisco just picked up an amazing asset to help reach their goals,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz. “Teams in the NFL know what they’re looking for, and it’s our job at the college level to continue to recruit kids with an outstanding caliber of athleticism and character. At the end of the day, the NFL holds that ticket to the next level, but the coaching caliber at our school is top-notch. To get a guy with relatively little football knowledge when he came here to develop into a player the NFL values with a signing on draft day is a significant statement to the quality of coaching he received at Azusa Pacific.”
Marquardt, a 6-foot-8.5-inch, 317-pound left tackle, began his college football career at tight end. He played in 30 games and started 25 times for Azusa Pacific in three seasons (2009-2011), helping lead the Cougars to consecutive playoff appearances in the program’s final two seasons of competition in the NAIA before transitioning into NCAA Division II competition in 2012.
“The timing of Luke’s ascent is impeccable, as it mirrors the transition happening with Azusa Pacific’s entire athletics department is taking to the next level,” Santa Cruz said. “Sending players to the next level is something we’d love to become a consistent theme for this program.”
Marquardt was named to the 2013 Senior Bowl Watch List prior to the start of the 2012 season, although he missed the entire campaign to a foot injury that also limited his participation at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this spring.
“The most appealing thing to see in Luke is the rare combination of height, strength, and athleticism, and what brings it all together is his determination to work hard, stay humble, and continue to learn,” Santa Cruz said. “His attitude and priorities have put him in this position, and he’s prepared himself very well for this next step. A lot of college athletes will talk about making it to the NFL, but Luke took the coaching and put in the work to actually get himself there.”
Azusa Pacific, which is located against the scenic San Gabriel Mountains just 25 miles northeast of Los Angeles, has had three other players selected by NFL teams in the draft prior to Okoye’s second-round selection (35th overall) by the Chiefs in 1987. In 1978, Scott Hertenstein was picked in the 10th round by the Washington Redskins; in 1982, Doug Barnett was selected in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Rams, and in 1983 John Samuelson was an eighth-round choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.