CHARLOTTESVILLE – As he cruised around Darling Stadium when his then-new employers made a visit to conduct a spring football practice in March 2011, Marques Hagans exuded confidence in his hometown, but he was still uncertain about his future.
His five-year NFL career was over, and Hagans was ready to move on to the next phase of his professional life. He just wasn’t sure what that phase would entail.
“I was kind of in limbo,” Hagans said.
So, when the opportunity to work at his college alma mater as a Virginia graduate assistant with Coach Mike London arose, Hagans jumped at it. It was a chance to figure out his next move while staying in the game Hagans had loved since his days as Hampton High’s starting quarterback.
Somewhere along the way in the last two football seasons, coaching got in his blood. Now, he’s found his career, and he’s fortunate to start it in a place that needs no introduction.
“I think that’s definitely a story of the stars aligning all in one place,” said Hagans, who has been promoted to be U.Va.’s wide receivers coach. “I know it doesn’t normally happen that way. … I’ve spoken to guys who have bounced around three or four or five different places to ultimately get where their dream school may be.”
In many ways, the new job is ideal from a personnel standpoint. He’ll get to work with experienced receivers like Tim Smith, Darius Jennings, Dominique Terrell and E.J. Scott, while developing a lot of young or unproven talent with guys like Canaan Severin, fellow Hampton alum Jamall Brown, Kyle Dockins, Mario Nixon, Bobby Smith, Adrian Gamble and Miles Gooch, plus incoming freshmen Keeon Johnson, Zack Jones and Andre Levrone.
None of the returning players will be a mystery to Hagans, considering he worked directly with the receivers as U.Va.’s graduate assistant.
Hagans said he’ll base part of his coaching style on what he’s learned from being around coaches like London; former Virginia coach Al Groh; U.Va. safeties coach Anthony Poindexter; U.Va. recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Chip West; and 16-year NFL receiver and longtime NFL receivers coach Henry Ellard, who coached Hagans when he was with the St. Louis Rams.
“There’s always ways that you can grow and develop as a coach that will help you get better,” Hagans said. “I think that’s kind of the stage that I’m at, and listening to different pieces of advice, but who I am to people on and off the field won’t ever change. I can’t change that if I wanted to, and that’s one thing Coach London has been adamant about. Be yourself. Players will respect you. Players will play for you.”
Of course, the pressure of having to produce as an off-campus recruiter has been added to Hagans’ plate. No matter where Hagans, 30, winds up doing his recruiting, Hagans already has developed an approach to the sales aspect of the job.
“You see a lot of faces,” Hagans said. “You go into a lot of schools, people remember you, and you just hope that you never rubbed anybody the wrong way and you treated people the way you wanted to be treated. In 10 years down the road, when you go into these schools and you see the principals, the teachers and the coaches, it’s like, ‘Oh, there’s a guy that did it the right way.’ Now, you have relationships built based on how you treat people. That’s all you try to offer to parents.”
Since Hagans is an instantly recognizable entity in Peninsula District circles, and he’s young enough that players who are in high school now could remember him from his days as a Crabber, could Hagans find himself recruiting in the 757 area code? That’s been West’s territory, an area where he’s been successful bringing in talent to Charlottesville, but he’s not opposed to having Hagans join him.
“I don’t have all the answers,” West said. “I’ve been pretty successful and fortunate, but any time you can get help, you use it.”
Hagans, who is also two semesters away from picking up his master’s degree in professional development from U.Va., insists he isn’t picky about where he’s asked to recruit, but Hampton Roads will always hold a certain appeal.
“If he has the whole 757 under control, I have no problem stepping out and going wherever the staff needs me to go and recruiting there as well and establish myself wherever that may be,” Hagans said. “If that’s in the 757, yes, I’d be more than happy. I get to see my family when I’m down there. I get to stop by my favorite restaurant, Chic-A-Sea, and get a ‘Big Chic’ (sandwich) on the way in. There’s a lot of positive things, but also, if it calls me to go to Tennessee or New Jersey or wherever it may be, I’ll be just as comfortable there.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun