Easley goes from walk-on to big-play guy

The first time he saw Marcus Easley, UConn quarterback Zach Frazer said he thought, "Who's that guy? He's a walk-on?"

It was easy to be confused. Easley, after all, had the look of a scholarship player with his 6-foot-2, 215-pound build and athleticism. He got his share of playing time the past couple of years, albeit mostly on special teams or as blocking receiver.

This year, it's even harder to believe that Easley didn't have a scholarship before this past spring. He leads the Huskies with 26 catches for 559 yards and five touchdowns and has become their big-play threat. He had a 79-yard touchdown catch at Pittsburgh and an 88-yarder for a score late in the West Virginia game.

"When opportunities are given to me to make a play, I try to do so," he said.

Easley's story is one of waiting for the right opportunity. The Stratford, Conn., native was a standout high school player but only received scholarship interest from lower-level Division I and Division II schools.

Not wanting to play at that level, he decided to go to UConn and just be a regular student. That lasted about a year.

"It was a matter of me not having anything to do," he said. "And I still loved football."

So he went to an open tryout and impressed the coaches enough to earn a spot on the team. He appeared in almost every game in 2007 and 2008 but only had five career catches before this season. UConn didn't pass that much, and Easley usually came in on running plays to block.

After the International Bowl in January, Easley wasn't sure he would return to the team.

"I didn't know if my school would be paid for, and it was my fifth year," he said. "But I felt like I had a little bit more in me, so why not give it another shot?"

He made a wise choice. Head coach Randy Edsall brought in new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to help the passing game, and as the Huskies looked for capable receivers this spring, Easley kept standing out above all the scholarship players.

"I think sometimes with a player, it’s a sense of urgency with them," Edsall said. "He knew that this was his last year, and he knew that there was just one more opportunity, one year left. I’m not saying that he worked any harder this year but maybe the focus, the mindset was a little bit different."

Impressed with his focus and performance, Edsall awarded Easley a scholarship after the spring. Easley will graduate next month with a degree in sports management and business.

He has even started to draw some attention from NFL scouts lately. No longer does anyone have to ask, "Who's that guy?"