Undrafted rookie Bradley Marquez comes up big on special teams

Bradley Marquez has played one NFL game and already looks wise beyond his years. AP Photo/L.G. Patterson

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams receiver Bradley Marquez is far from a household name. In fact, when he made the team's 53-man roster after the preseason, there were plenty wondering who he is, let alone how he made the team.

The answer to both questions, apparently, is a special teams ace-in-the-making. Rams coach Jeff Fisher began touting Marquez's special-teams acumen midway through the preseason, though it remained a question of whether the Rams would have room on the roster for him.

“I’ve been talking about him; he’s a very mature player right now as a rookie," Fisher said. "We trust him. We trust him to play personal protector, we trust him to play offense. He’s just a real heads-up kid."

In Sunday's 34-31 win against the Seattle Seahawks, keeping Marquez on the roster proved not only prescient but very necessary. Never was that more evident than the first play of overtime. Tied at 31, the Rams won the coin toss and elected to receive. Seattle coach Pete Carroll asked kicker Steven Hauschka to pop the kick to something in the range of the Rams' 20-yard line.

But Hauschka mis-hit the kick and popped it straight up to the Rams' first line, right at Marquez. Unfazed by the biggest moment of the game, the rookie played the part of a 10-year veteran.

"At that point in the game, it presented a time for maybe some trickery so you just have to be ready for it," Marquez said. "We alerted it and just said we’re looking out for it. It just so happened I was able to make a play on it."

It's a play that you probably wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Marquez's job was to catch the ball and hang on for dear life as a group of angry Seahawks with a 10-yard head start pursued him with every intention of separating Marquez from the ball via any means necessary.

But before they could, Marquez provided even more situational awareness by calling for a fair catch.

"I was doing it," Marquez said. "I saw the ball get popped right up so maybe I could get some protection. It was just kind of instinct for me."

Marquez got the ball but he certainly didn't get any protection. Multiple Seahawks jumped on Marquez as he made the catch. A battle for the ball ensued from there, but Marquez managed to hang on to the ball.

"The things that go on under those piles is crazy so I was just holding on to the ball and making sure I was going to come out of that pile with it," Marquez said.

Even after coming out with the ball, Marquez had to sweat out a bizarre sequence of events when the officials threw a flag for an "invalid" fair catch call. One official said the ball had been kicked into the ground, which if true, would have made it illegal to call for a fair catch, penalizing the Rams 5 yards and causing a re-kick.

After much discussion and anger from the Rams sideline, the officials ruled that the ball never touched the ground, and Marquez's fair catch was every bit as legal as it was intelligent. In reality, it should have been a penalty on Seattle for hitting a player who called fair catch.

"I was pretty sure I saw the ball get popped up so I thought maybe something else happened," Marquez said. "But I was pretty sure that I was calling fair catch and it was legal. They were able to get it corrected and so it was an exciting play."

Without Daren Bates and with fellow special-teams leader Chase Reynolds leaving the game early with a knee injury, the Rams might have looked ripe for the picking for Seattle. That would be an incorrect assumption for Marquez -- who also impressed with a big block to spring Tavon Austin's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown -- has played one NFL game and already looks wise beyond his years.

"I have a role on this team and the majority of it is on special teams so when I’m out there, I have to be alert for anything, and I have to be as prepared as possible for any given moment," Marquez said. "It just so happened I was fortunate enough to make a play today for this team."