Undrafted free agent signing Luke Marquardt has a very interesting football story. Marquardt only played one year (as a freshman) in high school as a backup quarterback. He did not play organized football again until his freshman year of college (2008). Although he was initially seeking a basketball scholarship, Marquardt was offered a scholarship to play tight end for the Azusa Pacific football team.
Midway through his freshman season, Marquardt was asked by the coaching staff to move inside to tackle because of the team's injuries on the offensive line. He agreed and based on his performance at the position, he was asked to remain at OT. Initially, Marquardt was reluctant. However, he was convinced it was the best move.
It was during this time that Marquardt seemingly made a true commitment to football. And, he made a significant impact his sophomore and junior years at Azusa Pacific.
Then, his senior year, a week before the first game, he suffered a hairline fracture in his right foot. He expected to return in December 2012, but that never came to fruition. He missed his entire senior year due to this foot injury.
All in all, Marquardt really only played two seasons at tackle. Errors in training or technique can easily cause stress fractures. Anything that alters the mechanics of how the foot absorbs impact increases the risk for a stress fracture to the foot. I have said it once, and I will say it again: footwork is incredibly important to a player's health.
Even with the injury, Marquardt earned an invitation to the 2013 NFL combine. He must have been one of the most impressive physical specimens in attendance. He measured 6'8 1/2 and weighed 315 pounds, has 34 1/2-inch arms, and benched 31 reps (225 lbs) at his pro day. The word enormous doesn't quite do him justice. To give you some perspective, the average height of a door frame is 6'8, so he has to duck to get through.
Apparently, at the combine, Marquardt walked by offensive tackles Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M on the way to breakfast. Both stared as Marquardt passed. And, they're not exactly small guys, towering 6'7 (306 lbs.) and 6'6 (306 lbs.) respectively.
Unfortunately for Marquardt, another hairline fracture was discovered at the combine through a routine CT scan. It sounds, to me, like he initially suffered a stress fracture to his foot. This can happen for a number of reasons, but it usually involves improper weight-bearing or overuse (repetitive motion). If he resumed practice too quickly, larger stress fractures could develop. And, those are harder to heal. It takes time. Re-injury could lead to chronic problems, and the stress fracture might never heal properly.
Nevertheless, he scheduled private workouts with the 49ers, among other teams, prior to the draft. A few days after his pro day on April 11, Marquardt underwent surgery to repair his broken foot. His medical issues probably scared off teams, but it appears the 49ers are taking a patient approach this year, and focusing on the long term.
The 49ers philosophy makes sense. The depth at offensive line is relatively wealthy. If Harbaugh and Baalke see potential, Marquardt could be a huge talent. Personally, he is one of my favorites. I like his attitude and his physicality on the field. Yes, he has an injury and with it exist many intangibles. But if given time, his foot injury could prove inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Marquardt was projected to go in the last few rounds, but the 49ers were not required to use a draft pick on him.
On May 10, Matt Barrows reported Marquardt was on crutches and in a walking boot. Realistically, Marquardt has to stay off his foot for about six weeks. After that, rest. Then, more rest. It will be the key to his recovery. I do not see him being physically ready for training camp.
Moreover, I believe Marquardt will have a tough time cracking the 49ers' loaded roster. A few of us at Niners Nation expect the 49ers to put him on the PUP list and keep him there for the year. This will give the young tackle time to heal and at the same time, he will get a top-notch education from some of the best players in the NFL.