by Larry Ham
Reedley College recently announced that they had hired Eric Marty as their new head football coach. KRL has had a close connection with football at Reedley College since our beginning, so we were excited to interview Eric.
KRL: Where are you from originally?
Eric Marty: I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in Edmonds, Washington, a town on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle. It was an incredible place to grow up aside from being a die hard Seattle sports fan in an era when it was less than glamorous. The Seahawks were awful when I was growing up, the Seattle Sonics peaked in the ’90s and as spectacular as that was with Shawn Kemp and Gary Peyton the franchise now exists in Oklahoma City of all places. Ken Griffey Jr. was about as cool a player as a kid gets to root for, but the Mariners haven’t been relevant in a decade. Thankfully the Seahawks under Uncle Pete (as I like to refer to their head coach Pete Carroll because he seems like the fun uncle we all wish we had) has taken the team to new heights so that has been very fulfilling to see the franchise come full circle.
KRL: How and when did you first get into coaching?
Eric: I always knew I was going to be a coach, specifically a football coach. Some things in life you just know, I don’t know why, but it was my calling. I used to sit in church as a kid and draw plays in a little notebook. I love that football is the only sport in the world where you regroup between plays, decide on a practiced strategy, and then two sides of eleven do their best to execute their respective strategy. And yet for how scripted and practiced the game is, there is still so much room for improvisation and instinct by the individual players. I love all sports, but I LOVE football.
I got my feet wet as a coach volunteering to work with the quarterbacks and helping run the strength and conditioning at my alma mater Meadowdale High School during my summer vacations while still playing in college. It was a great opportunity for me to pass on the lessons I was learning at the college level and begin to understand the game schematically at a deeper level.
KRL: Where all have you coached?
Eric: Chronologically I started at Meadowdale High School (Lynnwood, WA), then Bologna Warriors (Italy), Catania Elephants (Italy), Oklahoma Panhandle State University (Goodwell, OK), Moorpark College (Moorpark, CA), and East Los Angeles College (Monterey Park, CA). I also served as the Meadowdale High School freshman basketball head coach in the winter of 2010-2011. While the learning curve was steep, it was some of the most fun I have ever had coaching.
KRL: What type of sports have you played?
Eric: All of them. Growing up I was huge in baseball and then became serious about soccer. I played basketball through eighth grade and regretted not playing in high school. I didn’t play football, other than on the playground, until my freshman year of high school. I initially went out thinking I would play WR, but they said they needed a backup quarterback. The receiver line was probably about ten players deep, so I said sure I’ll play QB and eventually worked my way into the starting job on the freshman team, but football was much more of a hobby. At Washington high school baseball and soccer are in the same season, so I felt like I had to choose. I gave up baseball at fourteen and focused on soccer thinking that I would pursue that sport in college. I was thoroughly entrenched as the varsity backup quarterback going into my junior year when the returning senior quarterback unexpectedly transferred schools. Suddenly I became the guy, had a nice season, and the team made the state playoffs for the first time in years. After that I was hooked on football, and I knew I wanted to pursue playing college football rather than soccer.
I love playing sports, that’s what I miss the most about getting older, so many less chances to play sports and compete. I’d kill to go back to the summer’s full of racing from game to game and tournament to tournament. Aside from organized sports, I golf, skimboard, snowboard, play ping pong, and just about anything else I can. If there is a ball and a set of rules involved, I’ve probably at least tried it.
KRL: I understand you played pro football in Europe, can you tell us about that?
Eric: I finished my college career at Chapman University and felt like I had more to give and room to grow as a player. I really wanted to keep playing, but as a NCAA division III, 6 foot tall, slow quarterback with a weak arm, the NFL and CFL weren’t calling. One of my college coaches had coached a team in the Italian Football League. Some people know it from John Grisham’s book Playing for Pizza, but more often than not, people are surprised to find out that most European Union countries have an organized football league. And yes, we are talking American football, not soccer.
Each league varies, but typically they follow the NCAA rule book, and sign anywhere from 3-5 Americans typically from division I or division II schools to be their “professionals.” As an American, we are expected to come in and be a difference maker for your team.
The head coach and general manager of the Bolzano Giants called my former college coach looking for a QB, he recommended me, and they offered me a contract on Christmas Day of 2008 and the rest is history. I spent the next four springs (The seasons in Europe typically run from March to July, then I would return to coach high school football in the late summer and fall at my alma mater Meadowdale) playing in different cities—three in the Italian Football League, one in the Austrian Football League (Bolzano, Vienna, Bologna, and Catania). Especially that first year in Bolzano there was some major culture shock. I was pretty naive about the magnitude of the language barrier. I spoke no Italian when I arrived in 2009. By my last season in 2012 my Italian became passable in conversations. However I still can’t speak a lick of Deutsch (German, the language of Austria).
I made some great Italian friends over the years, and I really credit Ciba and Cristina, one of my Italian teammates and his girlfriend, as being a catalyst for my success that first year. They took me under their wing, made me feel comfortable, and looked after me even when I was alone and far, far from home. We won the IFL championship that first year in 2009. The following year I signed with the Danube Dragons of the Austrian Football League, which was regarded along with Germany as the best league in Europe, and we won the Austrian Bowl in 2010. After that I could pretty much write my ticket to anywhere in Europe. I went back to Italy for the last two years serving simultaneously as QB and offensive coordinator which was a dream come true.
I made so many great friends: Italian, Austrian, and American abroad. I also got to experience life in Europe at a local level which was incredible. From baby christenings to staying at family villas in the countryside to attending all the local hot spots with the locals, I got a very unique, authentic view of life in Europe. It wasn’t always sunshine and roses; there was adversity at times being in a foreign country—3,000 miles away from everyone you know for six-month periods will do that. But my experiences also forced me to mature and grow exponentially as an individual. Once you figure out how to make it in a foreign country, it gives you the confidence that you can pretty much make it anywhere. All in all I wouldn’t have traded those years abroad for the world.
KRL: How did you hear about the Reedley College job and what interested you in it?
Eric: I saw it posted on the CCCAA job site. Ironically, I had lost on a recruit to Reedley a few years prior and so I knew the school and wanted to find out more. I don’t take very well to losing recruiting battles. Upon doing my research I found out about the past success of Reedley Football (2002 National Championship), I felt like the college had the structure, environment, and resources to get back to the elite level. Finally I did a large amount of research on Reedley and felt like it was a place where I could settle down, live, and enjoy myself.
KRL: What about family?
Eric: I come from a big family of seven. I have an older sister and three younger brothers. My parents and siblings all live back in the greater Seattle area, except for my youngest brother who is playing football at Mid-America University in Olathe, Kansas. We are all very close, and every time we get together manage to have a very good time.
My parents, my family, and my closest friends have been unbelievably supportive of my playing and now coaching career. I realized long ago that no one makes it without a great support system. And I have as good a support system as anyone has ever had. And I thank the good Lord for the people he has put in my life to help me get to where I am today.
That understanding is also why I try to work so hard for my players. I know that I’m only where I am today because of the people that helped and supported me, and I am determined to be the difference maker for my players lives, educations, and playing careers.
KRL: Do you have any hobbies?
Eric: Football? Does that count? I’ll be the first to admit I am a workaholic. Becoming a head coach meant so much more administrative and CEO-type tasks, so I really try to make time outside of my normal 8 a..m. to 8 p.m. days to stay current and relevant on schemes and techniques. It’s the old adage if your passion is your job you’re not really working, I’m fortunate that that is true.
Aside from football, I’m probably playing golf at Ridge Creek in Dinuba, working out, planning a trip on the west coast or abroad, reading, writing, or trying to get in a body of water. I love days on rivers, lakes, and at the ocean. Nothing beats being on a boat. I skimboard and wakeboard any and every chance I get.
KRL: What do you think of Reedley so far?
Eric: I love Reedley so far. The real estate market is a bit different than Los Angeles. Getting a chance to go from renting a studio to a house has been amazing. Central Valley nights are best spent on a porch! I found a great place with a porch within walking distance to the college and am getting more and more plugged into the Reedley community.
I look forward to exploring more of Reedley, the Kings River, and its surroundings later this summer, but right now its recruit, recruit, recruit.
KRL: What are your goals as a coach here at Reedley College?
Eric: I want to build the best junior college program in the country. Of course wins, but more so I am extremely competitive that we will develop, grow, prepare, and promote our players. I want to build our program and our staff so that when a player is looking for a JC whether he is local from Fresno or Tulare counties or from out of state–they know that Reedley College is the best possible place for them to invest their future.
KRL: What kind of team will we see on the field this year?
Eric: One that citizens of Reedley can be proud of. We will be disciplined and hard working on and off the field. Our players are going to be men on a mission to greater things, and most importantly, our players are going to represent the people that raised them well. Whether they were Reedley Pirates or went to high school thousands of miles from RC, our players are going to live intentionally and with purpose, and represent the people that raised them and coached them as well as they possibly can. That expectation extends far beyond the field from the classroom to Town & Country Market to G Street. Our players are going to be great citizens.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Eric: RC Football wants to invest itself in the community and in return we hope you are willing to invest and support the program. If you have any opportunities for RC football to volunteer in the community or would like me to come speak to your group please let me know.
Additionally, if you are interested in supporting the football program in any way from cooking a meal to a donation to coming to see a game on a Saturday night please let me know.
mail to: eric.marty@redleycollege[dot]edu
Watch for Reedley College Football game recaps here on KRL when the new season starts!