Oct. 16, 2012
By Lauren McMillin
Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy once said, “The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.” Few football players exemplify this as well as Mike Marry, a junior linebacker driven to lead his teammates to victory.
Right from the start, Marry felt that Ole Miss would be the place he would call home. “When I came here, it just felt like a family atmosphere,” he said. “I had fun on other visits, but this was the only one that felt like it was home.”
The Southern hospitality and warm acceptance from the people of Oxford further instilled this idea, proving that Marry made the right decision in choosing Ole Miss.
“Everybody treats you like you are family, even if they don’t know you,” Marry said. “You can walk through the Grove after the game, and even if they don’t know you and don’t know where you’re from, they’ll take care of you.”
The support that Marry feels from people around Ole Miss and Oxford resonates through the walls of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, as well.
“The fans have a lot of energy,” he said. It’s this enthusiasm and support from the fans that helps carry the Rebels through a game, no matter the circumstances. “Whether we’re winning or losing, they support us through the good and the bad,” Marry said. “They just make us play that much harder.”
Feeling that gameday rush and the energy of fans isn’t something that Marry has always had with the Rebels. Signing with the incoming 2009 class, Marry became a grey shirt, sitting out a year before joining the football team. While he wasn’t able to work with the Rebels, he used that year to further develop his strength and his talents.
“I used it to gain some weight, to get stronger and faster and just learn the scheme of the defense,” Marry said. “I used it to my advantage. I had a lot of free time, so I just used it to get smarter, football-wise.”
The time that Marry devoted to learning the defense certainly paid off, as he has become one of the Rebels’ team leaders. With this role, Marry has become aware of the responsibilities that it takes to lead his teammates toward success.
“You always have to be on top of your game,” he said. “You’re not only responsible for yourself, you’re responsible for the older players and the younger players. If you mess up, they’re going to think it’s okay, so you’ve got to always do what’s right, even if you don’t want to do it. You always have to follow the rules.”
By embracing his place as a leader and understanding those responsibilities, Marry has found ways to influence his fellow teammates. The most important way?
“Treating them as my family,” Marry said. “You really help mold the younger players and give them somebody positive to look up to. Show them the right way to do things.”
This positive approach has influenced fellow teammates, including redshirt-freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche.
“Coming into this defense as a young player, I looked up to Mike as one of the playmakers,” Nkemdiche said. “He’s been in the system for a long time, and he knows how to do the college thing. He’s played against the Alabama’s and LSU’s before, and he handles it really well. That’s just something we can look up to and feed off of and take into perspective on how things should be down the road.”
Knowing how to handle other teams is something that has helped the Ole Miss defense experience strong improvements this season. After an aggressive battle against the Crimson Tide, Alabama head coach Nick Saban praised the Rebel defense for its strength and determination. Marry attributes this to the perseverance and drive that the team has had this year.
“Hard work in the off-season and this season, with everybody coming out focused,” he said. “We’re playing more as a unit and with more dedication.”
In 2011, Marry played in all 12 games with nine starts, leading the team with 81 total tackles. In the SEC, he tied for 14th in tackles, averaging 6.8 tackles per game. This season, Marry ranks third on the team with 39 tackles, including his first career interception, which sealed the win over Auburn last Saturday.
The dedication and hard work that Marry gives to the Ole Miss defense is reflected in his schoolwork, as well. In 2010, he was recognized as the Scholar Athlete from the Ole Miss Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Between balancing football and school, Marry knows what it takes to achieve success.
“You have to do what has to be done,” he said. “You can’t put it off. You’ve got to put in extra work when you need it. Even sometimes when you’re tired, you’ve got to push through, focus and study.”
By focusing on his responsibilities, Marry sees a bright future ahead. An exercise science major, Marry plans to go to nursing school after his time with the Rebels.
In the meantime, Marry is relishing his role as a leader for the Ole Miss Rebels and is working hard for success. As he continues to lead both on and off the field, it all comes down to one simple goal: “I just want to win.”