Part of it was the lack of Division I recruiting interest the 5-foot-9 Marquez received as a senior with the Knights. Some of it was a teenager who wanted to turn the corner on one part of his life just to see what might be waiting on the other side. “In my mind, it was already over for me and football,” Marquez said. “Getting hurt was painful and not a lot of fun, but it didn’t end anything for me. It was already finished, as far as I was concerned.” A knee injury didn’t end Marcel Marquez’s career. It helped start it. Long before his right knee buckled and gave way in a meaningless postseason high school All-Star game in 2003, Marquez had decided his senior year at Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks would be his last in football. Not that the elder Marquez was going to pressure his son into returning, especially when he faced such a long rehabilitation after the knee injury. But he wasn’t opposed to dropping subtle hints. “Marcel is the type of kid, if you tell him no, he says yes. But if you tell him yes, he says no,” Mark Marquez said. “I knew there was a way I could use that mentality as an advantage.” Soon after the injury, Mark asked his son to accompany him to watch Pasadena City College play COC. It seemed like an innocent invitation at first, a chance for Marcel to catch up with friends playing with both teams. Innocent, but with a purpose. Deep down, Mark knew his son would spend an agonizing three hours watching a game he loved more than he ever would admit. Maybe, just maybe, the game would give him a change of heart. The plan worked to perfection. “I hated it; I couldn’t stand it,” Marcel said. “I was sitting there just getting more and more mad. To just sit there watching other people play, I realized that wasn’t for me.” By halftime, Marquez already was plotting a return to football once he recovered from his injury. Sensing his son’s angst, Mark Marquez soon made a call to Lyon, the COC coach who wanted Marcel to play for the Cougars after high school. “Basically, I just told him he might want to call Marcel, because it looked like football was back in the picture,” Mark said. Lyon wasn’t hurting for a quarterback. He has sent five consecutive starters to four-year colleges. Prospects always were calling. But Lyon had a soft spot for the undersized Marquez, who compensated for his lack of height with his speed, playmaking and leadership. “He’s a winner,” Lyon said. By 2004, Marquez was ready to contribute, rising up the depth chart to share quarterback duties with Cory Miles during last year’s run to the mythical national championship. Marquez appeared in 10 games, completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 413 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 180 yards and two scores on just 10 carries. “He brought a totally different dimension to the game,” Lyon said. “He’s such a dual threat, whereas Cory was a drop-back passer. It gave us two different looks to show an opposing defense.” Marquez’s knee wasn’t 100 percent. He still wasn’t running as smoothly as he did in high school, and he never regained the burst of speed that made him such a threat. It wasn’t until this spring that Marquez thought he was all the way back. “I was never angry or frustrated that it took so long to recapture what I had in high school, because I knew it was only a matter of time before it all came back,” Marquez said. “That being said, I can’t tell you how happy I was this spring when I could tell I was all the way back. It was a great feeling.” Despite his success last season and improving health this summer, Marquez entered training camp with no guarantees. Dove, who threw for 3,272 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Taft, was the logical pick to win the job. But the same qualities that impressed Lyon in 2003 ultimately gained him the starting job heading into today’s season opener. “He’s a guy other players just respond to,” said the coach, who still expects Dove to see action this year. Marquez said he won’t be peeking over his shoulder at Dove. He is looking straight ahead in every sense. He already is looking forward to a four-year college after this season. “I spent a year without football, and I don’t ever plan on doing that (voluntarily) again,” Marquez said. “As long as I’m able to play, and as long as I have a place to play, then I’m playing.” Vincent Bonsignore covers high schools for the Daily News. His column appears Saturdays. He can be reached at (818) 713-3612 or [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Marquez is smiling when he says this, the irony of it all beating down like the intense late-summer heat Wednesday at College of the Canyons. Three years after his career appeared over, Marquez is the undisputed leader of one of the best community college football teams in the nation. When COC opens its season at Chaffey today at 5 p.m., Marquez will be the Cougars’ starting quarterback after beating out prize recruit Cary Dove, the former Taft of Woodland Hills starter who left Cal for COC during the offseason. “I know, pretty crazy, huh?” Marquez said, laughing. “But here I am.” Mark Marquez never really bought into his son’s decision to stop playing football after high school. Despite the lack of interest from Division I college programs, it wasn’t like he didn’t have college options. A number of smaller-division schools made inquiries, and COC listed him as its No. 1 recruit in 2003. “I loved the kid,” COC coach Chuck Lyon said.