By Taylor Fortney
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
With dreadlocks flowing out of his helmet, Texas Tech's No. 4 is easy to spot on the field. But what really draws the eye is when those dreadlocks pass by in a blur as the wide receiver races past opposing secondaries, leaps in the air and grabs the football with fierce determination.
Make no mistake, Bradley Marquez is an athlete.
At just 19 years old, he has impressed on the Texas Tech gridiron by becoming one of the leading targets in a strong Red Raider receiving core. His talents, however, are not exclusive to the football field. Marquez uses the same skill set that blows by defenders to chase down fly balls on the baseball field.
"My strength is definitely my speed and going for the ball when it's in the air," Marquez said.
Selected in the 16th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Marquez joins elite company as an extraordinary dual-sport athlete.
This past summer, Marquez played with the Kingsport Mets, the rookie level affiliate of the New York Mets. Over 19 games in centerfield, Marquez showed just why he is a highly regarded athlete, hitting .267 (8 hits in 30 at bats) with four runs scored, all in an abbreviated season.
While playing as a professional baseball player, Marquez credits the lessons he learned off the field as contributing most to his success.
"[Playing baseball] helped me to mature a lot," Marquez said. "That's the biggest thing. Being a professional baseball player, it's a job, essentially, and the maturity level is really high. I think that has helped me on the [football] field. I'm only a sophomore, only 19 years old, but that helped me out to mature a little quicker."
Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown agrees.
"There is no question, he is a mature guy," Brown said. "He was out on his own, had his own money. He understands what his responsibilities are and he takes care of them."
Brown, in his second year working with Marquez, sees more than a 19-year-old athlete on the field.
"He is trustworthy," Brown said. "I think that is his number one characteristic; he's trustworthy and he makes plays. Anytime he's given an opportunity, he steps up and makes plays. He's got a lot of respect from his teammates, and I think the best word I can use for him is trust. I trust that guy."
Maturity isn't the only positive that comes from playing at such a high level of competition year-round. Texas Tech outside receivers coach Tommy Mainord believes that Marquez's biggest strength is his ability to compete.
"When the ball is in the air, he is going to do whatever it takes," Mainord said, "No one is quite as competitive as he is right now."
Marquez takes pride in being such a competitor, and uses it to better himself every day, while never letting an opportunity pass.
"I just want all of these guys out here to know I work hard and I don't take my opportunities that I have for granted," said Marquez. "I want them to know that each and every day I try to come out and get better to help us win, because I am a competitor."
While his teammates are practicing football during the summer months, Marquez is playing professional baseball, limiting his practice time and ability to improve during the offseason.
It is a unique situation, and Brown loves that about his young receiver.
"He's a football guy nine-and-a-half months, and the other two-and-a-half he's playing baseball, so he's competing," said Brown. "When you look at it, he's competing year-round, and I think that will only make him better."
And it doesn't take him long to get right back into the football flow.
"He is such an exceptional athlete," Mainord said. "He's very coachable, he listens well and he's not a guy to take a thousand reps to do things right. He adjusts, and he did that, so he's caught up with us and he's having a good fall."
A good fall indeed.
Through the Red Raiders' first three games, Marquez is leading the Red Raiders in receptions (12) and receiving yards (135). But, he's not concerned with the individual statistics; he's focused on helping Texas Tech win football games.
"I want to win a championship here," Marquez said. "I feel like we can bring that here to Texas Tech for years to come."