ENCINO, Calif. — Before he even knew it, Marvell Tell III made a great first impression on new Crespi head coach Troy Thomas.
Tell wasn’t trying to impress, he was just being himself. It was simply a matter of his reputation preceding him.
When Thomas returned to the Crespi campus as head coach earlier this year, he said his hello’s and exchanged pleasantries with other members of the faculty.
Some, he was meeting for the first time. Others, he’d known from either his previous stints as a coach at the school or from his days as a student.
One teacher took the time to not only welcome Thomas back but to inform him of one of his standout players.
“He comes up to me and he goes ‘Marvell’s a good student. Very smart,'” Thomas recalled. “That was (my) first real (impression of him). Kind of like ‘Alright this kid, he’s all about it.’
“He’s not a guy that just does it on the football field. He’s a guy that’s doing it in the classroom. He’s showing me all these different areas that the reason he’s good is because he does all the little things right.”
That immediately struck a cord with Thomas who believes his players should be looked upon as leaders on campus.
Thomas was already aware of the great things Tell could do on the football field but was thrilled to learn this side of him as well.
Tell takes school seriously. Lessons learned from his father, Marvell Tell Jr.
“That’s real important,” Marvell Tell III said of his academics. “With my dad, he’s real strict when it comes to school. If I don’t perform in the classroom I don’t get to play football at all.”
The rising junior held down a 3.0 grade point average last semester and took AP courses.
On the field, he is the lone starter returning in the defensive backfield for a Crespi team that went 8-2 last season.
At 6-foot-3, 180-pounds, Tell has the size and range to give opposing defenses fits from his safety position. He made 52 tackles and an interception last season.
His impact as a sophomore and the camp season that followed has Tell sitting pretty with 10 scholarship offers, which include USC and UCLA, and more likely to come.
Yet, he’s taking it all in stride.
Humility is one of his best traits. He knows he has a long way to go and a lot more to prove. The latter of which has him off to a fantastic start under Thomas.
Determined to change the culture at his alma mater, Thomas has held the team to a higher level of accountability than they’ve been accustomed to.
The head coach recalls a practice in which a couple of players were late. The whole team had to pay for it by way of a workout led by their new head coach.
“It’s kind of a consequence for everybody late but as a coach I’ll do it with them and it’s hard,” Thomas said of the workout. “I don’t make them do anything that I won’t do, so I did it with them.”
Standing tall through the excruciating drill was Tell.
“He looked me right in the eye the whole time,” Thomas said. “Me and him were eye to eye.
“He was right with me and I told him ‘That’s why you’re going to be great because you won’t give in. You’re tough mentally,’ and I think that guys that have that in them or can develop that have an opportunity to be great and I think that he has a chance to be great because of that.”
Added Tell: “I was just thinking push through it. (My message was) I’m one of the leaders on this team (and) you can count on me.”
The mental toughness –another trait he attributes to his father –and the leadership Tell exhibited was reminiscent of some of the top players Thomas had during his days winning CIF and state championships at Servite.
“(Former Servite and current Nevada linebacker) Matt Inman was leading as a junior,” Thomas said. “(Former Servite and current BYU linebacker) Butch Pau’u was trying to lead as a junior. They’re not going to just sit back and let things happen that aren’t right and I see that same thing out of (Tell).
“I’ve coached some good players. He’s (Thomas) got a chance.”
Thomas repeated with a smile: “He’s got a chance.”