Marcus Coker opened the front door of his Beltsville, Md., home and walked inside. After two years at Iowa — more than 900 miles away from his mother — Coker now has the chance to see her on a regular basis.
Since transferring to Stony Brook in January, Coker has visited home more than 10 times, often without telling his mother, Tammy Money, in advance.
“That’s one of the best surprises ever, to see your kid walk through the door,” Money said.
Coker transferred to Stony Brook after he was suspended for the Insight Bowl following an accusation that he sexually abused a woman. By joining the Seawolves, Coker brings big-time experience from playing in one of the nation’s top conferences. He’s given a significant boost to Stony Brook’s run-heavy offense, which Syracuse will try to contain Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.
After emerging as the second-leading rusher in the Big Ten in 2011, Coker’s season and life took a dramatic twist on Oct. 28, when Iowa’s athletic department was informed of the accusation.
Coker was not charged, and the case was dropped after the alleged victim decided not to take criminal action. But 10 days before the team’s bowl game — after the case was dropped — the university suspended Coker for violating the UI Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.
His future with the Hawkeyes was in question. He withdrew from Iowa in January, and the direction of his college career was uncertain. Coker began to explore other options, meeting with the Stony Brook coaching staff later that month.
He quickly decided to transfer to the Football Championship Series school, which allowed him to play right away rather than sitting out a season under NCAA transfer rules.
“He chose Stony Brook because he felt like it was the right fit,” Money said. “He really wanted to get right back into the swing of things, and that’s what Stony Brook was offering him.”
Coker has excelled in his first two games at SBU, playing in front of family. He rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns as part of the team’s high-powered running attack, and he’ll look to continue his hot start this weekend against the Orange.
Head coach Chuck Priore said Coker developed a connection with the players and the campus community during his official visit.
After much deliberation, Coker officially decided to transfer to be closer to home and to his mother. The running back was also intrigued by Stony Brook’s offense, which piled up 3,475 rushing yards in 2011.
“It’s just a downhill, hard type of offense,” Coker said.
Coker has helped the Seawolves total 822 rushing yards through their first two games. He is already an integral part of SBU’s offense, just as he was at Iowa.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he expects Coker to continue to excel at Stony Brook.
“What he brought to our team last year was just outstanding play,” Ferentz said during the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference on Sept. 4. “He’s a tough, competitive guy. He’s a strong runner and a great young man.”
Marcus honed his running skills at DeMatha Catholic High School, where he played under coach Bill McGregor. McGregor recalls Coker as a strong player with great speed and toughness.
With Coker lining up in the backfield, McGregor was able to be creative with his play calling.
In one particular game, DeMatha was down three points with one minute remaining. McGregor ran a draw play for Coker, who took it 70 yards for a touchdown to win the game.
“That’s the kind of young man he was,” McGregor said. “You could always count on Marcus to make the big play for us, and he always did.
“I know he had some trouble at Iowa, but he’s a very, very fine young man.”
And now, his mother can support Coker on a weekly basis in person. Money only attended three of his games at Iowa in his two seasons with the Hawkeyes.
She watched her son on TV as he rushed for 1,384 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011.
Now, she drives more than four hours from Beltsville, Md., to Stony Brook, N.Y., to see him play, but she doesn’t go alone. Money was one of 16 family members to watch Coker play his first game as a member of the Seawolves against Central Connecticut on Sept. 1.
“It just felt totally right,” Money said. “We missed being at games live. We always watched him play on television when he was at Iowa, but to be there in person is amazing.”
Priore said the opportunity for Coker to be closer to his family was an important factor in his decision to transfer.
“They’re a very close family, and the family loves football,” Priore said. “I think he loves to have the opportunity to have them here each and every week.”
Coker appreciates having the chance to play in front of his mom and the rest of his family.
“My mom’s my best friend,” he said. “She used to go to all my practices and games. Now she’ll be able to come out to all the games, and that’s important for her, too.”
Money said he has made the transition smoothly and enjoys the culture of Stony Brook football. His teammates have embraced him as part of the family already.
Coker appreciates spending more time with his mother at home and having her in the stands at every home game.
“I think he loves Stony Brook. He seems to be really happy at Stony Brook,” Money said. “We’re really happy with him here. He loves being able to come home when he wants to.”