Germany: Marcus Cox the engine for the new-look Marburg Mercenaries

Roster turnover is both difficult and inevitable in the world of European football, especially after a lost 2020 season, but few teams have felt it more acutely than the Marburg Mercenaries.

Coming off a 9-5 2019 season that ended with a playoff loss to the Dresden Monarchs, things were looking up for a franchise loaded with talent. The need to rebuild came swiftly and unexpectedly.

Gone is the GFL’s leading passer Jakeb Sullivan and his two top receivers in Marvin Rutsch and Hendrik Schwarz, all gone to the ELF’s Frankfurt Galaxy. In point of fact, the team’s top five receiving leaders from the 2019 season are gone, including triple threat running back Triston McCathern. All-star linebacker Justus Moreland and his 175 tackles have moved on too,  there is no more Joel Maddock to wreak havoc in the backfield, and Jarrod Cann and Joshua Porter no longer patrol the secondary.

In the end, that just barely covers the changes that faced new head coach Joe Tricario and many will wonder how the Mercenaries can possibly return to the post-season after such an overhaul. The answer will primarily rest on the legs of one man: running back Marcus Cox.

The 5’10”, 205 pound, 26 year old from Dacula, Georgia spent four years (2013-2016) playing for Division 1 program Appalachian State and remains the school’s career rushing leader with 5,103 yards and 52 touchdowns. He was the ninth person in FBS history to rush for 1,000 plus yards for four straight seasons and his 6,119 yards from scrimmage is good for 11th place on the NCAA’s All-Time rushing yards list.

QB Sonny Weishaupt playing for the Frankfurt Universe in 2018

Cox now brings that impressive pedigree to Germany, where he no doubt hopes to make up for lost time after years without strapping on the pads. He’ll have plenty of help to do it up front. An experienced Marburg offensive line is led by veteran Martin Aab but will be enhanced by some talented Europeans. Beefy Brit Scott Tomlinson is ready for his continental debut and recently signed Swede Gustav Rydberg will be expected to step in right away after a decade of excellence with the Orebro Black Knights.

Though they are expected to go to the air considerably less without Sullivan’s services, the Mercenaries remain in capable passing hands following the return of home-grown quarterback Sonny Weishaupt. The Marburg product cut his teeth with the Mercenaries in 2012 and 2013 before departing for opportunities elsewhere, starting and in reserve. At various points he’s helped the Darmstadt Diamonds, Rhein-Neckar Bandits, Frankfurt Universe, Grenoble Centaures and Braunschweig New Yorker Lions to victories, but now he has returned to his roots as the undisputed number one.

Marburg’s decimated receiving corps will now revolve around Aaron Seward, who last played as a standout defensive back for the GFL 2 Darmstadt Diamonds. His calling remains on the offensive side of the ball however, where he accumulated 882 all-purpose yards and scored 13 touchdowns for the Frankfurt Pirates over the final five games of the 2017 season. The same two-way dynamism can be attributed to Belgian weapon Ruben De Ruyter. Currently listed as a defensive back, he’s been effective both ways in Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Germany, putting up 39 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 with the Rostock Griffins. The offensive X-factor will be the development of young Niklas Fengler, a local product poised for a breakout season.

Marburg WR Ruben de Ruyter scoring a touchdown for Team Belgium against Israel Photo: Dotan Doron

Defensively, corner Malte Klein and defensive end Tim Göckus are the most important returning defenders but several new additions will crucial contributors. Tricario has kept himself comfortable in the middle of the defense by bringing in his Towson charge Robert Heyward at linebacker. The 6′, 235-pounder ranks ninth in career tackles for the Tigers with 274, was a team captain and for two years running was named an All-Colonial Athletic Association Second Team linebacker.

In the secondary, Stony Brook product Marvin Hart is tasked with making the plays and will be joined by former Lazio Duck Alessandro Fantin to provide some serious Italian flair. However, the team’s most under the radar acquisition is along the defensive line, where former Mercenaries defensive tackle Nico Koch has returned after helping Braunschweig claim a German title in 2019.

There is little use debating that the task before the Mercenaries is monumental. To simply maintain the status quo after so much change would be considered by many a victory. However, Marburg aspires to more than just that, with hopes that new pieces can catapult them in to German Bowl contention.

The path ahead will be grueling but Marburg has always been the little team that could. With Marcus Cox as the engine, they just might reach the mountaintop.

The Marburg Mercenaries open the 2021 German Football League at home on Sunday, June 6 when they take on the Allgau Comets. Watch the game live on AFI.tv.
J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.