Worth the Wait
By Cayce Troxel
Virginia Athletics Media Relations
Quarterback Marc Verica’s Cavalier career hasn’t been all that different from a ride on an amusement park roller coaster -a four-year ride, that is.
There was the steady climb up to the first big hill, some wild twists and turns mixed in with enough ups and downs and 360-degree loops to leave your stomach churning. And like any great ride, there’s been some waiting in line just to experience the whole thing.
Entering his senior season at UVa, Verica has experienced a little bit of everything. He has led the ACC in pass completion percentage and directed his team to a four-game win streak during his sophomore year. He has played through two bowl-less seasons and four different offenses in five years. Perhaps more frustrating than the ups-and-downs though, has been the waiting along the way.
From redshirt to third-string quarterback to starter, then back to the bench again, much of Verica’s time in Charlottesville has been spent just biding his time.
“It’s like you’re playing a cat-and-mouse game-you’re not really sure what your role is and where you stand,” Verica said. “You’ve got to keep doing good things, and probably, eventually when you get your shot, good things will happen.”
Now is the time he gets his shot.
Entering the fall as the unquestioned starter for the first time in his career, Verica seems to have finally struck solid ground under the care of new head coach Mike London and a supportive coaching staff. Who would blame Verica if he were giddy at finally finding his footing on the field? Then again, that’s not the attitude that has gotten him to where he is today.
“He’s always been very focused and very disciplined,” said his father, Mark Verica. “We never really had those issues with a lack of dedication to whatever he was doing. Whether it was athletics or academics or anything, he certainly had a discipline at a young age that was very, very impressive.”
Wishing to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was a college quarterback at Kutztown State and successful enough there to earn a few NFL tryouts, Verica always wanted to play football when he was young.
Verica’s mom had other ideas.
To Verica’s mother, Christine, a native of Uruguay, soccer was the real sport of futbol. To her, American football “just looked like brutes running around and banging into each other,” according to Verica’s dad. Christine thought her son possessed the speed and agility to play what she considered to be the more beautiful game. Even more so, she feared he could get hurt playing the less tactical American version.
“Every year, Marc and I would say to Chris, ‘This is the year, right?'” Mark Verica said. “She’d say, ‘Yeah, we’ll see, we’ll see,’ but when football season rolled around, the final answer was always, ‘no.'”
Eventually Marc and Mark’s persistence paid off. She finally budged, begrudgingly allowing her son to play football in seventh grade. Although his mom still held out hope that he might someday return to soccer, Verica immediately fell in love with the game. Since then Christine has developed a passion for the game herself.
“She loves the game now-sometimes it’s really funny,” the Virginia quarterback said. “She’s saying things that a normal mom or even a normal football fan wouldn’t really know or understand about the game, but she knows it just because the sport’s so big in our family.”
To say that having the support of his entire family-and most especially, his dad-has played an important role in Verica’s development as a player would be an understatement. Having once been in his son’s shoes, Mark Verica was able to pass on lessons he learned from his own days under center to his son. Even more invaluable though, was the guidance he offered off the field.
That’s why when then-Virginia head coach Al Groh called to offer Verica a scholarship during his senior year at Monsignor Bonner High School, the quarterback put the coach on hold so he could call his dad for advice. Last year, when he was relegated to a seldom-used reserve, Verica again turned to his father for reassurance.
“There’s no doubt about it that my dad has had an unbelievable impact on my life,” Verica said. “He always did everything he could to provide whatever insight he could, not just about football but about anything. If it was just about life, he always helped.”
Mark, however, insists he’s been as much a spectator to his son’s metamorphosis from third-stringer to team captain as the Virginia fans.
“He’s learned to deal with the media, the fan base, the other schools,” Mark Verica said. “I see another side of him now that’s able to deal with the tremendous amount of scrutiny and challenges that come with playing that position, especially for such a large institution.”
More importantly than impressing his dad or the Cavalier faithful, Verica’s mentality has won him a fan in his head coach.
“He’s been booed; his family’s been booed,” London said. “No young man should go through those types of issues. If anything came out of all that, he’s learned how to be resilient.”
“It’s easy to cower or to run away from it, but it’s harder to stay strong and to stay with it,” Verica said. “It will make you a better person if you do. That was always my approach, and I’m glad I stuck with it. Going into this season, I am the starting quarterback, and I am the captain, and this is my offense.
“When you reach that level that you have that kind of respect and trust from your coaches and your teammates, and they’re looking to you and have confidence in you, that’s really what a quarterback should be.”
Even if it takes a wild ride to get there.