Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve is used to monster stat lines.
The redshirt junior recorded 18 tackles in a 2009 meeting with Georgia Tech. Earlier that season, he forced two fumbles against Louisiana State University at Tiger Stadium.
Marve is the first SEC player since legendary Vanderbilt linebacker Jamie Winborn (1997-2000) to post over 100 tackles in his first two seasons (105 and 121, respectively). The massive production garnered 2010 Preseason All-SEC first team honors.
But for Marve, individual accolades come about through team commitment.
“I feel like as a team, if we go out and execute the game plan that our coaches set up for us, all the personal goals that anyone has will fall into place,” he said.
Comparing Marve’s Vanderbilt career with that of nine-year pro Winborn is not outlandish. Both redshirted as true freshmen. When he first got to play in 1998, Winborn led Vanderbilt with 131 tackles. In 1999, he recorded 141.
Slightly behind in tackle production, Marve has the edge on the current Tennessee Titan in terms of turnovers. He’s forced seven fumbles in two seasons.
One fumble from 2008’s Music City Bowl season is a perfect example of Marve’s playmaking ability. In the fourth quarter against Ole Miss, he stripped the Rebels’ running back inches before the goal line and created a turnover out of a scoring situation. Vanderbilt defeated the Rebels 23-17 on the road and improved to 4-0 at that point.
Marve’s impact on the field is influenced by his devotion to film. His study habits help fine-tune technique and give Marve an encyclopedic knowledge of Vanderbilt’s defense.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve seen work-ethic-wise,” safety Sean Richardson said. “Instead of a lab rat, he’s like the film rat. He knows everything. He knows the defense, he controls the defense and he’s always been a great leader telling the defense what to do.”
“I look for every mistake, every false step, anything that will help me better know my opponent,” Marve said. “You can’t get any better unless you know what you’re doing wrong, and the eye in the sky doesn’t lie.”
Marve is the linchpin and a leader on Vanderbilt’s defense.
It’s not a new role for him. The eldest of eight children, he worked to be a role model for his siblings growing up in Memphis.
Marve’s family position has influenced his role with the Commodores.
“Growing up as the oldest, you definitely have to mature fast,” he said. “My parents instilled in me that you have to make adult decisions even at a young age. As the oldest child, I just tried to set an example.”
For his siblings, that has meant putting education first and making smart lifestyle choices. For his teammates, Marve sets an example through intense practice habits.
“I’m playing every snap [in practice] like I’m playing a game on Saturday,” Marve said. “I feel personally that you have to play 150 percent every snap in order to prepare yourself for the level of competition in the SEC.”
Maintaining intensity on Saturdays, Marve prides himself on his hard-hitting reputation in the SEC. Linebackers coach Bruce Fowler said he feels Marve’s football demeanor and his field-intensity stem from his character.
“It’s his style of play and it’s just his personality,” Fowler said. “He’s a serious guy and he works hard — with schoolwork, on the field — and he wants to be the best he can be. His intensity is that he sets high standards for himself.”
He also sets high standards for the team. Massive tackle counts and national media attention aren’t necessarily what Marve strives for; he is only concerned with one statistic in 2010.
“We definitely need to win, win games,” he said. “That is the entire purpose of playing football — whether you are lifting weights or in the film room — the entire purpose of being out here is to win.”
Marve shares Vanderbilt’s excitement about the Sept. 4 opener against Northwestern and a chance to improve on 2009’s 2-10 season. He says the Commodores have unprecedented chemistry after the highest-attended summer workouts of his career.
“You don’t find many players like him,” Richardson said. “He’s just so focused.”