Each new Virginia assistant coach had their own roundtable in John Paul Jones Arena’s Courtside Club last Friday. Three of them were sporting what very well could have been straight-out-of-the-box Cavalier gear.
A new navy sweater for defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. A sweater vest for associate head coach Tom O’Bren. A Nike polo for special teams coordinator/running backs coach Larry Lewis.
And then there was Marques Hagans. His attire — an orange button-up complemented by a navy vest — was likely dusted off from last season. Or the season before. Or from 2002-2005.
Hagans’ relationship with the Wahoos is into its 12th year. This time, the 30-year-old won’t have “quarterback” or “receiver” or “graduate assistant” next to his name.
No, it’ll be “Marques Hagans, Virginia receivers coach.”
It’s all come full circle.
“To come back home and have this opportunity where I graduated, met my wife, played ... it’s a blessing in itself,” Hagans said. “And to do it for a man like Coach [Mike] London, I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Hagans last wore his No. 18 Cavalier jersey on Dec. 30, 2005, when he guided a comeback victory over Minnesota in the Music City Bowl, tossing for a career-high 358 yards and two touchdowns.
It remains the last bowl win in UVa history.
A brief NFL stint followed before he returned to his alma mater in 2011 as a graduate assistant for the offense.
The bump-up came on Jan. 3, meaning Hagans didn’t have to move to find his first coaching job. That’s a rarity in his eyes.
“I think that’s definitely a story of the stars aligning all in one place,” Hagans said. “I know it doesn’t normally happen that way. That’s why I said I’m blessed. I’m fortunate because I’ve talked to guys who had to bounce around three or four or five different places to ultimately to get where their dream school may be. ... I’m still here and I’m making the transition from one place to another. It just makes it a lot easier.
“With the staff that we have, it’s a great opportunity. I couldn’t have written a better story myself. Now it’s time for me to go out and produce and make sure I’m worthy of the opportunity that I’ve been awarded.”
Hagans will immediately be in charge of a bunch he’s more than familiar with from his grad assistant days. The Wahoo receivers will be an experienced crew in 2013, but one seeking better production.
Darius Jennings is the leading returnee following his 48-catch, five-touchdown sophomore campaign. He’ll have competition from rising juniors Dominique Terrell and E.J. Scott and senior Tim Smith. As a whole, Virginia receivers made 140 catches for 1,883 yards in 2012. Every player that contributed to that will return for 2013.
“There’s only one football,” Hagans said. “Hopefully, that heightens the level of competition, it heightens the level of urgency and guys go out every single day knowing they aren’t comfortable.
“That’s the whole goal, to make sure the group is never comfortable. If we can do that every single day, compete against each other with everything we have, encourage each other at the same time, I think we’ll have a good group and come together as a family. Then we’ll be able to produce and add something to this offense that we kind of were missing last year.”
The other side to Hagans’ freshly enhanced role will be come in recruiting. He’s already started making his rounds in scouting high school talent on the road, a duty that wasn’t on his slate as a grad assistant.
“I think Marques will be fine,” said Chip West, UVa’s recruiting coordinator. “As the coordinator, you always want to try to put him in position to succeed. He has no problem with building relationships. It’s not going to be hard. This thing we call recruiting is all about building relationships and getting people to trust you. Over the course of time, he’ll have no problems doing that.”
Especially if he gets to work in his native, talent-rich Tidewater region. Hagans is a product of Hampton, where he led Hampton High to the 1998 state title.
“I think Coach West has done an excellent job in securing the 757,” Hagans said. “It’s a very big spot, and any way that I can help I will be more than willing to. But if he has the whole 757 under control, I have no problem with stepping out and going wherever the staff needs me to go and recruit in there as well, establish myself wherever that may be.
“If it’s in the 757, I’d be more than happy.”