Marques Hagans. Mere mention of the name likely brings back plenty of fond memories for Virginia football fans. Nicknamed “Biscuit”, Hagans forever cemented himself in the hearts of Virginia football fans with his incredible ability to improvise and dance around opposing defenses.
There was no tackle he couldn’t escape, no catch he couldn’t make, whatever the task was, Virginia fans always knew that Marques Hagans would be giving them 110 percent on the gridiron.
Virginia fans first got their taste of Hagans when he was thrust into the fire late in the Cavaliers’ season-opener at Scott Stadium against Colorado State in 2002. Their starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, had just thrown an interception and was booed off the field.
Enter Hagans, who was just a freshman at the time but showed remarkable poise, confidence, and talent for somebody his age. He brought the Cavaliers to within a few yards of a comeback victory over the Rams and from that point on a special talent was born.
The greatest achievement of Hagans’ college career was engineering one of the biggest upsets in school history, when he led the Cavaliers to a thrilling 26-21 victory over the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminoles in 2005. Hagans was running for his life the entire night, but still managed to connect with Virginia receivers in the most stunning fashion.
He even though he strained his hamstring, Hagans managed to toss strike-after-strike to Virginia receivers, frustrating the Seminole defense. “Biscuit” connected on 27 of his 36 pass attempts, throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
After the game, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said, “I’ve never seen a quarterback make as many one-man plays as he made tonight.” Quite the compliment, considering the quarterbacks that Bowden has seen play, like Charlie Ward or Michael Vick.
Another highlight of his career, came at the end of it, when he capped his college career with yet another one of his stunning quarterback performances. He earned MVP honors, after he completed 25 of his 32 pass attempts for a career-high 358 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
After it was all said and done, Hagans finished his career at Virginia as one of the top five quarterbacks in school history, despite only starting for two full seasons at quarterback. He ranks in the top five in virtually every quarterback category in school history: second in completion percentage (62.3), third in completions (408), fourth in attempts (655), fourth in total offense (5,779 yards), and fifth in passing yards (4,877 yards).
Hagans will forever be remembered by Virginia fans for not only his breathtaking ability to improvise, but for the heart and passion he played the game of football with. His unwavering will and desire to push his teammates to victory was one that is a rare trait in any athlete. He truly gave it his all and for that, Virginia fans will never forget him.
I recently had the chance to message “The Great Improvisor” on Facebook—and luckily he was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions via e-mail on Facebook.
Q: You were the quarterback for Hampton High School, one of the nation's most prestigious football programs. You led your team to a state championship as a junior. What was it like to be a part of the Hampton Crabbers tradition and play for coach Mike Smith, who is a rather legendary football coach in the state of Virginia?
A: Hampton was cool. My whole family went to Hampton. I already had two cousins before me that laid the foundation for Hampton football and both of them went on to play Division 1 football(James Wilson-University of Tennessee) (Myron Newsome-Virginia Tech). My little cousin is the starting quarterback now(David Watford) and he is just a sophomore. So the tradition continues and the program continues to keep up the legacy.
Q: I've read that you verbally committed to Indiana and you visited with former quarterback Antwaan Randle-El on your official visit there. What made you change your mind and suit up for the Virginia Cavaliers?
A: Before reporting to Indiana I was told that I would have to prop 48. That was going to force me to lose a year or two of eligibility and I didn’t want to do that. I had actually signed my letter of intent and was all set to go until I found that out. So I decided to seek another option and Coach Mike Smith suggested Fork Union.
After reporting to Fork Union, I got the chance to get recruited again. This time when I talked it over with my family—we determined it was in my best interests to stay home and play closer to my family and friends. Plus I liked the new coaching staff that was coming in. At the time, UVA was switching from Reebok to Nike, so that helped out too.
Q: You played a little bit of everything at Virginia—you returned punts, you played quarterback, you even played receiver for a year. What was your favorite position to play and why?
A: I would have to say QB. The reason is because all eyes are on you every play. Even when you are just walking up to the huddle, everybody is always watching the quarterback to see exactly what he is going to do next. I also liked the fact that at quarterback, I was always the leader of the team.
I felt like a general leading an army into battle every Saturday. Not only was I leading them, but I was willing to plant my feet in the ground, stand next to my teammates, and fight against anybody. No matter who we were playing against, we always felt that we were going to come out on top. Plus, everybody knows that quarterbacks get the prettiest girls. Haha.
Q: One play that Virginia football fans will never forget was in the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl against West Virginia--when you caught a pass from Matt Schaub--then threw that beautifully lofted pass to Wali Lundy for a touchdown. Talk about that play and how much fun it was to play for an offensive coordinator like Bill Musgrave?
A: That play is one that will always stick out in my mind because it was a play that the coaching staff really wanted to run. It worked out perfectly just as we had practiced all week..
The only other play that stood out as much to me in that game was the punt return that I took to the house. That was really big for me because all year I had been getting so close. In the last game of the season, it finally opened up and was a big momentum boost for the team and we never looked back.(Virginia won the CTB 48-22). Playing for Coach Musgrave was probably one of my favorite times of my career.
I’ve never had a coach who believed in me so much on the field but matched that same caring and belief off the field as well. He was so creative and made football fun for me at time when I really believed that it was just a business. He also helped change me from a thrower to a passer while also making me a student of the game.
From the moment he came to recruit me at Fork Union he never said that my size or height was a problem. He was just happy to have a good quarterback and he couldn’t wait to make me better. That right there, put him over the top for me. I knew that whatever he asked me to do, I was going to do beyond that to make it happen.
He would also invite me over to his house for dinner at least once a week. He would make sure that I was getting a good meal and that I got to spend time with his family. He would also drop by my dorm and apartment just to make sure I was doing alright and staying on top of my schoolwork.
Q: Your performance in the Florida State game in 2005 was the best performance by any quarterback I've ever seen in my lifetime. You led the Cavaliers to a heart-stopping 26-21 victory over the fourth ranked Seminoles. How were you able to play so well that game?
A: The funny thing is that Monday morning, I was sitting in class and couldn’t stop thinking about the game that week. Not because we were playing Florida State, but because every possible way I kept looking at the game, we kept coming out on top. So I knew deep in my heart that we were going to win. The only thing I didn’t know was how.
So I wrote down everything it would take to beat them, left class early and took it to coach Groh because I was that confident. The first thing that I put on the paper was to practice like we know we are going to win. I think that approach carried over from that week into the game.
I didn’t know that I was going to play that well, but I knew from the opening kick that the game was moving really slow. Even though I strained my hamstring, I just felt good the whole game and wanted to play forever.
Everything was happening just the way we practiced. We missed on two deep balls to wide receiver Deyon Williams.If we could’ve connected on those two we could have easily put up over 450 yards passing with two more touchdowns.
It was a big game for that Virginia team and our program. We will always go down in history for that game and the stage on which it was played. The whole night was magical: from the crowd, to the night, from it being the only game on television that night. I’ll never forget how I felt after the game. I just wish the lights hadn’t went out.
It caused the game to be prolonged for an hour. It took away from my party time and everything was damn near closed when I got out of interviews.
Q: You always seemed to play well against the Syracuse Orangemen. What was it about the 'Cuse that always seemed to bring out the best in you?
A: I would be lying if I said it was anything in particular. I don’t know what it was about them. After the game I would always look back and and it would look as if I had something against them. In both of the games it looks as though I’m playing as if I didn’t like them when that wasn’t the case. I don’t know though, that’s a good question.
Q: Who is your favorite player in UVA football history and why?
A: I’ve got two. My first one is Anthony Poindexter. He’s the only reason I started watching UVA football. To me, he is the best player to ever come through Virginia.
He compliments that with the person he is off the field. He is one of the realest dudes I’ve ever met in my life. He used to get me so hyped before the game.
I just wish that I could’ve played on the same team as him for just one game. That would have been an honor. The day he told me that he respected my game and if he was running into a fire he would want me by his side was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my life.
That meant a lot to me. He was the hardest hitter to ever put on a Virginia uniform. His dress code was crazy with the taped fingers and that dark visor. He was back there looking liked a trained killer waiting to hit anything that moved. He did—his highlight film is unreal.
My second favorite is “Big Money” Heath Miller. We came in together and we were roommates. We had a ball playing scout team our freshman year. I knew that before fans in Scott Stadium got to see him play that they were in for a treat.
To have played alongside a player of that magnitude was a privilege for me. He made my job so much easier. I could close my eyes, throw it to him with three people covering him and he would still come up with the catch. He, by far, has the best hands I’ve ever seen.
He was also one of my best friends as well. I went home with him and spent time with his family for a weekend. Then the following weekend he came down to my town. and we built a friendship that will last a lifetime. He is expecting the next future tight end—(a baby boy). Congrats to him and bunches.
Q: You really evolved as a quarterback during your finally two years at UVA. What was it like to cap your career off with a Music City Bowl win against Minnesota and earn MVP honors of that game?
A: I think that a lot of the things I was taught early in my college career by Coach Musgrave started to finally set in. The game started to slow down a whole lot for me and I think you could see the same thing in Matt Schaub. Playing behind him helped me as well. Just watching how he prepared for games helped me with the mental aspect of the game.
Getting MVP in the Music City Bowl was not just my doing, my coaches put me in position to just go out and be myself. I could play within the system but win the game for us at any cost.
That game was slower than the Florida State game--a lot of times I could see the plays unfolding before they happened. My receivers just made the rest happen. To get the MVP in your last game in a UVA uniform, set the passing record, win, and fumble a punt is the perfect ending. Haha. Sprinkle in an interception in there that almost lost us the game.
That’s it for the interview folks, hopefully there will be much more from me as college football season approaches!