By signing his National Letter of Intent after donning a crimson “OKLAHOMA” cap on Early Signing Day on December 19, Marcus Stripling etched his name into Mayde Creek High football lore.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end picked the Sooners over LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M to become the fourth football player from Mayde Creek to sign with a Power 5 conference over the last 20 years.
“He means a lot. He brought a lot of attention,” Mayde Creek head football coach Mike Rabe said. “While we’ve been here, we’ve progressively gotten a little bit better because football’s gotten more important here because of his notoriety. Everybody sees he came from our feeder schools and he’s made it to the next level. These guys believe they can do it now, too, and it just creates a whole different energy around your football team.”
Making it to Oklahoma while wearing the green and white of the Rams made it more special for Stripling. Stripling said each of his 20 offers meant more and more as they came in because of where he’s from.
“I want to set a platform for all my teammates and coaches here,” Stripling said. “It shows they can do it themselves, too. It doesn’t matter what school you go to, it can be done.”
Stripling always had ‘it,’ his father, Henry, said. Henry coached his son on the defensive line for four years in Katy Youth Football.
“I pushed him every day to be the best he could be on the field,” Henry said. “The results showed on Saturdays as a little boy. When I really knew he was something special, we were playing the Patriots during a KYF game and he was the running back and he broke one for 80 yards down the sideline to the house. He looked like another Adrian Peterson with that frame of his. And it was all tied to his footwork and the hours we’d spent drilling that on defense.”
Defense was always Stripling’s calling card. Stripling made his impact known from youth leagues from Katy to Humble to Houston to Dallas to San Antonio as Henry wanted his son to see the different levels of talent from across the state.
“He’s always been smacking people,” Henry said. “That’s his mantra. He loves to hit. I knew from a young age he’d be special. I didn’t know he’d be this special.”
In his senior campaign in 2018, Stripling averaged 3.8 tackles and posted seven tackles for a loss to go with six sacks, one blocked punt, five fumble recoveries and three fumbles caused in nine games.
Over his high school career, Stripling helped Rabe rebuild the Rams into a competitive program in a rough and ragged Katy ISD.
“A lot of people asked me, ‘Why send him to Mayde Creek? They don’t win anything.’ But this is the school he’s supposed to go to,” Henry said. “I believe in the coach. You’ve got to start somewhere. I told him he could build a program. He might not win, but he could be a part of a big piece as a legacy.
“My family and I, we did all this at Mayde Creek. We had a lot of offers from elsewhere. Our hearts have been here.”
Stripling played all four years on varsity for Mayde Creek. The Rams won seven games during that span, six coming over the last two seasons.
Stripling has always been adamant in his love for Mayde Creek. His teammates weren’t just friends, they were “brothers.” His coaches weren’t just adults, they were father figures.
Stripling even trained during the offseason with Shaun Rochon, a Mayde Creek alumnus, class of 2000, who played college football at Baylor. Together, they often talked about re-establishing the Rams’ program while training on campus at the high school.
“There is no ceiling to him because of his commitment,” Rochon said of Stripling.
Through the tough times, the Striplings stayed true to Mayde Creek after moving to the area 11 years ago when they fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” said Henry, who also has a son, Curtis, who was an offensive lineman as a junior on the Rams’ varsity this past season. “Many days, I dealt with my children when they came home from defeats, frustrated and angry. I had to talk and coach them up. ‘Just because you run across some tough times in life, that doesn’t mean you quit.’ You have to stay the course. If they were to quit now, they’d quit again later. Life isn’t like that.
“I wasn’t worried about what was going on in anybody else’s kitchen. We were going to stay, and we stayed. I appreciate Coach Rabe and everything he did for my son. It’s a blessing.”