In 2014, Adairsville head football coach Eric Bishop was watching Northern Illinois University play a football game on Thursday night. The next day, Bishop sent film on his then-senior quarterback Marcus Childers to the NIU coaching staff, thinking Childers would be a good fit for the Huskies’ style of offense.
Bishop did not hear back from the Mid-American Conference school.
However, around Christmas in 2015, after grey shirting a year at Memphis, Childers signed to NIU after all, and the Adairsville product will play major college football in 2016.
“It’s like a family environment. I felt at home with the coaches and enjoyed being around the coaching staff,” Childers said of his decision to attend Northern Illinois. “They have great facilities and they’re all state of the art. I thought I could have a great future there.”
“I just blindly sent them film on him, and never really heard anything from them, and now it’s kind of come full circle,” Bishop said of when he first sent NIU film in 2014. “That was kind of an afterthought when it was all said and done, because when NIU started calling about Marcus and talking to me, I said, ‘Guys, I sent y’all film on him.’ And, of course, they get 1,000 films from kids, coaches and parents. So I think it’s going to be a really good fit for them.”
Childers grey-shirted this past fall to give him another semester of eligibility at Memphis. However, when Memphis defeated No. 13 Ole Miss in October and went on to post a 9-4 record with a trip to the Birmingham Bowl, head coach Justin Fuente was in high demand and accepted the head coaching position at Virginia Tech.
From there, Childers decided to transfer, and found a home at NIU.
“I have nothing but good things to say about coach Fuente and [former Memphis offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen]. That’s kind of part of the business at every level, but especially at the college level,” Bishop said of Memphis’ coaching change. “One of the things Marcus and I talked about when he decided to grey shirt and sign with Memphis was the reality that coach Fuente was one of the hottest coaches out there. He may not be there for all four years of Marcus’ time up there. It turns out that it happened a lot faster than anybody could have predicted or imagined.
“What I told him was, ‘We make a backup plan. We see what the incoming Memphis staff has in store for you.’ We did just that. Marcus did a great job of taking care of it. ... He had a backup plan, and fortunately, we did that work and he just kind of hit the ground running once he got the news from Memphis.”
NIU visited Childers and worked him out at Adairsville High. NIU offered Childers, and he went up for an official visit, committing to the school soon after.
“They had recruited me in high school, but when the coaching staff at Memphis left, they kind of put me on with [NIU head coach Rod Carey],” Childers said. “The next day, they called me and told me they were coming down, wanted to see me throw, do this and do that. It kicked off from there. Then I went on an official and they offered me.”
Childers said he had other offers from junior colleges, but preferred the opportunity at NIU, which went 8-6 in 2015, won the Mid-American Conference and played in the Poinsettia Bowl.
“I had JUCOs. There were a bunch of JUCOs that called me and asked me to apply to their program, but NIU called me and it was basically a done deal,” Childers said.
NIU runs an offense that fits Childers’ skill set as a dual-threat quarterback. Childers was the signal-caller for Adairsville’s offense in 2014 that broke the school record for the most points scored in a season, running for 646 yards and passing for 918 more after rushing for 922 yards as a junior.
NIU has had several successful dual-threat quarterbacks in recent years, including Jordan Lynch, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013.
“They run the offense that I want to be in,” Childers said of NIU. “It’s kind of the spread and the triple-option. I can do the running and the passing game.”
“Oddly enough, I think this is actually going to end up being a better fit for Marcus for the simple fact, while Memphis’ system with coach Fuente and coach Cornelsen would have been a good place for Marcus, I really think NIU is a better fit for him,” Bishop said. “It’s really more like what we do than Memphis. Memphis has a few more spread principles and things of that nature. I think it’s a great fit for him. Marcus kind of took a leap of faith when he went with Memphis. Even though that might have been a disappointment at one time, I think this might be a better situation and a better fit for him.”
Childers hopes he will be able to acclimate quickly and compete for a starting position in the fall.
“My first goal is to start next fall,” Childers said. “Coach Carey told me he is going to give me every opportunity to play next fall. So that’s my goal next year.”
While Childers is moving on to NIU, he did enjoy his experience with Memphis and watching the success the team had this season, including developing a relationship with one of the best players in college football, First-round NFL Draft prospect and Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.
“I went for a summer workout, worked out with them and hung around that program. I kind of learned the offense, studied film and got better at the mental aspect,” Childers said of his time with Memphis. “[Lynch] was my host at Memphis originally. So we hit it off then. ... He’s a really good kid and a real good player, too.
“I was happy for them, especially when they beat Ole Miss. That was kind of a milestone. They had been working so hard and they had an opportunity and the exceeded it.”
While grey shirting with Memphis, Childers helped out the coaching staff at Adairsville, mentoring first-year starting quarterback Roger Redd and watching the team reach the state quarterfinals.
“When the grey-shirt deal came up, we decided on it. Coach Bishop asked me to be a mentor to Roger Redd, just because he was a new player coming into an unfamiliar position,” Childers said of his role with the Tigers this year. “I came in and kind of taught him the offense and helped [offensive coordinator Pat Konen] and the coaching staff with stuff. At the end of the year, he did really well.
“It was real fun to watch him be successful because he hadn’t played football since his eighth-grade year of middle school. It was just real exciting to be a part of the program and actually see the success that they had.”
Childers was particularly proud of the Adairsville team after the Class 3A second-round playoff game at Jackson when the Tigers advanced with a 34-16 win.
“Walking into the game, I wasn’t real sure, just because of how athletic Jackson was,” Childers said of the game. “I knew, on the mental aspect and the football soundnesss, I knew that we could play with them. But being up in the press box and watching them boys win that game and really dominate the whole first half, it was really special to watch those kids mature and build on what me and other guys in my class had started. It’s just real fun to watch something be successful that you helped build.”