It is hard to avoid comparisons between Desert Edge senior receiver Jihad Marks and his older brother, Elijah. They wear the same number (10), play the same position, and those who know both players describe their play style as similar, too. Merriam-Webster defines his name as “a crusade for a just cause.” His crusade has been to forge his own legacy for the Scorpions.
As a senior in 2013, Elijah set 4A receiving records in receptions (113), receiving yards (2,153) and touchdowns (26) in one season. Each record stands to this day.
Jihad came into Desert Edge early-on as a quarterback but quickly transitioned into receiver after coaches noticed his skill set, meaning he had big shoes to fill. His older brother’s advice, though, was patience.
“As a freshman, people were telling me, ‘You should be on varsity, your brother was this big-time receiver,’ but just like he told me I had to be patient and make my own path,” Jihad Marks said.
That path consisted of an hour walk to and from practice every day in the summers – his father worked night shift and he had no ride to campus – each step allowing him a chance to think about his love for the game. He cherishes every moment on the field, and his hard work has parlayed into him being the top-performing receiver on a talented Scorpion offense that relies heavily on its passing game. Through seven games in 2019, Marks has 54 receptions for 858 yards and eight touchdowns on a team that is 4-3.
Scorpion coach Jose Lucero noticed Marks’ talent during the summer before his junior year. He flashed speed and the ability to find openings in coverage. But, again, just like his brother, he stood out most with his ability to catch a short pass behind the line of scrimmage and make a defender miss on his way to a big gain.
Those screens and dump-offs helped transition in quarterback Adryan Lara, who started on varsity as a freshman that season.
“When you can throw a screen pass and he has the ability to take it 85 yards on any given play, it makes it easier for him (Lara) and for me as a play caller,” Lucero said.
While the two brothers compare in their abilities and production on the field, coaches describe their personalities off of it very differently.
Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock, who led Desert Edge in 2013, described Elijah as a funny guy who would compete as hard as anybody when game day came around.
“You could never get him to be serious, but as soon as you got on the field Friday nights he made you look like a genius,” Wellbrock said.
Jihad is more stoic. In fact, Lucero said it is taking an active effort from Jihad to become more of a vocal leader, despite having the adoration and respect of his teammates.
Even still, Lucero believes his senior receiver has met and exceeded any expectations placed on him, and exemplifies many of the characteristics needed for a great high school football player.
With about half the regular season left, and potentially a playoff run should things go well, Marks is chasing his older brother’s records. However, the numbers are not his main focus. Winning and being a good teammate are.
“I’ve thought about it a couple times, but the reality kicks in that 2,000 yards is pretty ridiculous. I would love to get it, but at the same time I know how hard that is,” Jihad said.
More importantly, Jihad has used the wisdom taken from a family member in his shoes just a few years ago to become a great player, and forge a legacy of his own for the Scorpion football team.
“Like he told me, everything about playing receiver was about patience. If you’re working, you’re going to get yours,” he said.