For a long time, Vanderbilt was pretty much all Chris Marve knew.
Mississippi State’s new defensive run game coordinator and linebackers coach, who was officially hired earlier this month, spent the last decade playing for and then coaching the Commodores. The 30-year old Marve’s Vanderbilt roots were strong. However a call from MSU head coach Joe Moorhead and a prior relationship with Bulldogs defensive coordinator proved to be enough to entice Marve to expand his professional horizons when State was looking for a replacement for former linebackers coach Tem Lukabu, who left MSU to become linebackers coach for the National Football League’s Cincinnati Bengals.
“Coach Joe Moorhead is a phenomenal coach,” Marve said. “He’s had success everywhere he’s been. Also, I have a phenomenal relationship with coach Bob Shoop. We’ve known each other since the winter of 2011. Our families are close. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person and professionally. I’ve always admired the way he went about his business. With both him and coach Moorhead, I thought it was a good opportunity.”
Marve was playing linebacker for Vanderbilt in 2011 when Shoop was the Commodores defensive coordinator. Marve had a monster season under Shoop. As a senior, Marve had 91 tackles, earned All-Southeastern Conference recognition from both league coaches and the Associated Press and he helped lead the Commodores to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Marve left a big impression on Shoop. Even though Marve has only been through a week of spring practice as a coach at MSU, he’s still impressing his former coach and now coworker.
“(Marve) was a captain for us at Vanderbilt and one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Shoop said. “We’ve always talked about how if the opportunity ever presented itself to work together, we’d like that.
“Literally he’s been on the job a week, and for him to be able to do what he’s done in a week’s time, be up to speed with players’ names, schemes and the recruiting aspect of things, I think everyone is going to find he’s a pretty special guy.”
Marve has inherited arguably one of the SEC’s best groups of linebackers. State returns all its key players from last season, which is a unit led by Erroll Thompson, Leo Lewis and Willie Gay.
Marve recognizes the talent he has at his disposal. He knows his guys’ track records. Yet Marve is determined not to let the unit rest on its laurels.
“Experience helps – particularly in this league,” Marve said. “This league is special and it's the best league in all of college football, so that experience helps, but it is not the trump, if you will. You always have to improve, have a chip on your shoulder in order to make sure you are the best in everything that you do. That is something we've talked about. 2018 happened but that's in the past. I'm not an expert on what happened here a year ago. All I can control is how I coach them now and how they can develop and move forward and the type of players they will be for next season.”
With his past track record as a player and coach – Marve was recognized in 2017 on 247Sports’ 30 Under 30 coaches list – current MSU linebackers can trust their development is in good hands.
Meanwhile, Marve trusts he made the right call coming to Starkville. He said the decision was simplified by the support of his wife. It was also made easy by getting the chance to reunite with Shoop.
Shoop and Marve made for a good combination before, though the roles were a little different. They’re hopeful, nearly a decade later, they can rekindle some magic.
“With coach Shoop being here, our personal relationship carried a lot of weight,” Marve said. “I'm really, really big on my relationships with my colleagues and people that may be on other staffs and even more so with my players. I knew that (Shoop’s) word was true when he called me and talked about the type of place this place is. For him to speak on it highly as he did, it was an easy decision.”