Joe DeMarco (37) has been a stalwart for St. Xavier. | Supplied photo
In his first two seasons with St. Xavier University’s football team, playing time was sparse for junior defensive back Joe DeMarco.
This year, though, injuries have plagued the Cougars’ secondary, and DeMarco has been thrust into a more prominent role for St. Xavier, which was ranked No. 10 in the country in the NAIA heading into the second weekend of October.
“It’s very exciting,” DeMarco said. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to show what I can do and show I can play. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to. You never want to see anyone get hurt, but I know it’s my chance to step up and help the team.”
DeMarco, a Chicago Ridge native who prepped at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, had 15 tackles through the first five games of this season. He recorded a career-high five tackles in an Oct. 5 loss to Grand View (Iowa) and was on the field most of the game as a safety.
“We’ve been hit with some injuries and that’s part of the game,” St. Xavier coach Mike Feminis said. “We need guys to step up and fill those roles.”
While spending most of his time as a defensive reserve and special-teams player through his freshman and sophomore seasons, DeMarco worked hard to improve. He said his biggest progression has been in his mental game.
“I’ve become a lot smarter as a player,” he said. “I now have a better idea what the offense is going to do and how to react. I’d still like to improve my man-on-man coverage. I feel like I’m doing all right with zone blitzing and zone coverage, but I’d like to get better with man on man.”
For DeMarco, picking a college was easy after his days at Richards were done.
“St. Xavier was close to home,” he said. “I was able to stay and live with my parents. I saw what they had going on and knew they were building something special. It was a perfect fit. It was a great decision.”
As a freshman, DeMarco was part of the squad that won the first national championship in St. Xavier history. Last season, the Cougars reached the national semifinals.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s been a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
It’s an experience that DeMarco hopes will continue to improve.
“I just want to keep getting better on the field,” he said. “I want to improve and make sure I don’t miss any more tackles.”