Kansas State University

Kansas State University

By: D. Scott Fritchen

Alec Marenco never thought he would play football at Kansas State. The desert was his home. El Paso, Texas, to be exact. But the middle linebacker transfer from New Mexico, who graduates Saturday, is eager to arrive in Manhattan to help the Kansas State defense in 2024.

“I wore purple in high school, and now I wear purple K-State,” said Marenco, who will have one year of eligibility remaining. “I wouldn’t have thought I’d be playing there three or four years ago. I’m a mama’s boy, but you have to grow as a person and sometimes take a leap of faith.

“They were competitive and won the 2022 Big 12 championship. Hopefully we get the Big 12 championship next year.”

The 6-foot-3, 229-pound Marenco led New Mexico with 66 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three pass breakups and two pass hurries last season en route to the honorable mention All-Mountain West. honors. He started 10 of 12 games played despite missing playing time during games due to injury.

As a sophomore in 2022, he made nine tackles in his first career start against LSU. He finished with 26 tackles before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in the sixth game of the season.

“When I tore my ACL my sophomore year, I was in great shape,” Marenco says. “In my opinion, it’s made me a better player for overcoming injuries. You can overcome setbacks in life. As bad as it is to tear your ACL and miss a season, it’s about getting through the difficult times of finding yourself and who you should be. This is the character I built from there, becoming the man I am now.


Marenco 24 SE

Marenco received interest from K-State, Arizona and Auburn when he entered the transfer portal. But K-State was the first school to offer him a spot on the team. He visited K-State in late April and met with K-State’s head coach. Chris Kliemandefensive coordinator Joe Klanderman and linebackers coach Steve Stanard.

“Their 3-3-5 defense is basically the same one we used at New Mexico, but with this 3-3-5 under Coach Klanderman, there are a lot more schemes based on the gaps,” explains Marenco. “Having those three big linemen to disrupt the offense, it’s easier for those linebackers because you don’t have to blitz every time. You can read your gap and you’re able to play more technical.”

Marenco strives to emulate NFL linebackers Fred Warner, Bobby Wagner and Dre Greenlaw.

“I’m a downhill linebacker, and it’s violent, it’s a violent sport,” Marenco said. “Being able to be violent and punish someone between the lines, to bring the physicality and the knowledge of three years of film studies and to take what I learned and integrate it into another program in my fourth year of football, having veteran wisdom is invaluable.

The learning curve started early for Marenco, who was a standout linebacker while also playing wide receiver, kicker, punter and, sometimes, quarterback at Burges High School in El Paso. He had 113 tackles, including 6.0 tackles for a loss, and had 17 catches for 253 yards. He names Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones, a Burges High alum, as one of his mentors.

“Burges is in our blood,” he says. “We had the great Aaron Jones there. He was a great mentor of mine, a humble guy who worked for it. He was an underdog all through high school. He only had one offer to college. UTEP, then he joined the league, so with him it’s constant discussions, understanding him and being able to get wisdom from him.

“Burges is not just a school but it’s a lifestyle, and you have to be that outsider who could (succeed).”

Marenco believes that talented players are often overlooked in El Paso, which fuels the coals of competitiveness. He received scholarship offers from Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, UTEP and New Mexico.

“I went to New Mexico because I was 17 and going to college and needed to find my identity,” he says. “When I was a kid, it was something very important to me.”

Marenco 24 SE

Although he obtained his bachelor’s degree in commerce at the age of 20, he is more mature than his years.

“I want to prove that I can play, and that a little kid from El Paso, a 3-star recruit, can compete with 5-stars, and that I can play, and that K-State made the right decision.” he says.

He traces how it all began and what he learned along the way.

“It’s a dream, you know, to play in the Power 5,” he said. “Everyone always talks about playing at a big school. I took a different path. Working to get there and proving myself and playing at a higher level, it just means something more. The coaching staff made me feel like Kansas State was home from the start, I’m excited to get to work.”