A few weeks ago, family and friends gathered at Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse. There, they sat in anticipation and then celebrated the news of Marcus Mariota’s first-round, second-pick draft selection by the Tennessee Titans.
It was a culmination of sorts, of all that Mariota has accomplished — first as a Saint Louis School Crusader here at home, and then as a Duck with University of Oregon.
No one was less surprised than Darnell Arceneaux, Mariota’s former coach at Saint Louis.
“We knew we had a special player,” he says of Mariota. “At an early age, there were some glimpses of stardom. We knew it was there.”
Arceneaux had the chance to spend draft day with Mariota. It was, he says, a tremendous day.
“Just to see one of your former student-athletes, to see his dreams come true — all of his hard work and dedication really paid off,” says Arceneaux.
And all that talk about Mariota being a great person on and off the field? Definitely not hype, according to Arceneaux.
“His mom and dad have done a tremendous job raising their two boys — Matt and Marcus — and you know, it’s genuine,” he says. “What you see is what you get with Marcus.”
These days, Arceneaux coaches quarterbacks and inside slots with Occidental College in Eagle Rock, Calif. This upcoming season will mark his third year with the school. There, he works with a staff that includes head coach Doug Semones and offensive coordinator Brian Smith. It was, Arceneaux says, part of the draw in making the move. In high school, he recalls playing against Semones’ Kahuku team.
“I’m loving it,” says Arceneaux. “I got a chance to learn about myself and also just coaching at the college ranks.”
He’s been a coach for at least 15 years, getting his first head-coaching position in 2003 and doing Pop Warner before that. Throughout the years, Arceneaux has seen his coaching style transform.
“Instead of them having to make all these changes, I’ve really made the change to adapt to how they learn,” he explains.
Despite his job on the Mainland, Arceneaux, who appeared on MidWeek’s May 12, 2004, cover when he and brother Anthony were coaching the Hawaii Islanders of Arena Football League 2, still considers Hawaii home, and only stays in California for football season. Wife Nicole is a teacher in Mililani, while his children — a son and a daughter — attend school here as well.
“Leaving my family is never easy,” he says. “But having a home team like my family and a great head coach in my wife Nicole makes it a lot easier.”
Be on the lookout for Arceneaux’s 15-year-old son Kekoa. He not only already plays varsity football with Punahou School, but also is on the varsity basketball team and runs JV track.
“He’s got some juice in his blood,” says Arceneaux. “Hopefully he’s blessed to have a good athletic career.”