Over the last few weeks, as I gear up for another football season, I’ve been overwhelmed with thoughts of nostalgia about my own career. Officially, this will be my 13th season around the game of football. I actually didn't start playing organized football until I was in 8th grade. I played all 4 years in high school, survived all 5 years in college (I red-shirted my freshman year), and coached 2 seasons after I was done playing.
To some people, 13 could be looked at as such a petty number. There are countless individuals who have coached for 20 years, been with a company for 30, or taught at the same school for 35. For me, the years are important. Those who are truly invested become better over time, and I know I will too.
What I love most about sports, and football, in particular, are the possibilities. If you would’ve watched me play football when I was a freshman, we’ll you wouldn’t have seen much because I hardly got put in the game. And rightfully so, I was what coaches call a “liability”. I was petite, lacked the necessary physical traits, struggled to tackle, and without much experience, I didn't have a whole lot of confidence.
I firmly believe confidence plays a tremendous role in anything we accomplish in life. I’m very confident in the father I am and husband I aspire to be, and it shows in my ability to communicate with my daughter and fiancé. Think of a few areas that you are extremely confident in, what caused you to harness such certainty in this one particular area?
In 2002, my H.S. head coach, T.J. Plack, boosted my confidence to a level even he wasn't quite aware of. That is until about a month ago when I decided to share this story with him. Regardless of your role; coach, teacher, manager, parent, spouse, sibling, friend, we underestimate the power of our words to the nth degree.
Throughout my junior season, the year I’m referring to, I was tested...a lot. I was playing good, but nowhere close to what I felt I was capable of. A big game against Seton LaSalle High School drew a matchup against one of Pennsylvania’s best QB/WR duos, Anthony Doria and Joe DelSardo. Joe, a senior wide receiver, was committed to the University of Pitt, and I had my hands full chasing him around the field all night.
Little did I know, in the 2nd quarter of that game, my life would change forever. Doria, Seton's quarterback, had just dropped a beauty over my head into the outstretched arms of DelSardo, the second touchdown I gave up that night. Feeling defeated, I looked over towards the bench to see if Coach Plack would be motioning for me to come out and give someone else a chance.
I’ll never forget looking him right in the eyes as he yelled, “Marques! You better quit looking over here because I’m not taking you out!”
It was at that moment a weight was shifted from my entire being, I felt lighter, faster, and more importantly free. It turned out my coach believed that, even though I was struggling, I was still the right man for the job.
I finished the 2nd half of the game without giving up another touchdown. And as I finished out the season strong, those words catapulted me into my offseason workouts. After an extreme physical, and mental, transformation, I finished my senior year ranked as one of the 8 best defensive backs in the state of Pennsylvania.
13 words. That’s all Coach Plack said to me. You have the power to impact someone like that too, and maybe you already have!
Every day, we have the option to build people up, tear people down, or do nothing. Help take someone to a level they never dreamed of, speak life into what they are passionate about. You never know how long they'll remember your words. Maybe 16 years will pass, and they’ll decide to share their story with anyone willing listen...or read!