Sept. 2, 2010
Playing a man down
By Bryan Boettcher
The 2009 Northwest Missouri State football season was filled with the highest of highs - another perfect run through the MIAA, home playoff wins against Abilene Christian and California and the program's third national championship. But in between his 38-yard interception return for a touchdown at Arrowhead Stadium and his five tackles against Grand Valley State in the finale, Bearcat safety Marcus Martin experienced the lowest of lows - the loss of his father, Steve.
A father of four sons and a daughter, Steve was diagnosed with stomach cancer last August. Two months later, he was gone.
"I remember playing basketball with my dad last Fourth of July at our uncles' place," said Martin. "About a month later, he started getting pains in his stomach and we didn't know what was wrong with him."
Despite the diagnosis, Steve and his wife, Patricia, continued to make the two-and-a-half hour trip from Holden, Mo., to Maryville to watch their son play football. Steve stayed positive throughout Marcus recalled, but he could tell his father's condition was deteriorating.
"I went home after our game against Emporia State and when I saw my dad on Sunday, he was fine," said Martin. "That Tuesday, I got a call from my sister, Janise, after one of my position meetings and she said dad wasn't doing well.
|Martin returned an interception for a score at last year's Fall
Classic at Arrowhead Stadium.
Steve's funeral was Friday, a day before Northwest's homecoming contest with Washburn. It was the only game Martin missed last season.
"The day before my dad died, he told me whatever happens that I had to keep moving and create my own life," said Martin. "I took his advice. Football kept me occupied and kept my mind off of things."
Martin averaged five tackles in his final six games of the 2009 season. He had a career-best eight stops in Northwest's win against top-ranked Central Washington and finished the year as the Bearcats' 10th-leading tackler.
Marcus is the second eldest of the five Martin children. His older brother, Steven, played safety in high school, continued his career at Missouri Valley and served as inspiration for Marcus to attend college. That inspiration was challenged two days before Marcus was set to begin his first collegiate football practice five years ago.
"(Former Northwest assistant coach Bart) Tatum called me and told me we had a problem," said Martin. "He said I didn't pass the clearinghouse, that I was an English class short. He said I could stay in Holden, take an English class at a community college and then transfer to Northwest or I could come to Maryville now and join the team in a year."
Marcus wasn't recruited heavily from Holden despite playing both sides of the ball and rushing for nearly 2,000 yards as a senior. He wasn't even sure he wanted to attend college.
"My dad was the big sports guy," said Martin. "Go to college, he said, work out, work hard and you will be rewarded. My parents told me to keep my head up, get good grades and return to the field in a year. I decided to move to Maryville."
Marcus made his collegiate debut in front of a packed crowd at Bearcat Stadium in August of 2007. Even then Mother Nature forced him to wait a little longer as lightning cancelled Northwest's opener with Arkansas Tech before a quarter could be played.
"I did really well the first five minutes," said Martin. "I recovered a fumble for a touchdown and later forced another fumble. Inside though, my heart was pounding. I couldn't feel my legs because of all the adrenaline and then there was the crowd. I went from 150 fans in high school to more than 5,000 - it was kind of scary."
Thirty-six games, 104 tackles and a national championship ring later, Martin is set to begin his final season. At long last, he'll do so as a starter with his family watching from the stands and with his dad watching from the skies. In December, he'll graduate with a degree in corporate recreation and wellness and hopes to become a personal trainer in Denver with his friend and former teammate, Thomas Smith. He will take his dad's advice, keep moving forward and create his own life.
For more information, please contact:
Phillip Dowden, Media Relations/Sports Information
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