Football asks for a unique level of resolve, dedication and sacrifice from its participants. One player that has displayed an amazing amount of mental and physical fortitude in order to keep playing the sport is senior defensive end Addison Marshall of Foster (Richmond, Texas).
Marshall works out six days a week. During the summer and into the season you could find him in the weight room or on the field, putting in extra time working on his bull rush. The only day of the week he doesn't workout is when he's at the hospital undergoing chemotherapy.
In the spring of 2009, Marshall felt pain in his ribs and thought it might be from a physical day during spring ball. The X-rays found that he had several cracked ribs, but it wasn't due to impact from practice. It was from a swollen spleen, and subsequent tests revealed that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Since the diagnosis, it's been an arduous battle for Addison and his family. But even through more than two years of trying and tiring medical treatments, Marshall's passion for the game remains bright.
For his indomitable spirit and passion to play on in the face of this very real challenge in life, Marshall was recently named the winner of the 2011 Insperium Football Awards. The award celebrates outstanding young athletes, not because of their statistical performance, but because of their ability to inspire teammates, classmates, families and communities.
"I was in shock when I heard I won the award," said Marshall. "I know that there are many other people out there with challenges, I was just honored to be a finalist. It was a really great feeling to win."
One of the greatest rewards Marshall found on his journey was the opportunity to get back on the field and play in the second half of the final game of his senior season this past fall in a 49-28 win over Brazosport (Freeport, Texas). It was an opportunity earned by the unending desire to get back on the gridiron and enjoy the game he loves so much.
It's time to Get Familar with Addison Marshall.
ESPNHS: When did you first start playing football and what do you love most about being a football player?
Marshall: I started playing Pop Warner at six. And I was a defensive end even then; it's just always been my position. My favorite part of the game is the camaraderie that builds with all the time and work everyone puts in together. Being out there everyday at practice, you really build lifelong bonds. And it's just a stress reliever. All you think about is working on your game and nothing else matters. There's no way to really describe how football feels or to really describe how special it can be if you haven't done it.
ESPNHS: Your family had to move to Texas from Louisiana after Katrina destroyed your home, what was that experience like?
Marshall: It was really hard on me at the time; just having to move so suddenly you lose all your friends and I had to kind of start over new. It was a tough adjustment for all of us, but in the long run I believe Texas has been really good for me and my family.
ESPNHS: Speaking of Texas, how fun and unique is the football culture?
Marshall: Nothing beats high school football in Texas. It's almost a religion down here. But the feeling you get hearing the band play, the crowd cheer, seeing the cheerleaders and running out of the tunnel is just amazing. I know when the national anthem begins that it's about to get real, and it's time to put your helmet on and get ready to play some football.
ESPNHS: You worked for months to get back onto the field your senior season. What was that like to be able to enjoy all that hard work and play again?
Marshall: It was 100 percent adrenaline. I didn't even think it was happening at the time. Once I got out there and calmed myself, it was like riding a bike. You never forget how to play. But I also made sure to always get my mental reps when I was off the field; watching film, working with coaches, because I knew I would eventually get back on the field, and I didn't want it to blindside me. It was an awesome feeling to play.
ESPNHS: Given how positive and strong you have been throughout the challenges you've faced, what is some advice you might offer to people going through a tough time with their health?
Marshall: You have to set goals for yourself and work and push yourself everyday to become better. Each day is an opportunity to be better. Know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can't see it now, it will come. And it will be so sweet when it does.
Food: Grilled chicken and sweet potatoes
Music: Kenny Chesney to relax and rap to workout
Team: Denver Broncos
Players: Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil
College plans: Heading to Texas A&M to major in physical therapy