New York QB overcomes family tragedy to star on field

Cameron Smith
September 15, 2010

Marlon Marcelle helped Boys & Girls (N.Y.) High School rally from a 12-point halftime deficit last Saturday, leading the Kangaroos to a 20-18 win over DeWitt Clinton in his first game as a starting quarterback.The senior's poise might have impressed some -- he threw a late 37-yard touchdown pass to tie the game -- but those around Marcelle know what he's overcome to just keep alive and on track is much more striking.

According to a feature by the New York Daily News' Mark Lelinwalla, Marcelle watched his mother, stepmother and father all die of tragic medical complications within the first 17 years of his life. Almost immediately after his father's death, Marcelle's aunt, Joanne Marcelle, moved in to the family home, and has raised Marcelle and his two older siblings ever since.

The years of health torment started when Marcelle was only 4. After watching his mother pass out on the bathroom floor, Marcelle ran to a neighbor's house to get help, but paramedics couldn't reach her in time to save her from a massive brain hemorrhage.

Marcelle then moved in with his father, Larry Marcelle, and stepmother, and the next seven years passed without any major troubles. Then, just as soon as his life had slowed into a normal rhythm, his stepmother was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer. She died after two years of in-home care, leaving Marcelle's father to raise his children alone.

Larry Marcelle did that ably for a year, all while balancing a job as a transit worker with New York City's Metro Transit Authority. But when Marlon was just a year into high school, his father went in for a routine colonoscopy and suffered complications that were anything but routine. Hours after he originally entered the Brook Plaza walk-in clinic in Brooklyn, Larry Marcelle was rushed to the emergency room and died shortly thereafter.

"It was Sept. 22 [2008], and I got a call [from the clinic] saying, ‘We've taken him to the nearest emergency room,'" Joanne Marcelle told the New York Daily News. "I went to the emergency room and it was the worst day of my life ... he was dead."

Without any guardians, Marlon Marcelle had no idea what would happen to him, and he feared being put in the state's care.

"I thought it was over for me ... I didn't know what was going to happen to me," Marlon Marcelle told the Daily News. "I thought I was going to be taken away."

Instead, his aunt stepped in and provided the stability Marcelle needed to continue with high school and, starting in his junior year, with varsity football. Marcelle served as Boys & Girls High School's backup quarterback last season, after starting for the school's junior-varsity team as a sophomore. He says that football has provided a welcome distraction from his troubles, and has dedicated his senior season to all three of his parents who are now gone.

And perhaps most significantly, Marcelle says he appreciates all his aunt has done to help him grow up the way that his father wanted.

"She moved in right away for me," Marlon Marcelle told The Daily News.

Joanne Marcelle, in turn, is content knowing that her brother would be proud of his son's ability to persevere.

"I'm just trying to complete my brother's legacy and what he created," Joanne said. "Marlon has been a comfort for me. He says, ‘We're going to be okay.' I'm so proud of him." [...]

Whatever happens, Marlon has persevered, earning solid grades and emerging as a leader on the gridiron.

"That's what my brother would have wanted," Joanne said. "Marlon's father would be so proud."

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