Nov. 13, 2005
Imagine you are a college freshman on your first day of school and you are thinking about how great your four years are going to be.
If you’re a freshman football player, you are also gearing up for your first collegiate game that will set the tone for the next few seasons.
After a breakout freshman season, you then have even greater expectations for your sophomore season. Those football
expectations, however, can change with one blink of the eye, or in football terms, one snap of the ball.
This is what happened to senior Marcello Church during preseason drills in 2002. He was at practice when all of a sudden he felt a sharp pain in his hand. He would soon discover he had a broken hand and a broken finger that required a surgical procedure that would place six screws into his hand. Because of this, he missed his sophomore season.
For most people, this type of injury would be discouraging, but Church did not allow this to affect him negatively.
“It’s an experience that I have never had before,” Church said. “I really didn’t know how to handle it, but I took it as if it would make me better in a way since everybody goes through the same thing when they are injured. I guess it was my time to go through something. I took it as a learning experience to get stronger.”
Church went on a rehabilitation adventure to gain the use of his hand and earn back his spot on the squad. He remained
positive during this journey and kept thinking to himself, `I am going to overcome this and be even better.’
One of the positives of his rehabilitation was that he could do it all at Florida State University’s Moore Athletics Center training facility with a training staff that already knew what he was about and how hard he wanted to gain back the use of his hand.
Church’s rehabilitation ranged from daily to sometimes weekly therapy. For most of his workouts he would work closely with the training staff on small equipment such as utilizing a squishy sponge ball which he would squeeze to work the muscles in his hand.
As a result of all the therapy, today his hand is at about 95 percent with a little pain here and there, but he considers
it to be stronger.
He has the mindset that has allowed him to fulfill his job requirement of sharing the linebacker duties.
His statistics show a vast improvement from his true freshman season to his now senior season that can be attributed to
his off-the-field experience.
During his true freshman season in 2001, he blocked an important punt in the Gator Bowl that proved pivotal in the win versus Virginia Tech. For the season, he was 23rd on the team with 14 tackles, including eight unassisted and six assisted, in 10 games.
Church was named the most improved player during the 2003 spring drills after missing the 2002 season. He made his return to the field memorable by playing in all 13 games and accumulating 13 total tackles, including nine unassisted and four assisted tackles, with his career high of three tackles at Notre Dame. Probably the most memorable recognition of this season was being recognized as the Kicking Game Player of the Week by the coaching staff following the win over NC State.
His junior year was full of many career-high statistics that showed that his hard work and dedication had paid off. He finished the season with a career-high 26 total tackles, including four and a half tackles for loss and one sack. He played in 11 games and had his best game of the season against Virginia, when he recorded five tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss.
This season, he shares linebacker duties with fellow senior A.J. Nicholson and adds experienced depth at both weak-side and strong-side linebacker, which makes him one of the key reasons Florida State’s linebackers are ranked as
the best unit in the country. Heading into the season, he ranked seventh among the returning players with 26 recorded tackles in 2004.
He also is a valuable special teams’ performer. Marcello hopes no player has to endure the struggles of overcoming a season-ending injury, but in the game of football, unfortunately, injuries are common.
Through his own experience he had this advice: “Take it as a lesson. God did it for a reason and even if you can or can’t understand why it happened, then this will be your motivation to learn how to pick yourself up.”
By Meghann Reilly
FSU Sports Information