In the sport of football, the term heart is used all the team. In my opinion, it’s often overused.
Football players play hard because they love it. Some play harder than others and some love it more than others. But does that mean one player really has more heart than another?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I do, when it comes to Marc Mariani, heart is a word that can never be overused.
And that’s why myself, and probably a good portion of the entire population of Havre felt like our hearts were breaking when we saw and or heard what happened to Mariani in last Thursday night’s NFL preseason game between the Tennessee Titans and the Arizona Cardinals.
Mariani suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula, an injury that ended his season immediately and, at least according to some doctors, is career-threatening.
The images of Marc’s injury are gruesome and horrifying and I haven’t looked again since the night it happened. And honestly, I probably will never look at them again.
But there’s also some instant images, as well as Mariani’s words in the days following his injury that once again show what a great person, competitor and professional he is.
Many people, as I noticed that in the first few seconds of Mariani’s injury, as he lay in pain on the turf at L.P. Field in Nashville, he continued to clutch the football. The injury happened on a 14-yard punt return in the first quarter, and Mariani, ever the competitor, made sure he maintained possession of the ball, or at least that’s how it appeared.
Mariani was also quoted in the days following the game that before he was even in the ambulance and on his way to the hospital, where he would undergo surgery that night, he asked for a cell phone so that he could call his mother Julie.
“That’s the only thing I could think about, and she was obviously distraught and in a panic,” Mariani told the Tennessean. “I tried to calm her down and let her know it was going to be all right.”
That is vintage Marc. In the years I’ve known him, he’s always been an unselfish person and truly family oriented. And even on what he’ll probably reflect on as one of the worst nights in his young life, he put his own personal pain aside in order to reach out to his family and make sure they were ok.
That’s just one of the millions of reasons why Marc has touched all of us over the years and he’s gotten into our hearts.
And though Mariani was certainly, and understandably devastated by his injury and by the fact that his 2012 season ended before it really began, he’s already showing just how much heart and character he has.
He has remained in good spirits, posting pictures of himself from the hospital and from home in the days following his surgery. He’s made sure to reach out to fans and friends and thank them for all the support he’s received in the last week and he’s made sure to thanks his teammates and coaches for all of their support.
Again, thinking about everybody but himself.
But Mariani is also already thinking on the bright side about his football future too.
He’s not letting an injury, which doctors say can take anywhere from 6-12 months to recover from, get him all the way down, or get in the way of his promising football career.
“It is just another mountain to climb,” he said. “This is a different type of adversity than I’ve ever experienced before, but I know I have to be patient and work through it. I am going to give it all I’ve got. I’m not afraid of battle, I’m not afraid of adversity. I just have to pick myself up, and I know I have a lot of support.
“It is a bummer and it is devastating that my year ended so soon,” Mariani said. “… But I am definitely not going to get down on myself. I am going to have full optimism and full confidence that it’s going to be back 100 percent. My plan is to get back on the field.”
Marc has had a smile on his face for as long as I can remember. And he’s certainly seemed to be smiling through the last three years and this incredible NFL journey he’s been on.
But right now, Marc deserves not to smile more than about anybody I know. He deserves, if not for a while, to wallow in a little self pity. To ask the vaunted questions “why me?”. He deserves to feel sorry for himself.
But that’s just not who Marc Mariani is. That’s not what he does. Marc Mariani preservers, he welcomes challenges and he meets adversity head on, and he does it with a smile.
And that’s what he’s doing with this injury. He’s moving forward and taking it as a challenge. And we all know, he’ll do it with that great smile on his face.
Once again, Marc Mariani is teaching me another life lesson. He’s showing what it means to have heart, and he’s showing us all how to pick ourselves up and keep on living.