I’ll always remember the timeout huddle that shook me to the core.
I had a unique opportunity as a redshirt to observe our leaders carefully and I watched no one harder than Jonny Marlin.
Everyone knows Jonny for the fearlessness and freedom he plays with on the court; he is intense, and ultra-competitive, yet remains extremely humble in his approach to games. The daily approach that he took meant that everyone on the team listened in when he spoke up.
I was fortunate enough to make 2 state title runs in high school and have learned that every championship team faces some adversity they have to overcome in their journey to the title. I experienced this in high school when our team overcame foul trouble, injuries, and spurts of poor play and still won the title.
Our team at IWU had come out firing on all cylinders in the Elite 8 against York, a Cinderella team out of Nebraska who had upset two teams to make it that far. Up 25 at halftime, we came out in the second half extremely sluggish and York began to slowly cut in to the lead. While it wasn’t time to panic, I became nervous because of what we had seen earlier in the year. This was the type of situation we had let happen all season, when we had not put teams away and instead would let them hang around for far too long, giving them confidence in the process.
When we called a time out, I was expecting Coach Tonagel to come into the huddle yelling at our poor effort. Instead it was Jonny Marlin who came sprinting into the huddle and sat down on Coach T’s stool. With tears welling up in his eyes he emotionally proclaimed, “Guys, I’ve never been to a final four. And I want to, really, really bad!”
It was that sentence that rocked me. This was a guy who had given his all for his team over the course of his career. He was the type of guy who would sit and cheer for 40 minutes if it meant the team would win the game. He is that selfless of a teammate. He really did have an IAm3rd mentality.
In that moment, Jonny put into perspective how much this meant to him, and therefore how much it should mean to all of us. Jonny, along with many other people, had sacrificed a lot to get us to this point, and the opportunity was not to be squandered. I believe it set the tone for the toughness we would play with the rest of the week, and I don’t remember our team taking another play off or myself having another moment of worry or fear the rest of the week!