The Cardinals with a Purple Heart: Abbott takes message of motivation to children

Published 11:40 pm Saturday, February 13, 2016

It’s no secret that Port Arthur’s Marcus Abbott holds one of the greatest distinctions an American can have — recipient of the Purple Heart Medal.

On a football team where much of the limelight shines on the nation’s leading rusher, Abbott’s story, whch has garnered national attention in past months, means so much more. But during this offseason, as the Lamar Cardinals gear for seventh spring session under coach Ray Woodard, the 27-year-old defensive lineman is doing more than keeping himself in shape for his redshirt sophomore season. He’s taking a motivational message to youths in Southeast Texas.

“It’s just something that happened,” Abbott said. “I enjoy doing it, but I didn’t plan on doing it.”

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The Clear Creek Independent School District’s Bay Area Alliance for Youth and Families heard about Abbott’s military story and invited him to speak to at-risk teens at Clear View High School in Webster on Thursday. His message was “Not why me, but try me,” aimed at motivating youths to stay positive and overcome hardships.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to blame anyone about my situation,” Abbott told the students. “How could I blame anyone about being injured in Afghanistan? I’m the one who walked into the recruiter’s office and signed the papers. I made that decision.”

Abbott decided to join the U.S. Army following graduation from Memorial High in 2007, after long dreaming of playing Division I football. He earned scholarship offers from junior colleges, but none from the highest division as he dealt with a knee injury. He didn’t realize that his pathway to Division I at the time could have been through the junior college route.

“I kept telling myself I wanted to play for LSU or Iowa State, and I just didn’t want to drop that low,” Abbott said.

Three years later he was deployed to Afghanistan. Within three months there, he was on a “normal” patrol with his squad down a busy market street when the squad made a left turn and went down an empty and quiet road. An improvised explosive device hit Abbott.

Abbott was awarded the Purple Heart, a military medal presented in the President’s name to those wounded or killed while serving. Abbott sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“It was pretty difficult trying to get back to normal, but I kept going back to treatment,” he said. “They give you tools so you can cope with what’s going on.”

Sadly, Abbott’s two best friends were killed in separate IED explosions early the following year. He left the Army in February 2013.

His weight at the time rising to 330 pounds, Abbott decided to return to football shape in hopes of playing Division I football. Lamar invited him to walk on for the 2014 season, which he redshirted, but a turf toe sustained in Week 5 forced him to miss the rest of this season after seeing limited action. Abbott has yet to record any stats.

Despite a 5-6 season, the Cardinals enjoyed a campaign that brought them more national attention, thanks to the outstanding rushing of Kade Harrington. The junior led the Football Championship Subdivision with 2,092 rushing yards, and for that the city of Beaumont is proclaiming this coming Tuesday as Kade Harrington Day with a program at city hall at 1:30 p.m.

Abbott will share his message with students at Lincoln Middle School in Port Arthur on Feb. 29 as part of its Black History program. Meanwhile, he’s excited taking the field with a new defensive coordinator in Trey Haverty.

“He’s defensive-minded and it’s very similar to the defense we ran at Memorial,” Abbott said.

Information from Lamar sports information was used in this article.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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