Marc Anthony wasn’t accustomed to waiting for his opportunity to shine.
As a four-star recruit coming out of Phoenix, Ariz., Anthony spent his entire life as an elite player. From the day his coach switched him to cornerback his freshman year, Anthony’s talent alone earned him the admiration of coaches and subsequent playing time.
So when head coach Jeff Tedford asked him to redshirt his freshman year, Anthony was far from pleased.
The following year was hardly an improvement, as Anthony saw limited action in eight games.
“It wore me down, man,” Anthony says. “It threw me off a little bit. It was definitely something I had to fight against. But I made sure when I got my chance to play, I took advantage.”
Anthony is a redshirt senior and the captain of the defense. He’s started every game since his sophomore year, appearing in more games than almost anyone else on the roster. He’s the tested veteran, the trusted leader, the wise sage.
But his journey toward maturity certainly didn’t begin that way.
As a high school junior, Anthony received offers from multiple schools, including Michigan and Nebraska. Anthony saw instant success as an exceptionally quick and athletic freshman, his size ideal for a college cornerback.
The offers affirmed Anthony’s confidence in his abilities as a Division I-caliber player.
His placement in some recruiting services as one of the top 100 seniors in the nation even further inflated his confidence.
Anthony arrived at Cal in the fall of 2008 with the expectation to make an immediate contribution.
“I was supposedly one of the top players in the nation and wanted to contribute in any way possible,” Anthony says.
Tedford had other ideas, however; Anthony was forced to spend the year with the less highly-touted recruits, honing his skills in hopes of obtaining playing time once he hit the field the following season.
Anthony emerged from the preseason with a discouraged spirit and a chip on his shoulder.
“I was kind of disappointed,” Anthony says. “I really didn’t take responsibility for myself. I blamed everybody around me instead of looking at myself to turn things around.”
Anthony didn’t help himself off of the field, either; he lost further approval from the coaches by skipping classes and tutoring sessions.
Anthony’s poor behavior likely cost him playing time during his freshman season. Although Anthony was talented, the coaches at Cal had no tolerance for someone lacking personal discipline.
The animosity waned with the passing of time, and Anthony vowed to halt the mental mistakes dragging his career in a negative direction.
“You just have to go through your reps and focus on getting better,” Anthony says. “Just keep asking questions and identifying the flaws in your game.”
Anthony’s renewed focus resulted in a starting gig his sophomore year.
Dedication to his craft replaced immature sulking, and Anthony found sustained success midway through the season.
He picked up his first career interception against Arizona State in the sixth game of 2010, a moment he considers the highlight of his career.
But it took a few games to get the hang of it.
“I was very nervous,” Anthony says. “Starting in front of that many people in Memorial Stadium is kind of nerve-wracking.
“I messed up a couple of times, but eventually you just have to buckle down and maintain focus.”
Reflecting on his two years spent on the bench, Anthony views the time as a period of personal growth.
“It definitely humbled me a lot,” Anthony says. “It really taught me the value of fighting through adversity and working hard until good things come to you.”
Anthony finished the 2010 season by starting every game but the Big Game, leading the team in interceptions and finishing third on the team in pass breakups.
The 2011 season brought even greater success, as Anthony started every game and tied for the team lead in pass breakups. Anthony began to garner attention from NFL scouts.
This season, Anthony leads the team in ways that won’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet. Before the games, Anthony and three of his fellow seniors walk to midfield as captains for the coin toss.
During practice and lifting sessions, Anthony brings it upon himself to serve as a positive influence for the younger players.
He encourages the underclassmen to look past small mistakes and focus on the bigger picture. And he teaches the importance of fighting through adversity on the field and distractions off of it.
The increase in responsibility brings additional burdens as well.
As a leader and star defender, teammates and coaches count on him to be the beacon of consistency. This also means that he feels more personally responsible for the failures of the team than almost anyone else.
“Losses get on me tough because this is my last year here, and I never get any of these games back,” Anthony says. “It dawns on me every time I leave the field.
“But I can’t get too wrapped up in it because I gotta focus on the week in front of me.”
While the season persists, Anthony remains focused on the day-to-day grind of preparing for the upcoming opponent.
With no bye weeks, his thoughts rarely drift from whoever he’s assigned to cover on Saturday.
But when the season ends, Anthony’s NFL dreams will inevitably cross his mind. Anthony hopes to impress the scouts with his play but understands the path toward the pros is a difficult one.
“I’m working hard every day and trying to do what I can to impress the people at the next level,” Anthony says. “I try to achieve a certain level of respect and attempt to stay humble.”
Obstacles are inevitable.
But Anthony leaves Berkeley with priceless humility and the scars of adversity, forever prepared for the struggle.
Michael Rosen covers football. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.