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Published: Friday, 10/29/2004

The polite warrior: Waugh a throwback player for St. John's

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Yes sir, Maucus Waugh has rushed for 781 yards with 12 touchdowns and is a devastating defender for the 6-3 Titans. Yes sir, Maucus Waugh has rushed for 781 yards with 12 touchdowns and is a devastating defender for the 6-3 Titans.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

If Marcus Waugh was not a present-day student and football player at St. John's Jesuit, his versatile demeanor might easily blend into the culture of a bygone era.

Off the field, the 5-11, 230-pound fullback/linebacker's well-mannered presence brings to mind overly polite TV characters like Wally Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver, or Richie Cunningham from Happy Days.

On the field, Waugh transforms into real-life 1950s football icon Chuck Bednarik. Dubbed "The 60-minute Man," the Philadelphia Eagles' Hall of Fame lineman was regarded as one of pro football's toughest players ever, and was the NFL's last full-time two-way player.

This Cleaver-to-Bednarik connection is an odd mix perhaps, but Titans coach Doug Pearson won't argue that it fits his senior standout, who was also an All-Ohio punter last season.

"I think Chuck [Bednarik] would love Marcus," Pearson said. "I think he'd like the way he plays the game. He's a driven young man, he plays his best in big games, and works hard and makes everyone around him better."

Waugh - who has rushed for 781 yards and scored 12 TDs this season in addition to being the Titans' defensive leader - is fully aware of his old-school presence.

"I feel like I am a throwback, but that's just our family tradition," he said of his father and older brother. "We've always been hard-nosed players in everything we do. It's 100 percent or don't do it at all. I think that's what sets players apart."

Of course, being a true throwback like Bednarik means playing with pain, something Waugh has done on several occasions because of shoulder injuries.

"Last year in the regional finals he dislocated his shoulder in the first half," Pearson said. "We got [the swelling] reduced and he came up to me and said, 'I don't think I can run the ball, but I can block for [tailback Dorian] Milletti.'

"Dorian got the school record for carries and yardage in that game, and we beat Wadsworth. That's the kind of guy Marcus is. He wants the team to do well first."

As for the off-the-field Waugh, there are no "yo, dudes" or "wazzups" rolling off his tongue. Instead, he is quick with a "Yes sir" or "No ma'am."

"Marcus is one of the most polite young men you'll ever meet,'' Pearson said.

"I think he becomes an animal when he laces up his [football] shoes."

The good manners can be attributed to his mother, Pam Waugh, who, according to father, Tom Waugh, is a stickler for good manners and respect.

"My mom and dad always taught me to make sure I say 'yes sir, no sir' or 'yes ma'm, no ma'm' to every older person I meet," Waugh said. "I think it's more of a respect thing for me. I like to show respect for everyone I meet."

Waugh gets his work ethic from his dad, but his arrival as one of northwest Ohio's top high school football talents comes from his desire to excel at the game he loves.

Waugh may have fallen short of his ultimate dream - following in the footsteps of Tom, an All-Big Ten center at Ohio State - but reached his goal of securing a Division-I college football scholarship when he committed to Cincinnati before the season.

Tom Waugh was a senior captain for the Buckeyes in 1979, when an 11-1 OSU team - coached by Earle Bruce and quarterbacked by Art Schlichter - came up a point shy of a national championship in a 17-16 Rose Bowl loss to Southern California.

But whether it be at OSU or Cincinnati, it seems that Marcus Waugh was destined to play the game.

For seven straight years, Tom recalls, Marcus dressed up as a football player for Halloween. It was around that time that he became the ballboy for the Anthony Wayne football team, which included his older brother Michael as a receiver/defensive back and his dad as an assistant coach.

Before the family relocated to Phoenix because of Tom's job with BAX Global, Pam remembers Marcus scoring 17 touchdowns as a seventh-grader for the Anthony Wayne junior high team.

At Desert Vista High School, Marcus started on the varsity as a freshman and sophomore on teams that reached Arizona's big-school playoffs.

With Tom taking a transfer back to northwest Ohio in May of 2003, Marcus enrolled at St. John's to finish his sophomore year. Last fall he played a big part as the Titans capped a 10-4 season in the Division I state semifinals.

"Marcus earned respect the first day we hit last year," Pearson said.

"He came out smacking people, and we had a pretty good football team last year. The biggest thing everyone respected was his work ethic."

Pearson marvels at Waugh's approach to sports and training.

Waugh bench presses 410 pounds and has run the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds. Outside of football, Waugh was a City League wrestling champion last winter at 215 pounds, set a school record in the discus, and advanced to the D-I state meet in the shot put last June.

"When Marcus walks on the field or walks into the weight room, everybody ups their game," Pearson said. "When he was in the weight room last winter everybody lifted harder. He's a leader by example, and brought that intensity to the team."

Tonight, Waugh and the Titans play at Whitmer at 7 o'clock. Both teams are 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the City League.

The CL title has already been clinched by St. Francis de Sales, but the St. John's-Whitmer winner earns a Division-I playoff berth.

The loser will play in Thursday's CL Hall of Fame Game against the league's next highest finisher not to make the playoffs.



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