Spencer Marona: Husky For Life

This is a difficult article to write. Having covered this young man's career all the way back from when he was being recruited by Dick Baird, I feel like I've really gotten to know Spencer Marona as more than just a football player. He's a friend and one of the most selfless young men I've had the chance to interact with.

That is why it's difficult to imagine the Husky tunnel without him running through it in full gear. I knew the day was coming, obviously, because after all this is college and he is on pace to graduate with a degree.

However, it is a damn shame for him to have to end his playing career due to injury.

For all of the hard work, for all of the help in recruiting other young talented athletes to come join him at Washington, and for always putting the team needs ahead of his own, Spencer Marona deserved better.

His heart is still very much in it. That warrior that lives in his soul still fights on for the Purple and Gold. However, his shoulders have told him that it is his time to move on and begin life outside of the chalk lines that border the football field.

After four surgeries on both shoulders to repair lingering injuries, Spencer Marona's playing days are now officially over.

Just to recap his career, here is a brief synopsis of what young Mr. Marona did for the Washington Husky football team that probably didn't show up in any statistical books:

1998: Redshirted. Toiled on the scout team as a linebacker, doing a great job of mimicking the opposition's inside linebacker so the first teamers would get quality practice time. Each day Marona would study the opposition's player, learn his tendencies, and then go out and play-act them so the Husky offense would be ready come Saturday when the games began. After practice each night when it got dark, Spencer would hit the weight room to get stronger and pack some weight on his 220-pound frame.

1999: In his first action, Marona saw a lot of special teams play and appeared in every game as Mac Tuiaea's backup at defensive end. The move from middle linebacker was a tough one but Marona never thought about that, only about how it would help the team and its new coaching staff. He had a big tackle for loss against BYU in the season opener and had perhaps the hardest hit of the season when he ran down on the opening kickoff of the Holiday Bowl against Kansas State and absolutely obliterated his man. He was still undersized to be on the defensive front but that just made him work harder. He didn't get any time off after the season, going to work immediately with Steve Emtman to work on building his body to get to 270 pounds.

2000: As a sophomore, Marona got off to a difficult start. As he had spent the entire off-season working out and never got a break from football, he was extremely excited for fall camp to begin. He reported weighing 275 pounds and ready to claim a starting role on the defensive line. His body wasn't able to get used to the extra 50 pounds he had built onto it and his hamstring gave way. It was incredibly frustrating to Marona, who briefly left the team to gain some perspective and clear his head. He returned and rehabbed as best he could but never felt right carrying so much weight. Still, he played the majority of minutes at defensive end while Ryan Julian nursed sore knees.

2001: This past season produced yet another change. In the spring he met with new running backs coach Tony Alford and head coach Rick Neuheisel and asked if he could get a shot at fullback, a position the Huskies had a need and also the same position where Marona had earned all-State honors in high school. He dropped his weight back down to 250 pounds and regained his quickness. He moved up to a starting spot during two-a-days but a shoulder injury slowed his progress. A closer look at the shoulder revealed more damage than originally thought. Since a fullback cannot have a bad shoulder, Marona was once again moved back to defense. Shortly after that move, a return trip to the doctor revealed that both of his shoulders were in need of repair. Marona underwent surgery on both shoulders and was shelved for the season.

Now the medical advice is for Marona to put away the pads for good to prevent long-term damage to his body. If he went through a full rehabilitation and attempted to return, there was risk that he would injure his shoulder so bad that no surgery would restore it to the point where he could pick up his kids (once he starts a family).

"I just finished my fourth surgery on November 29th. The rehab seemed to be going very well but the tissue in my right shoulder is torn so bad, it would require major reconstructive surgery if it happens again. With only one year of football left and not going to the NFL, I decided it was best to hang it up," said Marona of his decision to retire.

Coach Rick Neuheisel had told Marona that he would love to have him as a student assistant coach next year. He would remain on scholarship and work with the younger players while finishing his degree. "That's a wonderful opportunity, he really looks after everyone," said Marona of Neuheisel.

Neuheisel believes that it is a wise decision for Marona to end his playing career now. "He's had so many problems with his shoulders that this is prudent for him (to retire). In the time he has remaining to complete his degree, I would like for him to explore coaching to see if he'd have an interest in that down the road. He'll remain on scholarship and will be a student assistant next fall. He does not count against the 85-scholarship limit."

"Spencer personifies what it means to be a Washington Husky. He worked his tail off and came here to earn a Rose Bowl ring. He now has one. His playing days are now behind him but he is eager to remain involved. That is a win for all of us because his competitive fire will still be on our sideline next fall," said Neuheisel of having Marona as part of the 2002 staff.

Defensive line coach Randy Hart has nothing but praise for his former defensive end. "He played wherever we asked him, but the shoulders won't let him go anymore. I believe that he had one shoulder repaired in high school. To get what he got done here, and the career that he had here, is good. Everyone wants to come in to be a full-time all-American. What most people don't understand is that if you've contributed, you've done well. I think he had a fine career and did a good job. He played at a good level of football on a good team that won a lot of games."

It was a difficult decision for Marona to make, fueled by having to wear a redshirt all season and watch practices and games from the sideline. "It was really frustrating," said Marona.

"I felt like it was my time and that I should've been on the field playing. All of my good friends are out there giving their all for the Huskies. But when you take a step back, I realize that you have to roll with the punches."

He was recruited by Jim Lambright's staff and has no regrets about choosing the Huskies over Illinois and Oregon.

"The Rose Bowl is something that no one can take away from you. (Former UW Linebacker Coach) Dick Baird promised me that I would leave here with a Rose Bowl ring and a degree when he was recruiting me. I'm not too far away from accomplishing that."

Marona had one final message to the Husky fans that have followed his career at Washington. "Tell them that I'll be bleeding Purple and Gold no matter where I am. Tell them that they are the best fans in the country."

Consider it done, young man.

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