SALINA —The text message that ended Sequente Marks’ football career at Friends came on a Monday afternoon in March. It was blunt and hit him like a ton of bricks.
“Tay … I want you to be able to settle things in your mind and not drag things out ... I’m not going to change things … you won’t be in the program here … I will help you transfer … or you can keep your scholarship and finish your degree here … I can’t trust that things would change and stay that way tay .. this is final … Coach Lew”
“I’m not going to act like it didn’t hurt,” Marks said. “But where I’m at now, everything that happened after has taught me a lot. A lot about myself and about the people around me.”
Where Marks is today is getting ready for his senior season at KCAC-rival Kansas Wesleyan for second-year coach Matt Drinkall, one of the youngest college football coaches in the country, after three years as a starter at Friends for longtime coach Monty Lewis, the dean of KCAC coaches.
That it’s all one year after Marks, a Southeast High product, established himself as one of the best defensive backs in the nation makes it even stranger. In 2014, Marks took the KCAC by storm with six interceptions for 167 return yards and 18 pass breakups. In three seasons with the Falcons, he racked up 10 interceptions and 32 pass breakups.
Add in the only reason Marks is able to play for the Coyotes this season is because of Lewis’ largesse and, well.…
“I think it just shows what kind of a man Monty Lewis is,” said Drinkall, 32, a former wide receiver at Iowa. “We wouldn’t have taken them if he wouldn’t have been OK with it. He vouched for them as people and as a teammates, and that’s what mattered to me.”
Lewis signed a waiver that made it so Marks, along with starting safety Tyrone Wright, could transfer without having to sit out this season. The KCAC requires in-conference transfers to sit out 16 weeks without the waiver. Marks, Wright and Friends reserve defensive end Marquil Jones-Walker — all Southeast products — will all play for Kansas Wesleyan this year.
“I’m old school, I don’t put up with a lot and when it comes to my captains, I expect a lot more,” Lewis said. “Tay saw things one way, I saw them another. That wasn’t going to change ... but that’s not an indictment of Tay as a person. I want the best for him, so when (Drinkall) told me about what was going on, I was totally fine with it.”
There’s little disagreement about the incident that led to Marks’ dismissal. After a weight-room altercation between assistant coach Christian Trotter and a player led to the player’s dismissal, Marks took the player’s side and talked to Lewis. Lewis took that as a sign of disloyalty.
After several weeks of the two trying to re-forge a relationship that Marks said wasn’t very strong in the first place – and Marks missing several workouts — Lewis made his decision. Marks said he had one other disciplinary issue in his time at Friends, when he was suspended for one game his freshman year by defensive coordinator Matt Welch for poor practice habits.
“At that point, I thought I was just done playing football,” Marks said. “And I was coming to peace with that.”
His high school teammates propped him back up. First, KWU defensive lineman Darius Jiggets, another Southeast product. Then Jones-Walker and Wright.
“To get one more chance to play with the guys I played with in high school was big for me,” Marks said. “We’re close. We’re all living together or right across the street from each other (in Salina).”
Drinkall’s hesitation to bring in the glut of transfers was short-lived because of his own, new-school vetting process.
“It’s not hard to spot a good player on tape,” Drinkall said. “My mom can look at tape and tell you who the best guys are. It’s the other stuff we really care about.”
That means a Sherlock Holmes-type of investigation into social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram — and talking to old coaches. Marks checked out. And the Coyotes got an elite player for their defense.
“He’s a high-level talent, there’s no doubt about that,” Drinkall said. “He can change a game.”
“I’m an in-your-face type of cornerback,” Marks said. “I’m at my best when it’s just me and the receiver out there, just going at it. Who’s gonna go up and get the ball? Who’s going to go out and make the play?”
Marks owes a lot of people for his second chance — his high-school teammates, Lewis and Drinkall — but a lot of it goes back to how he handled his dismissal at Friends. And how he responded to that text message from Lewis.
“Whenever I put on that falcon uniform I always do what’s best for the team. And that’s never changed. But thank you for your consideration coach”