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Committed To the Right Causes: Wasilewski Left His Mark at UMaine

Jun 4, 2014, 10:41 AM EDT

Commitment is a word often used by former Maine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski. It’s used by him to define what it meant to be a member of the Black Bears’ football program, to describe his work ethic on and off the field, his senior class which won the CAA Football title last fall – even how it related to obtaining his bachelor’s degree, with plans to pursue a master’s degree in the near-future.During his time at Maine, it’s easy to look at Wasilewski’s five-year career and find plenty of parallels between him and the word’s very meaning: the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.For many, that cause or type of obligation can come from anything or at any time. For Wasilewski, the 2013 CAA Football Student-Athlete of the Year and the second-annual winner of the league’s Chuck Boone Leadership Award, it came to fruition following his junior campaign in 2012, his first as a starter and a team captain.The Black Bears disappointed that season with a 5-6 record – one year removed from reaching the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Quarterfinals. While Wasilewski knew plenty of weight would be on his shoulders as the quarterback and leader, he also realized that he needed to re-gain commitment from his fellow classmates in order to set the tone for the rest of the squad.

“The leadership goes as far as the senior class,” Wasilewski said of what he learned about the 2012 campaign. “I did what I could to try and harp on some younger guys to try and be there for the summer, but I think it was just a collective strong group. The strength of our leadership as a whole with this (past) senior year, I mean every senior was up here committed to the program, committed to getting other guys there.”

The dedication for improvement paid off for Maine, as the Black Bears finished atop the CAA Football standings alone for the first time ever following a 10-2 showing during the regular season. Things panned out for the team’s signal-caller as well, who set school records for completions (276), passing percentage (67.5), passing yards (3,238), total offensive plays (565) and total offensive yards (3,770) and was also named by CAA Football coaches a first team all-conference honoree.

Much of that success related to an offseason that coach Jack Cosgrove called “as good as any I’ve seen in my 21 years here at Maine” while acknowledging Wasliewski for spearheading the effort.

“With Marcus out front, the group organized a summer plan that involved virtually our entire football team,” Cosgrove added. “We credit Marcus’s leadership skills as having the most influence on this team-wide commitment.”

Added Wasilewski:  “It was a really good thing to see. I think that’s what coach Cos means when he says it was one of the best he’s seen because not only were we up there committed as a program, but we were having fun. We were bonding and building that brotherhood that we had.  I think that’s one of the main reasons as to why we had so much success last season.”

After Maine’s memorable 2013 season came to a close in the FCS Quarterfinals, the Dean’s List member and four-time Academic All-Conference selection was presented with the ‘M’ Club Dean Smith Award presented annually to the university’s top male and female student-athlete. Plus, he soon earned the league’s aforementioned Student-Athlete of the Year honor with a 3.4 GPA.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Kulpmont, Pa., native graduated cum laude in December with a degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education and chose to stay on campus in pursuit of earning a master’s degree in his undergraduate field.

Wasilewski’s ability to progress individually, both on and off the field, while leading by example is exactly the type of character and attitude CAA Football searches for when awarding the Chuck Boone Award. The process itself is not easy, as each of the conference’s 11 member schools from 2013 put forward a nominee and submitted three letters of recommendation on his behalf.

For those who’ve been around the league, Chuck’s name is synonymous with CAA Football. He was a dual-sport collegiate athlete and long-time coach turned University of Richmond athletic director and even the Executive Director of the Yankee Conference. The award, now in its second year after New Hampshire’s Chris Zarkoskie was tabbed the winner last fall, is presented to the league player who embodies the highest standards of leadership, integrity, teamwork and sportsmanship in his academic and athletic achievements.

“I was just honored,” Wasilewski said during an interview with CAA Football prior to receiving the honor at Maine’s year-end team banquet in early May. “A quarterback’s job is to be a leader. There are a lot of people who could have easily deserved that award as much as I did. My main feeling was just being honored with such a prestigious award like that, to represent such a great conference for our division of football.”

Even as a Black Bear, Wasilewski admitted he was happy to see New Hampshire and Maine players win the honor in back-to-back years.

“It just shows that we come from similar backgrounds, kind of that blue collar attitude, but at the same time just really showing our leadership the best way we can. I read a little bit (about Zarkoskie), once I found out about the award and read some of the stuff that he did and accomplished. Obviously, it was well deserved, and to follow in his footsteps one year after is really great.”

Prior to becoming the go-to-guy under center, Wasilewski understood that he had to continue to develop as football player and a student. That had a lot to with where he came from and why he ultimately chose to come to Orono.

“I think what really drew me to Maine … I come from a pretty family and traditional football town back in Mt. Carmel Pennsylvania, so I literally was looking for that tradition, that family atmosphere,” Wasilewski said. “When I went into the locker room when I got up to Maine (during his recruiting visit), that’s really something that I sensed and that’s something that stuck with me and still has stuck with me throughout the years. That’s something I wouldn’t change if I could go back.”

That family atmosphere fit Wasilewski’s personality well both on and off the field. He soon switched majors during his redshirt freshman year from biology to exercise science and continued to learn how to handle being an athlete as well.

“One of the trainers actually, the head trainer, Ryan Taylor, said you can look into exercise science and still be pre-med,” Wasilewski said. “But I just fell in love with exercise science. That’s what I’m pursuing my masters in now.”

While things started to come together in the classroom as his career progressed, perhaps the most difficult aspect for Wasilewski to grasp on the field was the difference in the learning curve from making the jump to becoming a captain and a leader.

“I think the biggest transition — once you become the starter — obviously you have to put a lot more time into film work, studying your opponent,” Wasilewski said. “As a back-up you have to know your stuff, but not so much as a game plan or as if you were a starter. I learned from Warren Smith and also from Chris Treister (former UMaine quarterbacks), growing up through the system. They showed me a lot and showed me the best ways to do things. I took a lot from them.”

Indeed, he did just that, capping his Maine career with 25 touchdowns during his final year en route to becoming the second Black Bear to pass for over 3,000 yards in a single-season.

“I had a lot of help from my professors here at the University of Maine, too. You know, just balancing school and doing everything that they could to help me out with missing practice and class scheduling. I think that was a big deal as well. Figuring out that balance, how you can be just as productive in the classroom as you are on the field.”

It would be easy to base Marcus’ accomplishments off the stats and wins from his final season, but that simply wasn’t the case. Even prior to seeing immediate results on the playing field, Wasilewski applied his growing leadership skills as well as the traits he acquired from his major to better help his squad and fellow UMaine student-athletes.

“The guys on the team joked around a lot at first,” laughed Wasilewski. “They would say ‘check out Wash, he knows all the exercises’.  But at the same time, when it comes to the weight room and stuff, a lot of younger guys will come up to me and say ‘hey, what do you think about this exercise?’ Or, ‘am I doing this properly?’ So I’m grateful I was able to get that type of education and be able to step in and apply it, especially when it comes to weight training with our guys.”

His unselfishness became even clearer during that critical summer in 2013 leading up to his final year of school.

“I was talking with my professor, Doc Leonard in the KP (Kinesiology and Physical Education) department, and we just discussed a lot of things that could help with recovery, rest time and overall exercise,” Wasilewski said. “We started talking about summer camp and how we really have one cold tub throughout the entire summer season. I mean, we have multiple sports there in the summer … so I met with the former athletic director Steve Abbott at the time and had a discussion with him just asking if we could get even horse troughs just to be able to ice our legs.”

The suggestion and idea worked. Soon enough, Wasilewski’s team as well as other Black Bear athletes had the benefit of cooling down properly after workouts.

“I thought it would be beneficial for everyone. I’m just thankful and thankful for him to go out and get those for the school. I had never seen as many kids going out to use a cold tub as they did when we got a couple more so it was really good to see.”

Wasilewski’s time as a football player and model student-athlete has come to a close, but even now he’s still able to draw correlations between what the game taught him during his career and how that carried over for the next chapter of his life.

“Coach Cos always says that other than the military, he feels that the best team camaraderie is found in football,” Wasilewski said. “Whether that’s through a type of exercise or sport or whatever, I’ve always taken that to heart. I’ve taken football to heart my entire life.”

It’s safe to say Mr. Boone would agree with that statement profoundly.

“It was one heck of a ride, I’ll tell you that,” said Wasilewski. “To play against some of the guys that I did in this conference, it’s definitely, by far the best conference in FCS Football, and to be able to have done that and accomplish great things in the classroom at a school like the University of Maine is just something that I will always be proud of myself for.”