If you check the Wikipedia page for Marion County, you’ll see an incredible list of notable native athletic names.
Listed are Pro Football Hall of Fame members Sam Huff and Frank Gatski, Alabama coach Nick Saban, Olympic gold medal winner Mary Lou Retton and ex-Michigan coaches Fielding Yost and Rich Rodriguez.
Yet if you ask natives of the county above the age of 60, they’ll tell you the Wikipedia list is incomplete.
Because Kerry Marbury – who doesn’t appear on the Wikipedia page — might have been the county’s best athlete ever.
He was a star running back at Monongah High, helping the Lions to back-to-back state championships. He was named one of the nation’s Top 100 recruits in 1969. When WVU landed him, he was looked upon as a savior. Against Temple, Marbury rushed for 291 yards – missing part of the third quarter.
Yet Marbury’s life then took twists and turns. There were injuries. He spoke of ordered injections to keep him on the field. He left WVU for the Canadian Football League. There were drugs and prison. There was a tremendous turnaround, including a master’s degree and life as a professor at Fairmont State.
Sadly, there was also cancer and his untimely death this past Sunday at the age of 67.
But the specter of Marbury will knock around Marion County for years to come. His mythical play in football and track. His legend solidified because of the athletic ability he possessed and the potential that seemingly was never reached. Oh, yeah. And that life-long friendship he had with Saban.
“I used to officiate those guys when they were young,” said my father, Bernie, who was also on a state champion Monongah High football team (1955). “Nick Sr. was the coach. The Idamay Black Diamonds. They were a powerhouse when they were little guys.
“Nick Jr. was the quarterback. They had Charlie Miller and, of course, Kerry Marbury. They were so fast and so good. I’ll never forget Nick Sr. took an old school bus around to Hutchinson, Carolina, Worthington and then to Idamay to practice. Then he’d take them all home.”
My father’s memory would have made Marbury happy. See, he once told CNHI Sports W.Va. those days were the best.
“I was happiest when I was playing for ice cream,” he said.
Now, let’s hope the pain is behind Marbury. Let’s hope WVU honors him at the start of next season. Let’s hope the legacy remembered is of a strapping young man running like the wind.
And let’s hope he’s eating ice cream at this very moment with a big ol’ smile on his face.
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