Nash Central’s Marquez Horton is not the same person he was in middle school, and he does not mirror the 17-year-old he was a year ago.
For one, he is upright and able to walk.
It was around this time last year that Lakeesha Green’s son was lying on his back in bed for two weeks.
Horton was weak.
He vomited every 20 minutes until he had nothing left in his stomach. Nightly trips to the hospital were the norm, and Horton did not recognize his reflection from a mirror.
Once 170 pounds, Horton’s weight dropped to 130.
“It tore me down,” Horton recalled. “I hadn’t been 130 pounds since I was in the fifth grade.”
Eventually, Horton was diagnosed with Gilbert’s Syndrome, a condition in which bloodstream levels of a liver enzyme are abnormal. Gilbert’s Syndrome wound up being a minor setback, one that plagued Horton off and on through his varsity basketball season last winter.
Horton’s bounce-back abilities are being tested again this fall.
He recently suffered an injury to a pair of his fingers on his right hand while weightlifting, and the remainder of his season is in question.
The injuries might have shaken Horton when he was younger, but he seemingly has taken on the mentality of his school’s mascot, a bulldog.
“Things happen for a reason,” Horton said. “People don’t understand it takes more than a man to play this game. It makes you what you are. If I love (football) so much, why give it up because I had a minor setback?”
It’s a far cry from where Horton was as an adolescent. Horton said he mismanaged his time by hanging out with the wrong people and putting himself into trouble. Although none of it led to him having a criminal record, he knew he needed to change his line of thought.
“I was too much of a show-off type of guy,” Horton said. “People liked me, and I wanted to keep that feeling. Now I have a different feeling because everyone likes me for being good instead of doing things I have no business doing.”
Nash Central is in the midst of an 0-6 season heading into tonight’s Big East Conference opener at Rocky Mount High.
A winless team would seem to lack leadership and accountability, but Bulldogs coach Kevin Crudup said his program has both with a player like Horton.
Crudup said Horton is the team’s emotional leader and one that can handle locker room problems between his teammates before they become an issue.
On the field, if Horton makes a mistake, he quickly owns up to the error.
“He brings the same work ethic to the weight room,” Crudup said. “He does every single rep and extra work when he finishes the workout. He is a great guy for kids to model on how to prepare themselves for football season.”
Horton’s weightlifting injury came at a time when he was the team’s leading rusher. Crudup said the coaching staff noticed the fullback/outside linebacker was playing his best ball of the season.
Horton suffered a fracture to the middle finger on his right hand, and he severely bruised the ring finger while he was squatting 315 pounds during weightlifting class last month. His dry-fit shirt was slick, and the pad on his neck was the same, causing the weight to slide and fall on his fingers.
He recently had surgery, which required a skin graft from one of his arms to be applied to the bruised finger.
Besides wanting to be on the field for his final prep season, the injury is a nuisance because Horton likes using his hands.
He builds things, mows lawns and has the ambition of starting his own welding business.
Green said her son is learning to temporarily rely on his left hand, and even uses it to pick up a fork and eat.
The beat goes on for the 18-year-old who participates in Upward Bound and now leads instead of follows.
“I’ve seen a tremendous amount of self-will,” Green said. “He is wanting to succeed in everything he does. He doesn’t give up. He’s doing everything he can to not let it get him down. Every time he bounces right back.”
A doctor will unwrap the gauze that covers parts of Horton’s right hand in a few weeks. It will be at that visit when Horton is given the thumbs up or thumbs down to pursue the remainder of his season.
Crudup and Green expect Horton to return.
And of course, Horton does, too.
He deosn’t mind cheering on his teammates tonight against the Gryphons, but he would rather be on the field.
“Just knowing in my heart that I put every effort I had into the season, I don’t want it to end like this,” Horton said. “I know our season isn’t looking so good, so I want to be there for my boys through thick and thin. That’s my family.”
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or email@example.com