Marquise Findley-Smith has achieved success in life.
He graduated from Atholton High School in Howard County and was recruited to play football at McDaniel College. Following his May 19 college graduation, he’ll move to California to attend University of California, Irvine School of Law, after which he hopes to work as a public defender.
But Findley-Smith knows his life could have gone so much differently.
Findley-Smith, who grew up in the Columbia area, though he now lives in Baltimore County, was brought up in a single-family household with his older brother and mother. He credit’s his mom’s sacrifices in life to make sure he stayed on the right path, and in the right school system.
“We moved around a lot,” he said, adding that from the time he was in middle school up until he graduated high school they’d moved seven or eight times.
“When I really think about it, I learned a lot of lessons from my mom and she is the reason that I’m here today and all of the success I’ve had,” Findley-Smith said.
Throughout his time at McDaniel, Findley-Smith was involved as a member of the Green Terror football team and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and served as an ambassador for the Center for Experience and Opportunity. He’s had a number of internships, including with the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Baltimore County Public Defender's Office, the Howard County Public Defender's Office and also as an investigative intern at the Georgetown University Law Center.
His time in different public defenders’ offices showed him just how fortunate he has been in life, and why it’s important to give back, he said. Public defenders are the “unsung heroes” in the legal world, he said. They work with clients who the system has wronged, clients who lack access to resources and often grew up in poverty, he said.
“When you have all these sociological factors working against you, you're bound to make some poor decisions,” Findley-Smith said. “Just because they are in these situations and they don’t have the money that other people would, I don’t think that means they don’t deserve the same kind of rigorous representation someone else would get if they were born into a more privileged situation.”
Findley-Smith said during his time interning at various public defenders’ offices, he watched attorneys who were enthusiastic about their work and their clients. That kind of mindset rubbed off on him.
“I see myself in [the clients] in the sense that I feel like … if I were just born somewhere different, I could end up being the person who needs legal services,” he said. “I was very privileged to have a mother who kept me around positive role models and who stressed to me the importance of education and a lot of people don’t have that.”
Findley-Smith said his time at McDaniel — and the people there — helped shape him into more of a well-rounded person than he thought he could ever be.
Those in the sociology department and at the Center for Experience and Opportunity were intrumental in his success, he said.
McDaniel football coach Mike Dailey was also someone who helped Findley-Smith grow to be who is.
“I think he played a big role in my development, not only as an athlete but also as a man,” he said.
Dailey taught the team life lessons, and about what’s important on and off the field.
Players have four years — three, in Findley-Smith’s case, because his football career ended early due to injury — on the team. It’s important to know who you’ll be when you’re done playing, Findley-Smith said, and Dailey helped teach them that.
The coach also taught him how to handle adversity — you always have to keep moving ahead, he said.
“He would always say, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ and that’s a weird question, but the answer to that is ‘one bite at a time,’” Findley-Smith said.
Dailey said coaching at McDaniel means he gets to work with a lot of high-quality young men, and Findley-Smith is no exception.
“Marquise is just like that,” he said.
As a coach, Dailey said it’s easy to work with players who care, and it’s easy to share stories with them beyond football. He said he feels an obligation to be someone to help steer the players in the right direction.
Dailey said it means a lot to know Findley-Smith was listening and absorbing the advice he gave, but added that Findley-Smith was always someone who was very self-disciplined and “really a top-notch young man.”
It’s no surprise, he said, that Findley-Smith plans to go to law school and eventually work in a public defender’s office. He cares deeply about people, especially those he’s closest with, Dailey added.
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“He’s a young man,” Dailey said, “that’s committed to helping humanity.”