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Morgan State football, and family, still mourn Marquese Meadow

Benita Meadow is still mourning.

In the 364 days since the death of her son, Morgan State defensive lineman Marquese Meadow, she and her 13-year-old daughter, Calista, have continued to grapple with the loss of a son and brother. Benita Meadow also has had to take care of her parents, who have fallen ill.

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"My emotions are still very much new," said Meadow, 41, who lives in Southeast Washington. "They're here. The loss of my son has definitely affected my entire family. My parents have become critically ill, and with me, there's an everyday process for me to move forward."

It has been almost a year since Marquese Meadow died Aug. 24 of complications related to heatstroke. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound freshman's death at the age of 18, which was ruled accidental by the state's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, continues to linger around the Bears program.

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Meadow's locker in the Hill Field House locker room used by freshmen and sophomores remains unchanged. Rising sophomore nose tackle Dalonte Jenifer is wearing No. 90, as Meadow did last year, and the back of every player's helmet still bears a sticker with the number. Several players said they will play this season in Meadow's honor.

His memory continues to motivate Morgan State, which dedicated last year's run to a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and a berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs to their teammate.

"Every day I come to practice, I always think about him, everything that happened, the teammate that we lost," redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Greg Gibson said. "He meant a lot to us. We dedicated the whole year to him, and we're going to keep dedicating every season to him."

Meadow had been with the team for only months but made a favorable impression quickly. Gibson recalled how quickly Meadow absorbed the defensive playbook.

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Sophomore inside linebacker Damare' Whitaker, who graduated from Washington's Friendship Collegiate Academy with Meadow, said Meadow inspired his teammates with his work ethic and easygoing attitude.

"He always motivated me," Whitaker said. "We've been through a lot together. He was more than a friend. He's a brother to me. He was my nose tackle, and I was the middle linebacker. So he pushed me every day, and I come out here and work for him. I push and grind 24/7, 110 percent, every play knowing that he's still right there playing in front of me."

Jenifer (St. Frances) played against Meadow's Friendship Collegiate team in high school and got to know him during their official visit to Morgan State. After exchanging phone numbers and texts, the pair agreed to room together during preseason camp.

Even after Meadow collapsed during practice Aug. 10, Jenifer believed his roommate would return soon.

"We were with each other every day," Jenifer recalled. "One day, we were with each other, and then the next day, I was in our room by myself. It was very bad. I thought he was coming back. I had high hopes he was coming back."

Meadow's death didn't alter how the school monitors or hydrates athletes during practice, said Michelle Daniels, the Bears' third-year head athletic trainer.

Daniels said her staff always has provided water and energy drinks during practice, and staff members are assigned to a specified position group to offer water and monitor players' health.

"We have our eyes on them all the time," she said.

Coach Lee Hull, a former Maryland assistant coach, acknowledged that he is now more sensitive about players' energy levels while practicing in Baltimore's heat and humidity. He said he has added about three more water breaks per session, and the team practices twice a day only three times before the regular season.

Hull said Meadow's memory is never far from his mind.

"We think about him, and I know I think about him every day I come out here during camp," Hull said. "We dedicated the season to him last year. I think that was our driving force to winning the MEAC and being able to go to the playoffs. He'll always be in our minds, and he'll always have a special place in my heart."

The program honored Marquese Meadow during its spring game by giving Benita and Calista Meadow his jersey and a MEAC championship ring.

Benita Meadow concedes that, at first, she had a difficult time not blaming Morgan State coaches, athletic trainers and administrators for her son's death.

"I was angry with the world when it first happened," said Meadow, who now talks with parents who also have lost children. "So everybody was guilty to me. I've been able to overcome that."

Meadow said she has preserved her son's room as he left it, except for the jersey and championship ring given to her. She said she is grateful that Bears players have preserved her son's memory.

"I'm honored because Marquese only lived a short moment at Morgan, and to have the same love that everybody had for him is definitely memorable," she said. "There was nothing bad about Marquese. He was a good kid and he died doing something that he loved, and I want to honor that, and I want to make sure that I continue to do that."

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