LANHAM — Marcus Minor was 3 years old when Jermaine Lewis helped the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl championship during the 2000 season. A friendship between their respective mothers led to the former Maryland star autographing both a picture and a Ravens hoodie for the toddler, who, like Lewis, was growing up in Prince George’s County.
One morning last week, Minor brought those two mementos from his childhood with him to the studio of WBGR, which operates an internet radio network and where Minor, now a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman for the Terps, is spending part of his summer as an intern — including having his own one-hour talk show.
The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Minor joked about the size of the hoodie with Lewis, who is now helping coach his own son on the football team at St. Frances. That Lewis was the featured guest of Minor’s second show — a week after longtime Maryland play-by-play man Johnny Holliday, who he considers one of his mentors, was the first — left Minor a bit awestruck.
“It’s kind of surreal for me,” Minor said after finishing his show, called “Cuttin’ Up With Marcus”, that can be viewed on Facebook Live. “I never thought I would be here. … I now have the opportunity to interview stars like Jermaine Lewis and Johnny Holliday. Things are coming so fast.”
Minor, who eventually became a Philadelphia Eagles fan, hopes to follow Lewis to the NFL and Holliday into announcing or analyzing the game after his own playing career ends. It is something that Minor started thinking about while growing up in Lanham, watching former stars like LaDainian Tomlinson make the transition from the field to the NFL Network studio.
“He was one of those guys who had a successful time as a player and then he come back to talk about the sport that he still had a passion about,” Minor said of Tomlinson. “That was always my dream. I’m still following that. That’s my goal.”
Compared with playing football, doing live interviews is not nearly as physically taxing, yet still has its share of anxiety.
“They’re kind of hard to compare,” Minor said of his two professional pursuits. “I feel on the field, everything’s instinct. I’ve been playing so long, I know what I’m doing. I know what to do when certain circumstances come up. With the conversation and talking to people, it’s just a smooth flow. I have to pick little things off what people are saying to keep the conversation going.”
During the course of a 25-minute interview with the former Ravens wide receiver and return specialist, Minor showed the tiny hoodie and photo to Lewis, saying that getting his autograph served as motivation for him when he started playing organized football at age 10.
“That felt deep for me at such a young age as I was starting football,” Minor told Lewis during the show. “Somebody’s doing this for me, what if I’m able to reach where he is? That was always my [goal]. That’s actually possible. You’re from the area, we didn’t grow up too far apart. … [I thought] ‘I want to be where he is and have that ring on my finger.’ ”
Said Lewis: “When you take time to sign things for people, you never know how it’s going to come back around later in life. The thing about that Super Bowl, everybody remembers that moment. Even if you’re going through something good, or something bad, everyone remembers that game. Little did I know that the one run [a kickoff return for a touchdown] would be defined as my legacy.”
At least for now, Minor said that he is trying to stay away from controversy on his show, such as asking Lewis about struggling at times in his personal life — in part, Lewis believes, because of concussions suffered playing football — after he retired following a nine-year NFL career.
“As an athlete, I know that things can be troublesome. We’re human too, we make mistakes and a lot of people try to make our situations into bigger things than they really are as if we aren’t regular people,” Minor said. “I want all my guests to understand that my show is meant to lift up spirits. It’s not to put out the top headline that makes people want to get into [their] dirty business.”
Fran Brooks, WBGR’s director of operations, said the reason she hired Minor was that “he had a vision, he had an outline of what he wanted to do in life and I knew that he already had the skill, maybe more exposure would better his chances and increase his options.”
Minor knows that he still has a way to go to realize the first — and potentially most difficult — part of his journey.
“As a kid people used to tell me that there’s trouble going from high school to college, and from college to the NFL,” Minor said. “I knew there was trouble that was going to be along the way. I’ve had some life lessons throughout this whole process. But I don’t think it’s anything that I didn’t really expect. Of course there’s going to be some bumps here and there. That’s life.”
After seeing his playing time increase because of injuries to others as a freshman in 2017, Minor held his own against Michigan and in his first career start against Michigan State. He started three of Maryland’s first four games last year, but his season ended prematurely when he suffered a high ankle sprain against Minnesota. Minor tried to come back late in the season but reinjured the ankle.
“It was difficult mentally and physically to go through, I didn’t want to disappoint my team, I wanted to be there but I couldn’t at the time, which I accepted after a while,” Minor said. “I ended up redshirting, so getting that year back, after being behind Derwin [Gray] and Damian [Prince]. It was OK with me, because I got another year in case I need it. I took it as a positive.”
Mostly, it was a trying season as a member of a team mourning the death of one of Minor’s linemates, Jordan McNair, who was part of the same 2017 recruiting class coming out of McDonogh. The Terps also went through the turmoil of another coaching transition with the Halloween firing of DJ Durkin and the hiring of Michael Locksley, who first recruited Minor as a sophomore at nearby DeMatha Catholic.
“I think it just shows how life is,” Minor said. “I’m a spiritual man so I know that God has a story out for me. I don’t know whether I go to the league or not, or if I actually become a reporter or not. I know that he’s not going to put through anything that I can’t take.
What transpired last summer and fall was not the first time that Minor believes he was being tested. Toward the end of his senior year of high school, Minor suffered what was diagnosed as a spinal contusion playing against Good Counsel that sent the four-star prospect to the hospital and left some briefly wondering whether he would even play at Maryland.
“I know that the situation I was in, in high school, was hard for me at the time. I got through that,” Minor said. “I came to college, went through the process with having a teammate pass. That was hard at the time. But we’re getting through it. ... I’m blessed to have the opportunities that I’ve come across. I’m blessed that it has allowed me to grow, both spiritually and mentally and allow me to be the man I want to be.”
Gray and Prince are gone from Maryland and are now teammates with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted Gray in the seventh round last spring and signed Prince as a free agent. Along with junior Johnny Jordan, as well as seniors Sean Christie, Terrance Davis and Ellis McKennie, Minor will help man a solid, though not particularly deep, offensive line when the 2019 season begins Aug. 31 against Howard.
“I’m working my hardest right now,” Minor said. “I’m praying that everything goes the way I want it to.”
Minor is paying attention to the transition Gray and Prince make with the Steelers, adding that “it gives me insight into what’s going on in the league, to see what it’s like and basically take note of how they got there, and what I need to prep for, what I need to do with the next couple of years. I have to make sure I have the best possibility of getting there.”
Because of his versatility to play both tackle and guard — as well as center in a pinch — Minor knows he is now on the radar of many NFL teams.
“I honestly don’t care where I am [on the line], I just want to play,” he said. “I think that will help when I try to reach the next level. I honestly think that’s a big part of what coaches are looking for, being able to play all positions. That’s what I’m aiming to do. Wherever the coach puts me, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll put my work hat on and go for it.”
After his summer internship ends when the Terps open fall camp Aug. 1, Minor will have to put his goal of becoming an analyst on hold.
But now he believes he is one step closer to getting there.