By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Growing up the son of a coach, Marcus Sedberry's identity was always wrapped up in being an athlete, being the fastest, being the best.
And he was good, like really good. Good enough to attract Division I offers in football as a receiver and defensive back, but even better in track and field. He helped Dallas Carter High School win the Class 5A state championship in 2002 by running legs on the winning 4x100 and 4x400 relays and placing in the 400 meters.
"I just felt like track was more my thing," Sedberry said. "I thought I had a better shot at going pro, maybe running in the Olympics."
That changed his freshman year at Nebraska, when he collapsed twice during a workout and eventually had to be carried off the track by his coach.
"We couldn't figure out what it was for maybe two months, and I came to find out I had four stress fractures in my lower back that were pretty severe," Marcus said. "I remember them telling me I could either have surgery and have a 20 percent chance of being paralyzed, or I could wear a full body brace and not do any athletic activity for a full year. Neither one of those options sounded good."
After redshirting that season, he came back the next year and ran, "but I never ran as fast as I did in high school and really went through a time of depression."
What he didn't want to do is go back to Texas as "a failure to my family."
Keith Zimmer, who currently serves as Senior Associate AD for Life Skills at Nebraska, told him, "Marcus, you have so much more to offer to this world. I know you have been an athlete, I know your identity has been wrapped up in this forever. But the way you lead your team, the things you've been doing, you have so much more to offer. Just channel all that into something else."
"That was my light-bulb moment," Marcus said. "I said to myself, `You know what, I'm going to be all right without this.' So, I decided to step away at the end of my junior year. . . . It's very hard to come to that realization. It was the hardest thing in my life, but probably the best thing in my life. Now, I'm able to share that story with student-athletes."
As of May, the 33-year-old Sedberry is sharing that story at Baylor, where he serves as Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Success.
"Marcus is a multi-talented educator with a strong background of molding successful student-athletes, and we're excited to bring him aboard to lead our Student-Athlete Center for Excellence staff," said Vice President and Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades.
Sedberry's first inclination was to follow his dad and go into coaching. But, from the start, his goal was to become one of the few African American athletic directors in the country.
When Zimmer introduced Marcus to Dr. Richard Lapchick at UCF, he challenged him with, "If that's your dream, why wouldn't you go after it now?"
"All my background had been in business," said Sedberry, who earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from Nebraska and a master's in business administration from Central Florida. "I was always in marketing and sales and that kind of stuff. My mind is business, but my heart is people, and I found a connection to this world."
After starting his career as a grad assistant and special assistant to the AD at Central Florida, he started and served as director of the school's first student services program.
"I got done with all my rotations and a year of grad school, and (athletic director Keith Tribble) asked me what we were missing?" Sedberry said. "When I told him we were missing student services, he asked if I could start it. And as a young, wild, crazy 23-year-old, I said, `Of course, I can.' So, I got the chance to do it."
Sedberry spent four years as UCF's Director of Student Services and had two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles as Director of Player Engagement in between separate stints at the University of Arkansas in Student-Athlete Development.
Originally, Marcus was just sharing information with the Eagles, but when they offered him a job, "I really felt like it spoke to my heart."
"I decided that in my career, I'm always going to follow my heart," he said. "So, when my heart said that to me, I decided, `All right, let's give it a shot.' Just think that if I'm able to impact the lives of these young men or coaches or whoever I'm working with, they have the ability to impact thousands in a split second. So, why not?"
In Baylor, he saw the perfect place to return to his Texas roots and live out his "four core values of faith, family, competition and service" in Preparing Champions for Life.
"The opportunity to be the best, the opportunity to push myself, push others around me, pull them to be the best that we could be, what a better place to do that," he said. "Just the opportunity to serve, I truly felt like I was called to be here."
Marcus and his wife, Tai, have a 16-month old son, MJ.
Since coming on board in May, Sedberry has added seven new staff members to Student-Athlete Services:
Chris Johnson, assistant athletic director of academic services, came with Sedberry from Arkansas, where he served as director of academics for football. He is a 2008 graduate of the University of Florida.
Davonte Anderson, associate director of student-athlete development, is a 2014 Stony Brook graduate who served as assistant director of student-athlete welfare and development at Central Florida.
Marciel Whitehurst, student-athlete development coordinator, is a 2011 Incarnate Word graduate who also came from the student-athlete development staff at Arkansas.
Emily DeRatt, associate director of academic services, is a 2008 graduate of UNC Wilmington who was an academic advisor the previous three years at Temple University.
Jennifer Knauf, tutor coordinator, is a 2015 University of Alabama graduate who served her alma mater for the last year as assistant to the coordinator of athletic academic programs.
Divine Franklin, academic coach for football, is a 2014 Old Dominion graduate who worked as a learning specialist in the Monarchs' athletic department.
Christina Johnson, academic coach, is a 2015 University of Arkansas graduate who was a grad assistant for the Razorbacks for the last two years before coming to Baylor in August.