SE: St. Felix a True Definition of Success
SE: St. Felix a True Definition of Success
Sept. 20, 2011
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By Mark Janssen
Never, ever, ever, will Marc St. Felix forget the last words from his mother.
“She told me that she loved me and to go to school, go to school and get that education,” said St. Felix, a senior linebacker for the Kansas State Wildcats.
The words of wisdom came via a telephone call when St. Felix was in his K-State apartment, while his mother was in a Boston hospital where she was recovering from a stroke.
“We talked about how our day was going and her last words were, ‘Go to school, go to school and get that education’,” he repeated of his conversation just over two years ago with his then 50-year-old mother.
It wasn’t long after that when Yvette St. Felix suffered her second stroke, and then a third this past spring leaving her hospitalized unable to talk and partially paralyzed.
“She was there visiting her sister when the second stroke hit and she’s been in the hospital for over two years,” said St. Felix, who this week will return to his home of Miami to play the Hurricanes in a 2:30 (central time) kickoff in a game televised on ESPNU. “The second one took her voice away. She still knows me, but can only nod as far as communication.”
This adversity is not the first that St. Felix has had to deal with.
When he was only 10 years of age and living in the rugged Little Haiti portion of Miami, his 38-year-old father died from cancer in 1997.
Saying that he had older siblings outside of the home, St. Felix said, “At that young age I felt it was up to me to fill the shoes of my dad. I was a young child left on this earth to take over and help my mom and little sister. It’s nothing that anyone told me to do, but it was just a feeling that I had.”
While Yvette worked as a bus attendant for the school district, St. Felix did his best to make sandwiches for his little sister, Delores, and do other chores in the house.
“There was no major cooking because mom didn’t want me to burn the house down,” quipped St. Felix.
While his mother constantly warned her son of the dangers of the neighborhood streets of Dade County, he listened, but only to a point.
At the age of 12, young Marc became a trouble-maker in those same streets he was warned about to the point that Yvette shipped her son to Kansas City, Mo., where he lived with an aunt and uncle from the sixth grade through the eighth.
“I was mad when I was forced to leave. I didn’t understand until I went back home and some of my friends were dead or in jail at a young age,” said St. Felix. “I knew then that could have been me.”
St. Felix admits that he was constantly skipping school as an 11-year-old and somewhat of a “… bad kid. I’d walk into stores and take things, and remember the store owner chasing me down the street with a machete. Part of it was because I didn’t have a father figure to teach me the right things to do, but at the same time my mom did that preaching, so I did know better. It was just an age thing and a place where one could easily get distracted.”
Upon his return, St. Felix would straighten his life while at Miami’s Edison High School where he was a two-year starter registering over 200 career tackles.
With pride, he says, “I graduated with over a 3.0 (GPA). That was pretty rare for an African American growing up in that neighborhood.”
A neighborhood that St. Felix defined as “… tough… dangerous. You heard gunshots every day; at night they would keep you awake. Police would be chasing someone and they would try to get in your house so they could hide for the night.”
Out of high school, St. Felix took visits to several Florida-based schools, which included the Miami Hurricanes, his childhood dream school, but he was never offered a scholarship.
“I remembered watching K-State on TV back in the days of Darren Sproles and Ell Roberson, and always thought that school in purple was pretty neat. I thought if nothing worked out down here, that purple school would be a good choice,” he said. “I did research about their walk-on history and just decided to give it a shot.”
Vividly, St. Felix remembers that sunny, warm Miami day on Jan. 7, 2008, that he hopped a Greyhound bus with his two boxes of belongings – “I had a pair of shoes and about 10 articles of clothing … all I owned.” – and headed for Manhattan, Kansas.
“Mom helped me pack my boxes, but when I stepped out the front door, she lost it,” said St. Felix. Giving a chuckle and reflective gaze, he added, “I remember it was so cold I couldn’t sleep. A coat wasn’t among the clothing I owned. Here it was in January and I was on a bus for over 24 hours headed to Kansas without a coat of any kind. That was a long trip.”
St. Felix was redshirted in 2008, and played only on the scout team in 2009 and 2010, before earning a position on special teams this fall along with serving as a third-team linebacker behind Emmanuel Lamur and Jonathan Truman.
The highlight of his career came on Aug. 22, when assistant coaches Sean Snyder and Chris Cosh informed him that he would be on scholarship during his senior season.
“I put down the phone and just prayed,” said St. Felix. “The next day I went to the compliance office to sign the scholarship papers. I walked outside and prayed again. I just thanked God for Kansas State and this opportunity. My mom can’t talk, but I know she was proud.”
In December, St. Felix will walk across the graduation stage as a multiple-time recipient of the Commissioner’s Honor Roll as a plus-3.0 student in Family and Human Services, plus a minor in Ethnic America.
“I will be the first one in my family to graduate from a college,” said St. Felix. “My mom will be proud because I got that education.”
He only wishes that more of his family would be on hand to celebrate the occasion. The reality of life has been tough on St. Felix with not only the early death of his father, and sickness of his mother, but in the last year his aunt died at an early age and a 20-year-old cousin unexplainably died in his sleep.
“We had talked that day. Just silly stuff about video games and what shoes he wanted to wear,” said St. Felix. “That same night he died. We were close. He was a good person and he was proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
Pausing, he added, “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
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