Marlin Lee III lost his courageous fight with cancer this past Saturday. It was pain wrenching seeing he and his family go through this tragedy with so many ups and downs. Just when you thought things were turning a corner another thing would pop up and halt any progress.
Through it all, Marlin battled - accepting every treatment, every blood draw, every trip to the ER. He left nothing on the table in trying to beat this terrible disease. I would have expected nothing less from a guy that was 5'6” and probably 140 pounds who played offensive line for a state championship football team.
We launched WisHoops.net back in November of 2002. It was basically basketball schedules, rosters and standings along with a message board. There was no Facebook, no Twitter and no commenting on newspaper articles. The only high school sports message boards were on national recruiting sites and were filled with 40 year old men wondering what college the top players were picking. Unintentionally, our message board became a place for high school kids to communicate online about sports and life in general.
There were two main contingents on our message board, one that would hang out on the SWC/SWAL boards and one that would hang out at the Badger conference boards. Some of the users that come to mind are Mad Skillz, Brew City Legend, Dkelly28, Kern79, Hoopster11, Rodey, JimmyQ, DB1985 and of course Lee Corso, Marlin's screen name. He was one of the first sign-ups (#97) to the site and a big contributor on the boards.
Once we launched WisFootball.net and the Gridiron Guide Yearbook, Marlin eagerly volunteered to help and to provide information. He even mentioned a desire to write for us, but with him moving to Houston for college I didn't think this was realistic.
Sure enough he launched a blog on his own. The content was great and a week or so later I was sitting at a bar in Lancaster eating a cheeseburger for lunch, trying to woo him to WisFootball.net. What set Marlin apart was a tremendous work ethic and an ability to relate to high school athletes since he was close in age to them. Not to mention he was in tune with the technology of the time - be it MSN Messenger, MySpace, Facebook or text messaging. He wasn't a 40 year old dude that would keep on calling a 17 year old until he made a committment and he got the quote he wanted.
Being in Houston never turned out to be an issue. With football's limited season and no club teams it's impossible to see everyone play in person like it is in basketball. We'd have film sent to the office and we'd forward it on to Marlin. He could do radio interviews for station partners with ease. He always fed me info for when I pinch hit with some of these interviews from time-to-time. As mentioned, he was in step with the athletes we were covering so he was able to break stories before the national folks or the local newspapers.
The great thing about all of this is it was all his strategies and the aforementioned work ethic. I didn't tell him, “hey, do this – hey, do that.” It was more “how did you do that” as I was trying to build our business and use strategies that were working best.
The summer before Marlin transferred to Houston from his junior college I tried to hire him full-time and have him come up here for school instead. He was set on his major of Sports Administration and Houston however, so it was a no go. As he went on and had success in college, scored a successful internship with the Houston Texans and got married & had Marlin IV, I kind of knew he wouldn't be writing for WSN too much longer.
After graduating from college, Marlin secured a job in marketing and promotions at the Academy Sports & Outdoors chain of sporting goods stores. It sounded like Marlin's dream job and was just another goal he set for himself that he achieved. I couldn't have been prouder and hoped that in some way WSN had helped him accomplish his goals.
I will always appreciate the hard work Marlin put in and his place in helping us establish WSN and get to where we are today. Among the great memories I have of Marlin, I will remember the long chat sessions we used to have. I will remember the time he came up for a weekend during his summer break to work around the clock to help us finish one of the Gridiron Guides while crashing on my couch. I will especially remember the time we flew him up for the 2006 state tournament - we had a great time covering it and it was great to see Marlin in his element.
It's too soon to have any concrete plans yet but we will be putting something together to pay tribute to Marlin in a permanent way on WSN. We have a few ideas, but if you do too, please feel free to put them in the comments section of this article.
As a friend, as a co-worker and as a fellow father, my heart completely goes out to Marlin and the Lee family. We will forever miss his presence and his inspiring and driven approach to life. We are all lucky to have known him. May God bless him and his family and may he rest in peace.