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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Seminoles LB stays upbeat despite injury
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published December 24, 2005
TALLAHASSEE - As he slowly maneuvers around on crutches, his left foot and lower leg encased by bandages, Florida State senior linebacker Marcello Church barely grimaces.
"I feel all right," Church, the former Lakewood High star, said with his trademark smile.
Even if he's not in pain, he could be angry or at least frustrated given his collegiate career ended prematurely and he won't have the chance to help the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl against No. 3-ranked Penn State.
He broke his fibula and ankle in the ACC championship game on Dec. 3. He had surgery less than a week later and had 12 screws, a plate and rod inserted to repair the damage.
But neither his expression nor body language gives such understandable feelings away. Instead, he's showing the same indefatigable spirit, grace and maturity that has enabled him to overcome injuries and the hint of scandal and, ultimately, to accept and flourish in his role as the consummate team player.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Church backed up Kendyll Pope as a freshman and blocked a punt in the Gator Bowl. But dreams of starting in 2002 ended when he broke his left hand; he sat out that season.
Off the field, it was even worse. Church, 23, was dragged into the nationally televised gambling trial of his one-time roommate, Adrian McPherson.
"It was strange," he said. "I had never been to court before. I was nervous. I got asked a couple questions and that was it. But I was worried people were going to look at me (as being involved). I knew I wasn't in it."
If the askew glances bothered him, he didn't show it. He just went about trying to improve and adjust to a seemingly ever-changing position. He backed up strongside linebacker Michael Boulware as a redshirt sophomore and then weakside linebacker A.J. Nicholson last season. This season, he again was listed behind Nicholson, but linebackers coach Kevin Steele considered Church a starter.
For good reason. Church seemingly made a play every time he stepped on the field. He had 26 tackles, eight for a loss, and 41/2 sacks. He also blocked a punt that gave FSU a chance to rally against North Carolina State. Steele said Church had a "great year" and was one of the team's more versatile players. He even lined up at defensive end late in the season.
"You see that in the NFL a lot, a guy who plays multiple positions," said Steele, a former assistant with the Carolina Panthers. "Very rarely do you see a guy in college play six positions."
Church said doctors are optimistic he'll be ready for FSU's annual pro day, a workout by draft-eligible players for NFL scouts and general managers in March.
"I'm just taking it day by day and praying," he said.