Marcus Schimmelfennig rarely ever needs to look up at the Tomlinson Stadium stands.

While he may still take a glimpse to see his father in the same section and row every home game, as well as his mother who sits in a different seating area, Schimmelfennig really doesn’t need to.

Not just because the two have been giving resounding support throughout his life and always make the trip to watch their son, but it’s his mom’s voice reverberating from the stands.

“I promise you,” Schimmelfennig said. “Swear to Bob, with all the noise that’s going on, mom’s voice is the loudest one. That’s how it always is though.”

And if he acted a way he shouldn’t have on the field, like getting into a shoving match with an opposing player as he once did in high school, he knows his parents have eyes on him, and it's nearly palpable.

“If I know I’m like not supposed to be doing something, I’ll look up and be like, ‘Dang, I know they looking,” Schimmelfennig said.

Schimmelfennig, his family and CWU football have witnessed the obstacles he’s endured to get where he is today. A Federal Way native and Todd Beamer High School grad, family and football have been his way of life.

From moving place to place growing up, taking a year off after high school, to getting an opportunity to walk-on at CWU, Schimmelfennig enters his senior season representing one of the most touted and coveted jersey numbers in the program — No. 44.

No. 44 became a tradition in 2008 for the CWU defense and is worn by a player “that most exemplifies the standards of a Wildcats defender: dedication, toughness, discipline, and tenacity,” a board reads outside of the football coaches offices.

Senior Billy Greer donned the number last season and now under new head coach Chris Fisk, the staff wanted to reset and hand the jersey off to another defensive player that typifies No. 44.

And they felt it was the senior defensive back who deserved it most, becoming the first secondary player to earn the honor.

“Marcus has always been one of the hardest working people that I’ve ever coached,” Fisk said. “And I’ve coached some good ones over the years. But Marcus, his work ethic is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

“And so, we went through the spring and did a great job, but if you would have seen him here over the summer, didn’t miss a workout. I don’t know if most people know but he had a child during the offseason, still didn’t miss a workout, didn’t skip a beat, and has always been a great leader for our team.

“So, we got through fall camp, and we had three or four guys that we thought were worthy of it, but when I just looked at what Marcus had been through and what he’s meant to our team and what the defensive staff thought of him, was kind of a no brainer for us.”

COULD NOT IMAGINE

Schimmelfennig didn’t even fathom the idea of the number being passed on to him.

The night it happened, the team headed to watch a movie on campus after dinner, but instead, a PowerPoint was presented by the coaching staff on the players not keeping their student accounts updated. The players, confused, were listening to Fisk use punter Patrick Hegarty as an example of someone who wasn’t doing this — because they weren't able to notify his mother that he earned a full-ride scholarship.

And the players went berserk.

“Were like, ‘AHHH, Pat got a full-ride!’” Schimmelfennig said.

It transitioned to Fisk discussing the history and meaning of No. 44 and that this season, someone else would don the jersey.

“In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, Donte (Hamilton). Yeah … yeah! Yeah, this is Donte right here!’” Schimmelfennig said.

And right before Fisk announced the player, Schimmelfennig yelled Hamilton’s name, but only to be in disbelief when he heard his instead.

“I was going to cry, but I was like, ‘If I cry, bro, I’m not going to hear the end of it. I got to keep my poise,'” Schimmelfennig said. “I walked up there, shook coaches hand, and like, my hands were shaking. I don’t know if he felt it. When he handed me the jersey, all I seen in the crowd was my brothers — my reason.”

FOOTBALL AS THE ESCAPE

Schimmelfennig is the oldest of three brothers, and while the trio may only be roughly 18 months apart each, he’s served as a mentor to them.

But after high school when he took a hiatus from school and competitive football, Schimmelfennig felt he was letting them and his parents down.

“My brothers have looked up to me my whole life. I’m not going to say I’m the most athletic, but I’m the most driven,” he said. “To not go anywhere after high school, to be a house bum, mom's yelling at me: ‘You just got to give up the football thing, go get a job.’ Dad’s pissed because wishing in his mind should have done a little more. My brothers, they’re like, ‘Maybe he’s not as a good as our older brother seems to be.’ It’s tough morally ... starts to deteriorate.”

But football was the oasis and the answer.

CWU recruited Schimmelfennig out of high school, but when there was a coaching change within the staff, the recruitment stopped. It was the only school Schimmelfennig showed interest in.

So, he took the next year to train and prepare himself for college ball if presented the opportunity. And he did his best to sell himself to former CWU defensive back coach Benny Boyd.

“Whatever you see on this film right now, I’m better than that,” Schimmelfennig told Boyd when showing his year-old high school clips.

And CWU bought in. But they wanted reassurance that Schimmelfennig was completely bought in, too.

“The D-coordinator reached out to me, sent me a text two days before camp and he’s like, ‘I’m going to ask you real serious, is this something you want to do? If you’re just doing this for your friends or doing this to be close homies, this is not for you,’” Schimmelfennig said.

And it wasn’t even a second thought.

“Whether my guys are here or not, I’m doing it for those guys,” Schimmelfennig said. “I’m not the type to bite the hand that fed me. I’m out here grinding for something that is much bigger than myself. Football helped me accomplish things that I would never have accomplished.”

BROTHERS ON AND OFF THE FIELD

Just as Schimmelfennig aims to be someone his younger brothers can look up to, he treats his teammates the same as one of the leaders of the CWU defense.

And being brothers with the guys on the field, the lessons he's learned on the field correlate to life.

“Over the years, I’ve learned how to be a better man, being a better brother to them,” Schimmelfennig said. “Being coachable, going through drills hard. If anybody knows I’m not going 100 (percent), it’s these guys.”

And he’s had big brothers at CWU, too, that he’s been coached by.

“I learned my best lessons to the big bros that I used to have here. The past 44’s, the Tovar Sanchez, Kevin Haynes, Billy Greer, those guys … those guys are like my big brothers. I’m the oldest brother, but those are my big brothers. They taught me the standard," Schimmelfennig said.

“ … Everyone has a big brother somewhere. And like, the guys that are next to you, they all have big brother traits, no matter how old they are.”

Schimmelfennig has always possessed that characteristic since the beginning, according to his mother Lakeshia Shocks.

“He actually has kind of graduated now from being probably older brother to being a mentor. They’re all roughly 18 months apart, but you would think the maturity gap between Marcus and his siblings was greater than that just because of how he deals with them, and how protective he is of them," she said.

“And if there’s something that he’s done and it’s worked, and it’s foolproof, he always makes sure to share it with them. He wants to know what they’re doing, what they’re up to. He asks specific questions like, ‘What are your goals?’ You know, those are conversational language he uses when he talks to them. What are your goals? What are you doing to achieve your goals? How are you disciplining yourself? So the same stuff that he’s encouraging them to do, he’s practicing it himself.”

While it came as a delightful surprise on the No. 44 given to her son in his final season, it speaks to his character.

“It’s a direct reflection on how hard he works and how dedicated he is,” Shocks said. “He is, and has always been, one of those people that works behind the scenes when other people are resting.”

Schimmelfennig played in every game as a true freshman walk-on, recording 22 tackles and one sack in 2015. He redshirted in 2016, but returned in 2017, primarily on special teams in all 12 games.

Last season, he appeared in 11 games and notched 15 tackles and one pass breakup.

Now in his final year with the Wildcats, he’s embracing the No. 44.

“There are times when I think I’m working too hard not to be a 44," Schimmelfennig said. "I’m working hard to be a Marcus who has 44."

And he can count on seeing his mother and father in their respective seats along with his brothers and his almost 5-month-old son Ikaika Namaka Uli'Uli O'Kalani Kumai Hanu Hanu Schimmelfennig watch CWU take on No. 2 Ferris State today.

“At the end of my career, if I don’t accomplish no accolades, I’d be just fine,” Schimmelfennig said. “If I can just feel that I gave everything I had as a leader, as a father, as an older brother, as a big brother to somebody else, as a teammate.

"If I gave everything I had, I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

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