HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Marcus Pollard has a special place in his heart for community colleges.
After all, Pollard, a former NFL tight end and “The Amazing Race” star, began his athletic career playing basketball at Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kansas. Pollard went on to star on the hardwood at Bradley University in Illinois and then spent 14 successful seasons in the NFL after being signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 1995 as an undrafted free agent.
Pollard also competed on “The Amazing Race” with his wife, Amani, during the 19th season in 2011.
Pollard shared his experiences and achievements at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. this month in conjunction with the college’s annual Arts in April festivities. Pollard spoke on the art of success and discussed how he overcame adversity and obstacles in his life, from growing up in a single-parent household in Chambers County to carving out a successful NFL career.
“Looking back, all of my success started by attending community college. It was the best thing for me. It taught me how to be a man. It taught me how to be responsible and form personal relationships with my professors,” said Pollard, who is a lifelong friend of Wallace State Psychology Instructor Dr. Aletta Williamson.
Pollard, who graduated from Valley High School in Alabama, shared his three “C’s” to success with Wallace State’s students and student-athletes. They are “character, choices and commitment.”
“You always want to be a person of character. Character to me is what you are doing and who you are when no one is watching. Choices can sometimes be tough. Sometimes they are not the most popular. You have to make choices that are best for you. Sometimes they don’t line up with other people’s choices for you. Commitment is the energy and effort you put towards what you are doing each day. If it’s a routine, you do it every day with no results. If you are committed, you are trying to achieve something,” Pollard said. “If you apply these things, I guarantee you will be blessed and successful in life.”
Pollard, 43, has definitely etched out a successful career. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college when he left Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Upon graduation, Pollard had an opportunity to try out for the Indianapolis Colts despite never playing a snap of college football.
Pollard did more than enough to impress the Colts and was signed as an undrafted free agent. He grabbed the opportunity and turned it into a solid NFL career.
Pollard played for four teams over 14 seasons, including 10 with the Colts.
Pollard is second in Colts history for receiving yards by a tight end. He finished his Indy career with 3,391 career receiving yards and 35 touchdowns, establishing career-highs in 2001 with 47 catches for 739 yards and eight touchdowns. Pollard was a key member of the Colts’ back-to-back AFC South champion teams in 2003 and 2004, striking up a strong rapport with quarterback Peyton Manning.
After leaving Indianapolis, Pollard played two seasons for the Detroit Lions (2005-06), one year with the Seattle Seahawks (2007) and closed out his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2008, compiling 4,280 career receiving yards and 40 touchdowns.
“Hard work was the thing that separated me in the NFL from some of the guys who came out of college with all of the accolades or the tag of being a savior for a franchise. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. When I look back on my pro football career, I feel I separated myself because I outworked a lot of people. That started in junior college because I didn’t get a chance to go to a major university,” Pollard said.
Pollard also insisted his profitable NFL career was fueled by those individuals around him who doubted his desires to make the transition from college basketball to professional football.
After Pollard’s NFL career was complete, he moved back to Alabama and coached high school football for four seasons.
Pollard and his wife were later cast for “The Amazing Race” in 2011. The couple finished third after being stuck in last place at one point.
“It was a wonderful experience. I learned things about my wife that I had no idea about. She always talked a big game and she definitely backed it up on the show. She was a rock. She was tougher than any linebacker I ever played against and smarter even than Peyton Manning when it came to certain strategies,” said Pollard, a father of four. “When I look back at that show, my wife never wanted to quit. She didn’t want our kids to see us quit, especially when we were in last. I will always admire her for encouraging me when it would have been easy to quit.”
Pollard currently serves as the Jacksonville Jaguars Director of Player Development and Youth Football and lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with his family.
Pollard encouraged Wallace State students to embrace the challenges in front of them.
“It’s no accident you are in this room. I don’t believe in accidents. You are at a school of higher learning, but if you don’t tap into that potential and proceed to grow, you’ll forever be in the same spot,” Pollard said.
Wallace State sophomore baseball pitcher Landon Hughes was among the student-athletes in attendance inspired by Pollard’s presentation.
“It was a cool experience hearing where Mr. Pollard came from and all he went through to become a professional athlete. I gained a lot from it. He shows that hard work and dedication can get you to the top. Mr. Pollard also seemed very humble and as a man of great character,” said Hughes, a Marietta, Ga. native. “I have the same aspirations to play professionally one day. Mr. Pollard has demonstrated that if you put your heart and mind into something and don’t let anyone hold you back, you have a chance to make it. Even though someone could be out there telling you what you can’t do, Mr. Pollard didn’t let the negative influences hold him back. The three ‘C’s’ he talked about can definitely get you there.”
Rob Metcalf, Wallace State’s cheerleading coach and a speech instructor at the college, believes Pollard’s ability to maintain an optimistic outlook throughout the ups and downs in life is a great example for all students.
“I think every college athlete and student needs to hear Marcus Pollard speak, mainly because of his positive outlook and perspective on things. It’s real easy for an athlete to get down when things aren’t going your way or people are trying to bring you down. I think Marcus Pollard’s track record of fighting through adversity and accomplishing what he did is remarkable,” Metcalf said. “One of my favorite part of Pollard’s presentation was when he mentioned taking negative feedback and using it to push you to your destiny. That’s a great outlook. Everyone should put the three ‘C’s’ into a place in their lives.”
Pollard spent nearly an hour signing autographs and taking pictures with Wallace State students after his presentation.
“It has meant a lot for me to come back to Alabama and to the community college realm. I was all on board when Ms. Williamson asked me to come speak. Community college is such a great avenue for students. I think people tend to look at it as a negative at times, but it’s a great opportunity for guys or girls to figure out what they want to do without having the pressures of being in a big lecture hall and at a more efficient cost.”
Pollard’s visit was sponsored by the Wallace State Diversity Committee.
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
1-866-350-9722 256-352-8443 direct
Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu
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Wallace State Community College
801 Main Street NW | Hanceville, AL 35077
Office: 256.352.8118 | Cell: 256.339.2519 | Toll Free: 866.350.9722
Be One of Us. Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu.