Vikings Coach: ‘Main Goal – Be Winners in Life’

Post a Comment » Written on November 14th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (November 14, 2008) – Marques Sullivan was an outstanding offensive lineman in college and the NFL, helping create opportunities for three Buffalo Bills players to have Pro Bowl seasons.

As the offensive line coach this year for the North Park Vikings football team, it is outstanding men he wants to help create.

A graduate of the University of Illinois, he anchored the Fighting Illini offensive line, starting 45 consecutive games during his career (1997-2000). He was voted second team All-Big Ten in both 1999 and 2000 and also was named third team All-America by the Football Writers Association after his senior season.

SullivanThe Buffalo Bills drafted him in the fifth round in 2001. He spent three seasons playing in Buffalo (2001-2003), before splitting the 2004 season between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.

In 2002, he started all 16 games for the Bills at right guard, a season in which quarterback Drew Bledsoe set 10 team passing records, running back Travis Henry rushed for 1,438 yards and wide receiver Eric Moulds set a franchise record for receptions with 100. All three were Pro Bowlers that year. Sullivan won the 6th Man Award, given to the team’s most improved player in 2003. Sullivan started a total of 24 games in his NFL career that ended after four years due to injuries.

Sullivan started coaching the North Park team this year at the invitation of Vikings coach Harold Blackmon, himself an NFL veteran. He met with Head Coach Scott Pethtel, who is in his third year at the school.

“I thought he was moving this program in the right direction, and I was sold,” Sullivan says. “I want to do what I can to help this program grow.”

Although he made his name in Division I, Sullivan is impressed with the players at the Division III level. “These kids come to play for the love of the game,” Sullivan says. “Most of the people in Division I are hoping to get into the NFL, but only about five percent of them make it.”

The Vikings are an especially young team this year, made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores. After meeting them, Sullivan says, “I thought this would be a great group of guys to coach”

“All I expect from them is to pay attention and work hard every day,” Sullivan says. “I tell them, ‘Don’t waste my time, and especially don’t waste yours.’ ”

Sullivan has made himself available to all the players on the team, who seek advice about  personal issues as well as on-the-field issues. “They can ask me anything,” he says.

“I consider myself as a teacher,” says Sullivan, who adds he wants to instruct the players in more than football techniques. “I think the main goal is to be winners in life.”

That includes facing adversity. The team has struggled this year, and Sullivan has used his experience to keep the team motivated. He reminds them that in his first three years at Illinois, the team won fewer than 10 games.

“We just have to keep working toward our goals,” Sullivan says. “Have large goals, but also small weekly goals. We’re teaching them life goals.”

Now is the time to learn those lessons, Sullivan says. “Students don’t realize how easy they have it compared to their post-college years.”

In addition to working with the Vikings, Sullivan is the director of the Chicago NFL Alumni Football Camp, serving high school-aged children. The camp features former NFL athletes coaching high school kids at every football position. He also serves as a coach for the Chicago Bears Youth Football Camp coaching children ages 6-13.

He hopes to dispel the negative image of professional athletes as people who frequently are in trouble. “A majority of the players are doing great things in the community and their families,” he says.

He adds that people also have the misconception that all of the players are getting wealthy, saying only a few have really large contracts. Most careers last two years or less.

Halfway through his final season, Sullivan was traded to the Patriots. He was there to block for a guy named Tom Brady.

“He was the first guy to come up to me and say, “how’s it going?’ He told me to let him know if there was anything he could do for me. He’s a great guy. He works hard, really hard.”

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