A Spiritual Ball Carrier
Demetrius Marlowe’s stellar career as an athletic coach, pastor, and high school and college educator has offered him many opportunities to engage young people and bring out the best in them. His most rewarding experience thus far has been working together with his wife, Alison, at The Salvation Army. “Its mission says it all,” said Marlowe, who serves as program director at the Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden, N.J. “It has lasted through some very tough times in this country. Why? Because it meets the needs of people. They come up to me and tell me stories about how the Army has helped their family or helped them personally.”
Marlowe’s work at the Kroc Center has brought him full circle. He grew up in Neptune, N.J., where he attended an Orthodox Presbyterian church and its summer camp. He also attended an African Methodist Episcopal (AME Zion) church and later graduated from Pfeiffer University, a Methodist school in North Carolina where he excelled in soccer and graduated with a degree in psychology.
Marlowe immediately put his athletic and psychological skills to work outdoors in Rhode Island. He helped boys and girls with special needs for the Eckerd Family Alternatives Group. The wilderness camp experience taught them how to successfully navigate relationships and life.
After eight months, his influential soccer coach at Pfeiffer asked Marlowe if he would be interested in coaching soccer at Bowling Green State University. His answer was “yes.” In the process, he earned a master’s degree. “I also got an opportunity to work directly with students, community leaders, and college administrators,” he said.
Marlowe went on to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. There he served as an academic adviser to student athletes. “I advised guys like Jerome Bettis (former running back, St. Louis Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers) and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail (Toronto Argonauts, LA/Oakland Raiders, Panthers, Cowboys), who were influential athletes. Monty Williams (Knicks, Spurs, 76ers) became the NBA’s youngest coach at 38 for the Hornets.”
During Marlow’s time at Notre Dame, his father passed. “Mom encouraged me to move back home. I took a job at Syracuse University where I became the athletic adviser.” In Marlowe’s first class were students Donovan Jamal McNabb (former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback), Rob Konrad (former Miami Dolphins quarterback), and Kevin Johnson (former NFL wide receiver, Browns, Jaguars, Ravens, Lions). “Those guys were just unbelievable—they won bowl games and their entire class graduated—100 percent.”
Following Marlowe’s three years with Syracuse, he accepted an offer to serve as the associate athletic director at the University of Maryland in College Park. There, he focused on academic advisory and career development.
Marlowe went on to become the associate athletic director for student athletes and director of the Clara Bell Smith Student Athlete Academic Center at Michigan State University, where he worked for five years. “It was at Michigan State where I felt the call to become a preacher,” he remembers. While attending the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, his pastor, Rev. Rodney Patterson, ordained Marlowe.
During his second year at North Carolina State University, Marlowe met an incoming freshman named Russell Wilson. Together they were instrumental in starting a middle school leadership conference in the community. Marlowe and Wilson developed, designed, and implemented the conference. “We worked shoulder–to–shoulder to get the conference off the ground,” he said. “And every year after that, Russell was there to speak to the kids and to conduct workshops,” said Marlowe. “Russell was just a great guy. You couldn’t ask for better. He was first class. He was the same guy in the locker room, in the weight room, and on campus. He was a standout guy.” Marlowe vividly remembers, “You just knew this kid had some level of spiritual foundation. He carried himself in such a way that you knew he was not going to get rattled. He had a strong character and work ethic.” Today, Wilson is the Super Bowl–winning quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks (see sidebar).
Prior to coming to the Kroc Center, Marlowe served as chief operations officer at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago, the oldest all–black male Catholic school in the country.
“Christianity means honoring God in everything I do,” he said. “It’s about modeling for my family what it means to be a Christian man and a leader in my community who values and honors God.”
Marlowe believes in removing cultural and social barriers to witnessing. “When people live in certain paradigms, it’s always tough to try to come out of them. At the corps, we believe in diversity and inclusion. So, we’re very informal.”
Marlowe said he was “blown away” when he realized the breadth and depth of the Salvation Army’s national and global ministry. “I’m just amazed how The Salvation Army does what it does without a lot of marketing,” he said. “We don’t spend a lot of money branding ourselves, like say, Coca–Cola or IBM. And as a result, we have more money to spend on direct services to help people. I like that model—let God do the advertising.”
by Warren L. Maye