Rowan running back Withler Marcelin rushed his way into the history books earlier this month, setting a new school record for rushing yards in a career and eclipsing the previous record set by Robbie Reid from 1973-75 (and earning NJAC player of the week honors in the process).
As of now, Marcelin has amassed 3,145 yards on the ground and 24 touchdowns, and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
“Being able to stand alongside the legends that came through this program and have my name be said in the same sentence as theirs is a great honor,” Marcelin said. “I have worked hard for four years to be able to accomplish these things, but contrary to popular belief I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done.”
Marcelin, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound wunderkind, hails from Ocean Township in Central New Jersey. He grew up with his mom and sister, because, as he explains, “We weren’t close with other family members.”
He started playing football when he was six years old, mainly as a means of staying active. In high school Marcelin played as many sports as possible, including track (he finished third in the state in the triple jump), wrestling (as a two-time All-State state honoree), and even lacrosse, mainly to “stay out of trouble.”
During his high school tenure, Marcelin was mainly used as a wide receiver, though he occasionally played quarterback as well.
“Offense was never really my go-to, because I spent most of my time and energy playing defense and never really had offensive opportunities to even know if I’d be a good offensive weapon or not,” Marcelin explained. “I made the change my freshman year of college where our coaches felt my natural abilities and talents would transition into a great running back.”
Indeed, in a series of fortunate events, Marcelin landed at Rowan University after an injury put his wrestling career on hiatus. The rest, as they say, or, in this case, as Marcelin says, “is history.”
“I remember the day the change was made (to make me a running back),” he said. “Coach Pat Lancetta told me, ‘I think you can be an All- Conference safety for us, but you can probably be an All-American running back.’”
Three years, 3,000 yards and numerous awards later, Marcelin is a bonafide football star. Yet, the young athlete feels he has a lot more to give.
“Up to this point I am somewhat satisfied with the progress I have made, but I cannot say I have surpassed my personal expectations just yet,” he said. “I am a person who, for so many years, saw my mother work three jobs to help us get by and that has done two major things for me: one, instilling a work ethic and determination that can never be matched. No matter what happens I’m going to continue to push myself further and never stop working or trying to surpass someone in front of me. And two, because I saw firsthand the sacrifices and things my mother has done for me, I want to make her life easier the first opportunity I get. So I continue to push myself and set high expectations of making it so my mom can live without worries of anything financially —I haven’t gotten there yet.
“I believe I could have been better over the past three years and need to hit that standard in my last season,” Marcelin continued. “My goal is to be the best running back in Rowan and D3 history. I fully respect the men who played before me — Dino Hall, Robbie Reid, etc. — but I won’t be able to stop until I can say there isn’t another running back that was better than me.”
Marcelin’s fiery passion lends itself well to the gridiron. Opponents need merely to step aside, because this kid is an unstoppable freight train, albeit one with simple dreams of happiness and living without regrets. He doesn’t take anything for granted, and that’s what makes him so damned good.
“Football for me and my family has been one word — an opportunity,” he said. “An opportunity to give back, an opportunity to do something special with myself and make a name for me and my family, an opportunity to go to college and have a chance to excel, an opportunity to make my mother proud and give her all the things I hope I can one day. But, most important, it’s an opportunity at a second chance. I wasn’t the best kid growing up. Football gave me an opportunity to have an outlet, a distraction from everything going on in life.”
Marcelin closed his interview in generous fashion, not by boasting about personal accolades, but giving thanks to all those who helped him reach this point in his life.
“Most of this was about me, but I think it’s important to thank the people who have helped make me who I am,” he said. “I’d obviously like to thank my mother who I admire and love more than anyone else on this planet. I wouldn’t be the man or athlete I am without her. I’d also like to thank Mr. Shaun Williams and the Williams family for everything they have done for me, from being my ex-coach, and now the father figure in my life. I can’t thank you all enough for the things you have done for me.
“Last, but certainly not least, Rowans Athletic trainer Colleen Grugan. She’s been there for me since day one, putting more hours into my success then a lot of other people and doing anything necessary to help me excel and keeping me strong and healthy to survive four years of intense training and playing at this level without ever missing a snap due to injury.
“I am working, but having fun with life.”