Steadfast on Perseverance
Peeve: Defeatist Attitude
Playing: Since 5th Grade
Recently caught up with FAU walk-on linebacker Mark Soto, who hails from Texas. He shared his passion for the game, and what he hopes to accomplish as an Owl.
Soto garnered interest from schools such as Texas A&M early in his high school career. But his lack of physical growth in height soon entered into the equation for college recruiters.
"It came down to my senior year (high school)...I had all the accolades you could have in high-school - really successful high school career, but all I was getting looked at because of my height was...Division II schools."
Despite a royal welcome on an official visit to one program, Alblien Christian, both schools that were in most recent contact with him gave the same response afterwards: "You're just too short...just too much of a liability".
There were no offers on the table when signing day came. But, that did not discourage Soto. And, things would soon take a turn towards the better all around.
Thanks to his grandmother's forethought surrounding his education, he had privy to a pre-paid college plan in Florida. So, he, and his family, began to explore options for his education, while continuing his dream of playing football at the division I level. FAU was not his initial choice, but things soon changed.
"I sent my tapes to a bunch of schools in Florida, and I got three calls back: FIU, FAU, and Florida State. The first team I had talked to was FIU. Cristobal talked to me, and I told him 'I'm going to FIU'. And then (Kirk) Hoza called me, and it was because he's a Christian. And I talked to my parents about that. We looked over it. And it was honestly because he had God first in his life, and that's where I needed to be."
Soto, ironically, had no knowledge of Howard Schnellenberger being the Head Coach for the Owl's. But soon learned about him thereafter.
Soto is well liked and regarded by his coaches and team-mates alike. A "heady" player, he can play all three linebacker positions. Something that the coaching staff finds valuable:
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While Soto will be expected to pitch in at all three spots as needed, RS-SR and linebacker Captain Edward Bradwell said he would prefer Soto back him given the preference. "Probably the best technical linebacker we have. He will handle his business. Every time I'm on the field with him I trust him. He's pretty balanced, but I like him behind me", said Bradwell.
Mark is a humble young man. He is well spoken. And this came through when asked the question of who he "looks up to on the team at present". Sure, allot of guys would choose a rhetorical leader, or heralded player as someone to set their standards by. But, surprisingly, he chose fellow walk-on, and former Owl Kris Bartels as someone he looks towards. Like him, Soto hopes to travel the successful path of an Owl walk-on.
"Kris was in the same spot I was. No love coming out of high school. He just walked on, and had a humble heart. Just like I did. Just him and his back pack. He didn't have anything. He just walked on and worked his butt off. A walk on, short guy like that, that has everything against him and goes to the top. He's definitely my role model, and probably doesn't even know it", said Soto.
Bartels made a name for himself as a hard nosed hitter in the secondary at safety. And given his desire and perseverance, one could support the notion that it's just a matter of time until success, within the often underdog role of a walk-on, finds Soto as well:
"Even though I am 5'-8", the love of the game, and loving to run and hit, it's always been (my) heart, heart, heart. I want the fans and my team to see me as someone who is tough, and won't let anything sideline me. I want everyone to look at me (playing successfully), and I just point it up to God."