A Dream Ending To Nightmare Career

Tearful Trojan Abe Markowitz hugs dad Barry following the USC vs. Fresno State Las Vegas Bowl after winning the prestigious Outperformer Award | Mike Enzenbacher photo

Tearful Trojan Abe Markowitz hugs dad Barry following the USC vs. Fresno State Las Vegas Bowl after winning the prestigious Outperformer Award | Mike Enzenbacher photo

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The photo here is probably worth about 10,000. It’s a saga of loyalty and perseverance and perhaps a bit of blind stubbornness. It might even be a Hawaii/Southern California version of the popular movie Rudy.

You remember Rudy. He’s the kid with the obsession for Notre Dame football who banged his head against the wall until he finally earned a Fighting Irish game jersey in his final year, and then had his greatest – and only – moment on the field in his final game.

A similar tale might be told of former Punahou standout Abe Markowitz at the University of Southern California.

The first part I’ve written about before: how a late bloomer from Laie and Hawaii Kai, standing about 6 feet tall and weighing about 280 pounds, might have been considered too small to play offensive line-man in major college football. But Markowitz was still growing during his senior season at Punahou and beyond. When he walked on at USC, he eventually grew to a rock-solid 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds.

He chose No. 50 to honor his home state, impressed his coaches with his work ethic and eventually earned a scholarship. But he also earned a lot of hard luck. Two seasons in a row, just when it looked like he might make the starting lineup, he suffered foot injuries that ended those seasons. By the time he entered his fifth year, he finally got to start a couple of games at guard. He excelled, but circumstances out of his control reduced his playing time, and he failed to make the bowl roster in what looked like his final game. Because of sanctions against the athletic program, he was told his scholarship had run out.

He came home a year ago and re-assessed his situation. He had earned a degree and was studying for his master’s, but he had not succeeded as he wanted to on the field. He had a few choices: He could move on from football, or he could apply for a rare sixth-year of eligibility from the two years he missed because of injuries. If that worked out, he could transfer to another school and play there one final season, or he could stick it out at USC and walk on for one final try.

After the NCAA agreed to the sixth year, Markowitz decided to stick it out in Los Angeles. He got a loan to pay for his tuition and made his way onto the field again in a Trojan uniform. But as the team went through coaching transitions, he hardly played. Number 50 was mostly seen standing on the sidelines cheering his team on. Fate stepped in during the final game of the regular season. An injury to the starting center sent Markowitz onto the field, where he played well. The new interim coach saw his performance, his work ethic and his loyalty, and eventually named him starting center for USC’s appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl against nationally ranked Fresno State.

For one final game, all the frustrations, all the challenges, all the injuries, all the broken promises were forgotten. Markowitz just played his heart out. As the stabilizing force along the offensive line, he opened holes that his teammates took full advantage of. He protected his quarterback, who would go on to win MVP honors. When the game ended, he celebrated with his team as they earned their impressive 10th win of the season.

And then, in an incredible ending to all his trials and tribulations, Markowitz was named the winner of the game’s prestigious Outperformer Award. He was stunned as he humbly accepted the trophy. His team-mates wildly cheered him on and Markowitz thanked them. But he had one other person to thank: his dad, Barry, who was on the field, too, as a photographer.

When he saw his father, all the emotion of the last six years poured out. The two gigantic figures stood on the field and hugged. A photo was snapped. Abe Markowitz cried his heart out. They were good tears. He deserved every one of them.