Markowitz Perseveres At USC

With all the recent national attention deservedly foisted on former Hawaii high school stars Manti Te’o of Notre Dame and Marcus Mariota of Oregon, a story about a former walk-on lineman from Hawaii Kai getting his first college start received very little notice in the Islands. But it’s a story worthy of telling.

Remember the movie The Lucky One? It’s a romantic tale of perseverance, commitment and loyalty about a former soldier who thought he was lucky to be alive. Abe Markowitz isn’t a soldier, but he’s battled through enough adversity that would have easily sent most college football players packing.

Amazingly, he has stayed upbeat, and when asked if he was unlucky, he said, “No.”

Abe Markowitz, No. 50, blocks against Hawaii. Barry Markowitz photo

Though not heavily recruited out of high school – despite being one of the state’s top offensive linemen back in 2007 at Punahou – he walked on at USC, picked up the No. 50 jersey to honor his state, and made the team but didn’t get a scholarship offer until 2010. Then, things really went sour. He broke his foot just before the 2010 season and didn’t play a down. He fought back and earned the starting job at guard before the 2011 season, but broke his other foot, and didn’t play a down that season either.

All that time, he was working hard in the class room and earned his degree in the spring of 2012. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Abe says. “I’ve got my degree and I’m working on my master’s. I’m glad I’m here, growing and going forward.”

Since he still had eligibility remaining, he hoped to regain his starting spot for the nationally ranked Trojans this fall.

Then, another setback. He was told after graduation that because of the NCAA cutbacks of the school’s scholarships, his was not being renewed. Perhaps, he was told, something would work out. Markowitz enrolled in USC’s graduate school, worked very hard in the summer at both guard and center, and got the good news that his schol arship was finally renewed just days before the Trojans’ first game against Hawaii.

Dodging that bullet, and getting some fourth-quarter playing time against his friends from the Islands, Markowitz appeared finally to be ready to contribute on the field. Then, yet another blow – he injured his shoulder on the last play of the game against Syracuse. It took several tries by the team’s trainer to pop it painfully back in place. Markowitz had to sit and watch the next game when the middle of his injury-plagued Trojan line was manhandled in an upset loss at Stanford.

Seventy-two hours after that devastating loss, Markowitz was given time as first-team center in practice. A day later, when the team’s former All-American center returned from the injury list, the coaches moved Markowitz to first-team guard, and by the time Saturday’s game against Cal rolled around, he was named the starter at left guard. On just the third play from scrimmage, he laid a crunching block that launched his running back for a 62-yard gain. His efforts on the line were so outstanding that when the starting center was hurt again in the second half, Markowitz moved over to center for the rest of the game.

He would play every offensive down in the 27-9 victory at either guard or center. After the game, he graded out at an incredible 97 percent. His coaches were ecstatic, and Markowitz found himself barraged with adulation by L.A. reporters, a stunning development for the graduate student who almost never got the chance to show what he could do.

“It was cool,” Abe says. His next chance comes on a nationally televised game Thursday night at Utah. The Lucky One, Abe Markowitz, will be ready.