FARMINGTON -- Mark Marinoni will never forget that Sunday at the city park.
Walking down the same creek where he once fashioned a paper clip with a pipe cleaner to catch a fish, the then 10-year-old boy realized something wasn't right.
At A Glance
NOTABLE Plans to attend the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and major in political science in hopes of becoming a political consultant or analyst. … In his free time, Marinoni enjoys playing Call of Duty and watching his favorite TV show, The Ranch, on Netflix.
"My right leg wasn't moving the same as my left leg and the right side of my body wasn't working either," Marinoni said.
Now a senior at Farmington High School, Marinoni is the do-everything, say-anything, motivational and inspirational manager for the Cardinals' football team who had a speaking role in the movie Greater, the life story of Brandon Burlsworth.
He's come a long, long way since that Sunday that forever changed his life and left a scar on the back of his head, just above his hairline.
Not that he needs a reminder. Simple, everyday life has been a struggle since a trip that Sunday to the emergency room that resulted in a life flight to the Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.
The diagnosis -- Posterior fossa astrocytomas. In short, a large mass putting pressure on his brain stem immediately needed removed.
Warning signs were there long before that Sunday in the form of headaches and occasional vomiting for 2 1/2 years. Most days, he would get home from school, eat a mac and cheese cup and then sleep until the following morning.
A hunting trip was the first time Marinoni encountered problems with his balance when he stumbled multiple times while walking up a rocky ridge to a turkey blind. He still considered it a pretty good day because he got a turkey.
The symptoms baffled doctors for months.
"I had probably been to the pediatric center 20 times and they still said it was allergies every time," Marinoni said.
Caleb Williams, Farmington's standout senior running back, said seeing his best friend go through that was difficult to comprehend at such an early age. When Marinoni finally returned to school surrounded by cheers from his classmates, Williams was ecstatic to see his buddy's compassionate personality wasn't affected by the surgery.
"He still had the same great attitude that he had before," Williams said. "He would say, 'It's alright guys. I'm still the same person,' and he was right. It never really changed him as a person. He's the same great guy he's always been."
However, it did affect Marinoni's cognitive and motor skills. He had to relearn how to walk, talk, read, write and "pretty much everything," he said.
By eighth grade, he had worked his way back onto the A-B honor roll and now is a member of the National Honors Society. But the road was not easy.
"School has been hard," Marinoni admitted.
Farmington assistant football coach Clint Scrivner used to give Marinoni rides to school each day.
"It didn't matter how bad of a day I was having. When I picked up Mark, he always would put a smile on my face and put me in a much better mood by the time we got to school," Scrivner said.
Cardinals players also remember when Marinoni suited up to play football as a freshman. He had a smothering block in a game against Clarksville and, during a game of "aerial football" that offseason, many recall how he decleated Sam Stevens, a 300-pound lineman.
"You see Mark, and he's just building up so much speed and can't stop," said senior offensive linemen Zach Newman.
"And, 'Bam!'" Marinoni adds. "Sam must have went flying like five feet."
This past Friday, Marinoni said he was "more than honored" to be part of senior day festivities, which included his No. 37 being painted in the end zone with his teammates. He also served as team captain and walked onto the field for the coin toss and then again after regulation because the Cardinals ended up beating Maumelle in overtime.
"It was a really special moment," said Javon Jowers, who also was a team captain. "He's put so much into our program and it was so good to see how much he enjoyed it."
Williams, who has had a breakout season for the Cardinals with more than 1,000 rushing yards, said his friend is sold out for his teammates.
"He's all about the Farmington Cardinals and probably more invested in our team than most of the players," Williams said.
The Cardinals are 3-2 in 5A-West play with plenty on the line as they wrap up the regular season with road games at Morrilton and at Harrison in the next two weeks.
"One more win we get to the playoffs and two more and we get another home game," Marinoni said. "It's my senior year and they deserve a good football season, so I would love to see us play a little longer."
Despite everything he's been through in the eight years since that fateful Sunday, Marinoni said learning how to survive and thrive has made him a better person.
"I'm glad it happened," Marinoni said. "Hopefully, I'm an inspiration for some kid out there."
Sports on 10/26/2017
Print Headline: Cardinal win