Marques Tuiasosopo: Third string? It’s OK
By Gail Wood
He’s heard the roar of the crowd celebrating the unlikely
He’s the only college quarterback to throw for more than 300
yards and run for more than 200 yards in a game.
He’s a Rose Bowl MVP, throwing for a touchdown and running
for another in the University of Washington’s remarkable comeback win against
Purdue in 2001.
And now, Marques Tuiasosopo, once a Heisman Trophy finalist
and still considered to be one of college’s best quarterbacks ever, is a seldom
used backup, a third-stringer for the Oakland Raiders. He’s a forgotten star.
The quarterback with yesterday’s headlines is now in his
eighth season in the NFL and still waiting for his chance. He’s the patient
“It’s tough at times. I’m still working hard. I’m still
waiting for my chance,” Tuiasosopo says. “It’s hard not going out and helping
your team win when you feel you have the ability. I definitely have the
Tuiasosopo’s motivation comes in part from his dad, Manu
Tuiasosopo, a former NFL defensive lineman. He’s also motivated by his coaches
and teammates. But a Bible verse, a comment from the apostle Paul in Ephesians
6:5 about doing your best for God in whatever you do, is his motivational
“I have that verse written down,” Tuiasosopo says. “My wife
reminds me of that verse all the time. That’s really where it’s at. If you do
that, you will be prepared for what you need to do.”
That’s classic Tuiasosopo, the ultimate team player. In a
jubilant post-game locker room after Tuiasosopo threw for 307 yards and ran for
207 yards in Washington’s 35-30 win against Stanford in 1999, he was presented
a game ball. He then flipped it to Rock Nelson, an offensive tackle.
“He’s the type of guy you love to sell out for,” Nelson said
Tuiasosopo wasn’t even expected to finish that game after
getting hurt on the second play from scrimmage. Tackled on an option play, he
was knocked backwards, landing hard on his seat. He slowly got up and limped
back to the huddle.
Then Huskies head coach Rick Neuheisel yelled from the
sideline, “Are you OK?”
Tuiasosopo pointed to his posterior. At halftime, he was in
so much pain coaches and teammates worried he couldn’t finish the game. But on
a day Tuiasosopo wasn’t expected to play, he set a record.
The next season, Tuiasosopo led Washington to a dramatic win
in the 2001 Rose Bowl.
Then in 2003, the year after the Raiders lost to Tampa Bay
in the Super Bowl, Tuiasosopo unexpectedly got his first NFL start when Rich
Gannon, the reigning NFL MVP, was sidelined with a torn labrum in his throwing
shoulder. It was Tuiasosopo’s third season in the NFL.
Up to that point, he had attempted just 10 passes in his
first two seasons.
And in Tuiasosopo’s only start of his pro career, he injured
his knee scrambling from a Detroit Lions linebacker and was forced from the
game. He had surgery and was sidelined for the season. It’s not been a
storybook pro career for the quarterback with the remarkable college career.
“It was extremely frustrating,” Tuiasosopo says about his
injury. “I had an opportunity and I got hurt. I remember thinking, Why me, God?
But I’ve learned from that. I’ve grown from that. God cares about the heart. Am
I truly living for Him? Am I rooted in my faith?”
Hard times have tested Tuiaso-sopo’s faith. He says his
Christian testimony wasn’t the loudest when he raised the Rose Bowl trophy
above his head, in a moment when he was a winner and everything was going well.
Instead, it was while he was recovering from knee surgery and during his long
“When times are good, it’s easy for us to be on the up and
up,” he says, “easy to be the people we say we’re supposed to be. But when
times are hard, that’s when your true character and your faith are tested. I
just want to pass all those tests. When I focus on Jesus and don’t rely on my
strength, I’m able to do that.”
Accomplishments, Tuiasosopo has found, are fleeting. The
Rose Bowl victory where he completed 16 of 22 passes for 138 yards and rushed
for another 75 yards is one of his highlights. But he says there’s a hollowness
to victory, to achievement in sports.
“The feeling we had after that game was great,” he
remembers. But he also remembers the next day, when it was back to school, back
to tests and back to life’s challenges. The win didn’t take all that away and
it didn’t fill an inner need.-
“There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you’re saved
and you’re on a journey,” Tuiasosopo says. “You’re not perfect, but you’re on a
journey where you allow God and Jesus to work in your heart, in your life.
Becoming the person God created you to be is an awesome feeling. It doesn’t
matter what your circumstances are.”
Whether you’re a Rose Bowl champ or a third-string
quarterback, Tuiasosopo says, a Christian’s joy is the same. God’s grace
doesn’t hinge on a passing percentage, a quarterback rating or a win-loss
“When you have that joy, that’s way better,” Tuiasosopo
says. “Happiness comes and goes. The long-lasting joy that’s not affected by
your circumstances comes from knowing Jesus is your Savior and you’re going to
spend eternity with Him. That changes your life. That’s awesome. It doesn’t
matter what happens. That’s always with you.”
In 2005 with the Raiders struggling, Tuiasosopo was told
he’d start the remaining five games. He played in one.
“It’s so hard sometimes to be thankful and not to stick up
for myself,” he says. “Or I need to be brash, or say something outrageous. Or
to make a stink in the newspaper.”
But Tuiasosopo kept quiet and kept working. Teammates
“There were times where I’m thinking, OK, God, I don’t feel
like working hard anymore after they pulled the rug out on me,” Tuiaso-sopo
says. “I felt betrayed. But I said, Well, God, what do You want me to be? That
didn’t happen right away. But I did it. After that, people came up to me and said
they really appreciated what I was doing.”
Tuiasosopo understands God never promised Christians a life
“There are going to be bumps in the road,” he says. “But
through the bumps in the road, if you go through those times with a biblical outlook,
a Christ-centered outlook, you’ll get through those times the way God wants you
to. You’ll grow more and more.”
GAIL WOOD is a sportswriter in Washington state and
freelance writer for Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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