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Local Sports Hero

01 February 2015 Written by  By Michelle Lassle
Published in February 2015 Articles

Marcus Malu grew up as the kid who was naturally good at every sport he played.

He competed in basketball, football, track, and baseball, and he thrived in all of them. Marcus began with basketball at the age of eight. “I moved to Long Beach, and that was when I was watching Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan,” Marcus said. “I thought it looked like so much fun.” Then a year later, Marcus added football thanks to his love for rugby. Marcus’ dad had broken his nose while playing the sport, so he wouldn’t allow Marcus to follow in his footsteps. That’s when football became the compromise. “Every time we went to the park I played rugby with all of the kids and always scored when I touched the ball,” Marcus said. “I knew I wanted to play something besides basketball, so I joined Pop Warner football for Sacramento.” Marcus fell in love with both sports.

With his dad in the construction business, Marcus moved around a lot with his family. He began in Tonga and then moved to Hawaii. From Hawaii Marcus’ family relocated to Arizona, Long Beach, Sacramento, Seattle, Oregon, and ended up in Pittsburg. In 8th grade, while still in Sacramento, Marcus began participating in AU basketball tournaments, some of them out in Reno, and was earning 1st Team All-League recognition. At that point in his athletic career, Marcus had a deep passion for basketball. As a freshman at Valley High School, Marcus decided he would try out for the school’s basketball team and continue Pop Warner football, but after that year he temporarily left football by the wayside. However, he didn’t put off the sport until after braking 11 school records. “At Valley High School I broke records including most receiving yards in a game and most touchdowns in a game, which was seven.”

As a freshman Marcus made it onto the JV basketball team, but he didn’t stay there for long. He was quickly brought up to play varsity. “I was the smallest guy, so I wasn’t exactly comfortable making that jump,” Marcus said. “I didn’t want to advance just to sit on the bench, but they pulled me up and let me play.” Marcus had to adjust to the new game pace, and that caused him to go through a period of doubting himself. His coach, however, reminded him that he was only a freshman, and it would take a little bit of time to catch up. “It was fun, but at the same time it was a humbling experience because it took me from being ‘the man’ on cloud nine, right back down.” From there Marcus moved to Seattle and continued at Evergreen Senior High School. It was in Washington that he made connections with now NBA stars Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford. “I still talk to them every now and then,” Marcus said.

Marcus’ talents weren’t only getting him noticed by his peers; he was also being recruited for football and basketball by Oregon State University. However, in a critical moment of choice, Marcus selected a different lifestyle. “I blew it,” Marcus said. “I decided it was cooler to be around goons than go to school.” Marcus didn’t go to college; instead his life took a drastic turn and he became involved with drugs. “Once I got into it and saw what people were doing, I knew I wasn’t made out for that life.” All of his plans for the future had been pending on going pro with one of his sports, and when that didn’t pan out, Marcus didn’t have a backup strategy. That was the beginning of a dark period in Marcus’ life. “I was down and out, broke, and going through a divorce,” Marcus said. “Then Jesse McGill, a coach from Liberty High School, rescued me. Every weekend he fed me.”

Marcus started working out with Jesse; after a while he pointed out Marcus’ gift for training and interacting with people. “Training did not sound appealing, but when he mentioned that I could get paid for it, I changed my tune,” Marcus said. So he began by riding his bike from Antioch to Oakley to train for $50 a week. From there Marcus made connections with different people in the athletic world and began taking a little bit from each person to build his knowledge base. “It was once I said yes to God that things began falling into place,” Marcus said. “I told Him that whatever gifts He blessed me with would be put to use for His kingdom.” His desire was to work with athletes, but Marcus didn’t have a name for himself in the area yet so he had to work his way there one step at a time, starting by working with women and body builders.

After four years of hard work and despite the fact that he was doubted by countless individuals, including his own mother, Marcus was able to open the doors of Malu Fitness in Antioch in July 2014. “Everyone told me that my gym wasn’t going to happen, but their doubting me put more gasoline on the fire,” Marcus said. “I’m now finally able to be working with the kids.” At Malu Fitness Marcus leads groups of athletes through drills and weight lifting, better preparing them for their future in sports while helping lead them down the right path. Kids have been flocking from Oakland, Stockton, Sacramento, San Leandro, San Jose, and beyond by only word of mouth. “I don’t even have a website!” Even kids who have graduated from high school and moved on to college, still return to Malu Fitness during their breaks. “I keep saying thank you to Jesus every day.”

In addition to helping the kids at his gym, Marcus also hosts free training camps geared towards all sports and athletes of all ages. In a typical day camp Marcus will work with 150-250 kids. “As I look back on my life now, I think God knew I wasn’t going to go pro,” Marcus said. “He made me good in all that I played to get me to the point in my life where I am now. Now I train these kids, and I’ve played all of the sports and have been in every situation.” Marcus is a fountain of knowledge for the children who come through his gym and camps, as well as a source of generosity. Many of the athletes that Marcus works with are unable to afford the typical fees associated with personal training, but Marcus willingly makes deals with them so that they can continue to hone their skills in a positive environment. He has also helped pay phone bills, find housing, and feed them physically and spiritually, ending every workout with a prayer and inviting kids to church. Marcus has since helped lead seven athletes to being baptized in the name of Jesus, as well as an entire family from Antioch. He sees his helping these kids as an investment in the future, hoping to keep them from making the same mistakes he did. “I tell my athletes not to worry about repaying me when they make it big. I just want them to come and give back to the next generation of kids.”

When asked about the future of Malu Fitness, he mentions that he’d like to expand into a bigger gym. "I'm trying to get the upstairs building above the current gym location turned into a study hall,” Marcus said. He wants to make sure his group of 60 students continues to uphold their joint 3.03 GPA. He would also like to keep his homegrown business exactly that: rooted in the community. “I have a past client who, after signing a 1.3 million dollar contract, came back to me to donate the amount that I needed to open the gym.” The owners of Cap’s Oak Street Bar and Grill also played a valuable role, along with the parents of the athletes. In addition to others’ kindness, Marcus holds fundraisers to raise money to help pay for the camps and pay the bills. “I tell the kids that when they get help, to always do something so that they’re not solely living off of others. It’s a 50/50 relationship.”

For the grand opening of Malu Fitness, Marcus and his clients fed the poor in Antioch. For Thanksgiving they made plates of food and drove around passing out over 200 meals. This past Christmas they also did a toy drive and handed out 144 toys. That is what Marcus really sees as his future. “I want to find every soul that doesn’t have anything and put food in their bellies,” Marcus said. “I would love to have a big building with just beds where we try to help the poor get back on their feet, not simply feed them. That’s the goal.”

Marcus doesn’t have a mapped out plan just yet, but he sees no reason to be a Doubting Thomas. “I don’t know how long it will take, but I’ve seen God do way too many things in such a quick time to even begin to doubt Him. I just need to continue putting God first, and everything else, He will take care of.”

Read 3082 times Last modified on Sunday, 01 February 2015 18:01
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