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Redbank Valley’s Gardlock Opens Up About His Challenging Childhood in Essay That Earns Him 519Strong Scholarship

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — When Marquese Gardlock was just 2, he fell out of a moving car and suffered serious injuries.

(Redbank Valley senior Marquese Gardlock accepts the 519Strong scholarship from football coach Blane Gold)

Later in his young life, he was stabbed. He was also homeless, living in a car with his mother.

Garlock also saw death while growing up in Sharon, Pa.

A lot of death.

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The one that hit Gardlock the hardest was the when his cousin Khalil Hopson, a standout basketball player for Sharon and then at Penn State DuBois, was gunned down in his home in 2019.

“That’s the reason I wear No. 10,” said Gardlock, a senior star in football, basketball and track and field at Redbank Valley High School. “His death really took control of me.”

Gardlock has overcome a great deal in his life. Yet all the bad things that have happened to him haven’t quashed his spirit.

He always has a smile on his face. He’s engaging and personable. His classmates and teammates adore him. His coaches praise him.

“I’ve never met a kid that smiles more than he does,” said Redbank Valley football coach Blane Gold. “He’s so joyous.

“Everybody’s stories are so powerful,” Gold added. “What we’ve been trying to get across to Marquese and teach Marquese is that his story is part of who he is. As opposed to being possibly ashamed or possibly embarrassed by that, he need to use that story to better his life.”

Gardlock has come to embrace the difficult times that dot his past. He’s also used it to help his future.

A California University of Pennsylvania recruit for football, Gardlock put down on paper all of the hardships and pain, all of the challenges and struggles he’s had to endure and overcome in an essay for the 519Strong, a nonprofit organization started by Devin Gold — Blane Gold’s brother — in honor of his close friend, Jeremy Coast.

Coast was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 15. After a three-year battle, he died on June 11, 2015, shortly after his graduation from Franklin High School.

One of the things the 519Strong organization does is give out $519 scholarships – its given out six this year. Part of the requirements is to write an essay explaining the trials applicants have overcome throughout their lives and how they faced them with a positive attitude.

Like Coast did during his cancer fight.

When Gardlock was writing his essay, he had to stop several times to gather his thoughts.

“When I was writing it, I was getting very emotional,” Gardlock said. “Writing about being homeless with my mom and my cousin passing away just brought back a lot of bad memories.”

But Gardlock also found the process therapeutic.

“It’s definitely been my goal since I was a little kid to go to college,” Gardlock said. “Finally achieving my dream is something special.”

Gardlock has been something special at Redbank Valley since he came to the school and New Bethlehem, which is very different than Farrell High School and Sharon.

Midway through his sophomore year, Gardlock’s father, Marcus Anderson, made the difficult decision to send his son away from Sharon and a self-destructive course Gardlock was on to live in New Bethlehem with Anderson’s former Farrell basketball teammate and close friend, Emmanuel Marshall.

Marshall is the boys basketball coach at Redbank. His son, Chris, is also a senior and Chris and Gardlock consider each other brothers.

“My dad had been trying to get me down here since the seventh grade,” Gardlock said. “I used to come down here in the summer and coach Emmanuel was trying to get me to come down here.

“My sophomore year came and it was just a lot of bad things that were going down there (in Sharon),” Gardlock added. “A lot of people were dying and it was just a bad environment to be in. I was kind of going down the wrong path at that time, so my dad called coach Emmanuel and he came down and got me the next day.”

Gardlock had lived with his father since he was about 4.

“I was stuck to his hip since I was 4 years old,” Gardlock said. “Moving and hour and a half away was kind of hard.”

But it was in Gardlock’s best interest.

He did miss out on seeing his 10 siblings, the youngest now 5 and the oldest 27. He misses seeing his grandmother.

“That was the hardest part,” he said.

Gardlock, though, made a new family in New Bethlehem.

The middle child, he still speaks with his sibling often. He tries to be a role model for them, especially his younger brothers and sisters.

“They all took different paths,” Gardlock said. “I got to see what to do and what not to do. I try to show my youngest brothers and sisters what path to take because I’ve already seen it and they’re too young to understand what my older siblings did. I try to take that into consideration, showing my younger siblings to stay on the right path and don’t get sidetracked.”

Blane Gold admires how Gardlock has dealt with all the things he’s had to overcome already in his young life.

“I said on awards day (when Gardlock received the 519Strong scholarship, as well as two others), ‘I’m 33 years old and Marquese, who’s actually young for his grade — he’s still 17 — has experienced more in his life than hopefully I’ll ever have to experience.’”

Gardlock hopes to be a teacher and someday. He also wants to coach, whether that is football, basketball or track and field — he did all three at Redbank Valley and did them well.

He also wants to make an impact on the football field at Cal.

He certainly made one on the field for the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-5, 185-pound Gardlock was a shutdown corner for Redbank with four interceptions and six passes defended. On offense, he was a huge threat as a receiver with 42 catches for 632 yards and 11 touchdowns. He hauled in two TD passes in the state championship loss to Bishop Guilfoyle.

His first priority, though, is his studies.

“Education comes first,” Gardlock said. “I also want to show people what I can do on the football field.”

As he wrote in his essay, Gardlock is well aware of how fortunate he is. Most are unable to persevere through the adversity he has faced and come out the other side the way he has.

“Everyone here means a lot to me, especially coach Emmanuel for bringing me in and treating me like one of his own,” Gardlock said. “Coming here and playing three sports changed me a lot. I’m so thankful, thankful for all the coaches and all the people who have helped me to get to the spot I am now where I’m able to achieve my dreams.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.