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Waco High Standout Holds Strong Despite Loss of Grandmother

Oct. 5, 2010

That's Marcus Walker, a former Waco High and Oklahoma Sooner star who has spent the last four years in the NFL. His younger brother, Tristan Eche, is now a leader for the Waco Lions defense, just like he was seven years earlier. They're two brothers who share a bond that goes beyond football. They were raised by their grandmother, Mildred Cox. Tristan Eche, now a hard-hitting senior linebacker at Waco, said she was a very special type of lady.

Mildred Cox raised three grandsons, two of whom chose the football route. But she also kept them on-track in the classroom.

Tristan and Marcus believe that she's looking down on them now. Because two years ago, she was taken from them suddenly. A routine doctors visit turned into a several-hour stay. But she came back early in the morning to see her grandson off to school. But while Tristan was in class, she suffered a heart attack.

Dealing with the loss of your grandmother is certainly tough for a student. But Tristan was suddenly faced with the prospect of where he and his older brother would go. Without their caretaker, there were a lot of questions. It was also tough for Marcus. Marcus Walker was in Minnesota, going through off-season workouts as a member of the Vikings. Instantly, as a 23 year old, the young man who always felt responsible for his younger brother was now truly responsible as the breadwinner for his family.

Talking to Marcus and Tristan, there's no sense of unfairness or "why us?" Instead, they push forward just like they think their grandma would want them to. Marty Herbst is the longtime defensive coordinator for the Lions, and coached both Marcus and Tristan. His admiration is evident as he talks about Tristan's character--his grades, his leadership, and his sense of purpose in reaching his goal of playing college football.

The odds are certainly against moving up in football, especially when the rock in a student's life is suddenly removed. But Tristan is lucky that he has a role model to follow in Marcus. And the two brothers have seen their bond deepened from the days when a younger Tristan idolized his older brother.

Coach Herbst says he wishes he could bottle up their focus and share it with other students. They both have experienced glory on the football field, and Marcus managed to reach the pinnacle of the NFL. There's a lot on 25 year old Marcus's shoulders. He was the rock for his family at the age of 23 while trying to make it in the rough and tumble world of the NFL. But he approaches his new role the way he believes his grandmother would want.

He'll have to keep moving forward in spite of the obstacles. An injury last year led to him getting cut from the Carolina Panthers, and he has yet to catch on with another team. So he's regularly out at Waco High, working out, talking to his agent, and spending more time with his younger brother Tristan, a younger brother who, if all goes well, will be dealing with those same big-time college and pro-football realities in the years to come. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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