In movies, guardian angels sometimes play a key role in the storyline. 

More recently, a beloved volleyball player for the Iowa City West Trojans, Caroline Found, passed away tragically in 2011 and her spirit became a guardian angel watching over her teammates as they were molded and shaped by their coach Kathy Bresnahan into successfully defending their state title. Playing the flesh and blood Found in the 2018 movie, The Miracle Season based on the book written by Bresnahan was Danila Yarosh.

In June, 2014, a flesh and blood guardian angel showed up for the athletic programs at East Bernard High School in the form of athletic trainer Bob Marley, affectionately known as Doc. The timing of his arrival proved fortuitous for the Brahma/Brahmarette teams as they were moving into an era marked by successes in a number of sports beginning in 2015. There were back-to-back state titles in girls’ cross country, a state title in softball, back-to-back second place finishes in girls’ state track and field, a return to the state volleyball tournament for the first time since the glory days of Norma Pullin-led teams, a trip to the state semifinals in both football and tennis and numerous regional titles along the way.

There were aches and breaks, sprains and pains to the players that accompanied these successes. There was a need to build strength, build endurance, build speed and shape up the diets of the Brahmas and Brahmarettes. That’s where Doc Marley stepped up in a big way. He has finally been given a long overdue honor for his skills, his knowledge, his loyalty, his commitment and his love for all the people he has taken care of in various ways over 30 years. On March 5, 2019, the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) announced its 2019 Hall of Honor inductees and award winners. Marley was chosen as the Athletic Trainer of the Year. He will be honored at the end of the THSCA coaching school along with four other recipients on Tuesday, July 23.

Upon glancing at his resume, the qualities of loyalty and commitment stand out readily. He has been with the UT Health Science Center since November 2009. There he works with other high schools such as Louise and Industrial taking care of their athletes and teaching various techniques such as the proper taping of ankles to coaches and school athletic trainers. He has been a Game Day part-time athletic trainer for the Houston Texans since July 2009. His duties with the Texans include being an athletic trainer during training camp, mini camps, OTAs and all home games.

Before that he became an adjunct professor at Houston Baptist University in August 2007. All these associations continue to this day. His longest tenured association had been as the athletic trainer at Needville ISD from August 1989 until June 2014, a period of 24 years and 11 months.

It ended when Needville moved up in UIL classification to 4A and needed a full-time athletic trainer on campus. That created the opportunity for now East Bernard athletic director and head football coach Wade Bosse and former assistant coach Mike Merritt (now retired) to reach out to Marley to become the contract athletic trainer at East Bernard in June 2014.

“It was a win-win for all three of us, East Bernard, Needville and me,” Marley said.

Not only have East Bernard’s athletic programs benefitted from him being on campus taking care of the athletes, wrapping injuries, making sure that shoes are on correctly and laced up, but the East Bernard Independent School District gained some expense containment benefits from its association with Marley. 

“Since I joined East Bernard, it hasn’t had to spend any money on tape. I bring it over from the Texans,” Marley said. “The Texans have also stepped up and donated Gatorade and cups and supplies to the teams.” 

The Texans through Marley provide medical services and donate athletic training supplies and athletic equipment to about 40 high schools all around greater Houston. For the 2018-2019 school year, these donations totaled $283,000. That’s about the amount they do each year.

A look back at his accomplishments at Needville ISD reflect on the qualities attributed to him. Jo Ann Berry, the Needville volleyball coach during his time there commented on Marley. 

“He was our athletic trainer for 25 years. He was mainly hired for football, but he was at all athletic events on every sideline,” she said. “He made sure our kids were taped up every practice and game. He did treatments on our athletes as needed. He always had safety and strengthening suggestions for our girls in the weight room. He did it all and he took care of every athlete in every sport.”

She added, “But Doc didn’t just take care of Needville athletes. He reached out to a number of smaller schools around making himself available to meet the needs of their athletes.  Sometimes he found another right person to meet the needs of those other schools since he couldn’t be everywhere. But he made sure they were taken care of.”

At East Bernard, Erin Beaird, a 2019 graduate spoke of her experience with him.

“I had an ACL and MCL tear. (It happened during a basketball game in January, 2019). The MCL had healed non-surgically with physical therapy, so I worked with Doc for about a month on that and then I had surgery on my ACL. Doc worked with me doing physical therapy for the rest of the school year after that,” she said.

Beaird said she was thankful that she had Marley her with recovery. 

“He helped me to work harder than I thought I could, and he never let me feel sorry for myself. It didn’t matter if I cried or whined or complained about how much it hurt,” Beaird said. “He kept me working. His humor and encouragement made physical therapy significantly less terrible and without him helping me to get stronger and stay positive, I would not have healed s well or as fast as I have today.”

It’s not only the athletes and coaches who can offer testimonials to what Marley has brought to the table, but also the parents of these athletes. A case in point is that of Devin Chapman, a fullback for East Bernard injured in the regional playoff game last November. He fractured his ankle, dislocated his ankle and his elbow. Devin’s mother Alethea Chapman said, “Bob was right on top of it when the injury happened. He immediately had a top surgeon lined up and the right hospital for Devin. I had never had a child suffer such a devastating injury before, so his help was very much appreciated.”

Alethea said her son couldn’t put any weight on his leg until March. Initially he was in a wheelchair until right after Christmas when he had to have a second operation because infection had set in to the wound. 

“After that Devin was able to get around with a knee scooter. Finally, there was a third surgery in early March which got him back on his feet. Still he had suffered bone density loss and had to have a special diet and antibiotics to rebuild his strength.” 

As a teenager who had been so active would feel after such a loss, Devin was emotionally devastated by this turn of events in his life.

Added Alethea: “Bob was there for Devin offering words of encouragement. Since he got back to the 7 on 7 program, Devin continues to go to him for additional treatment depending on what’s going on.”

Not only did she have kind words to say about Marley, but Alethea said, “We appreciated the community of East Bernard and how they came together for Devin and our family. It started right after that injury on the field when every one of the Brahmas knelt in a circle for Devin as he was being attended to on the field.”

Devin seconded what his mother said, “He’s a real positive influence. He doesn’t let you hang your head down. I was emotionally very down, but he was there saying, ‘You’re going to be fine. You will be back to 100%.’” He added, “Doc gave me a list of treatments to do on my own. He’s very creative with his rehab techniques.” He will be ready when two-a-days begin next month.

There was one more parent and a former Brahmarette head volleyball and tennis coach who spoke of Doc’s rehabilitation of her injured daughter as well as many other East Bernard athletes. Kelly Novicke related, “My daughter Cheyenne tore her ACL and meniscus when she was a sophomore playing volleyball. Doc rehabilitated her then as well as numerous other students. Bob is awesome and he does a lot to keep our kids healthy. He even helps out the staff on occasion and never skips a beat.”

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