Mrs. Lauren Hill once sang “In the depths of my heart, the answer, was within me / And I made my decision to determine my destiny” on her hit album and song, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Perhaps it is true that 23 years after its release, and almost 23 years after the birth of Marquis Bemag, these words reappear when Bemag and his girlfriend Erin were driving from Austin, Texas, to Berkeley, California. After all, Hill is their favorite artist.
Bimage’s trip from Texas to the Gulf of course wasn’t prompted by her words, though they wouldn’t have hurt her. After four years on a football scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin, Bimage was traveling to do something he had never done before: he was just going to be a student.
That was the plan, at least.
Bimage, currently a master’s student in the Graduate School of UC Berkeley, applied to only one program after graduating from Texas.
“I’m not sure what I would have done if I had not been accepted,” said Bimage, shy but confident.
For many people (especially any seniors currently in the graduate school application process), applying to one school is a frenzy and is sure to generate anxiety like no other. But for Bimage’s brother, Darian, that decision was the same old Marqez he’d always known.
“They were decisions worth making in the summer,” said the elder Bemaj. “I didn’t even think about it. I said to him, ‘Hey, go put all your energy in there and do it.’”
But there was one caveat: Bimage was just a student when he arrived at UC Berkeley. For the most part, he was OK with this change of pace and found peace with it.
But sometimes plans change.
Bimage reached out to the team, officially entering the transfer portal in search of an opportunity to play with Cal. With 34 career bouts under his belt in one of the country’s premier programs, Bimage was excited to make his start in a new environment.
“The All-Stars had to align just to be on the team,” Bimage said, noting that Cal has seven seniors in their sixth or seventh year of eligibility. List places were few and far between, making it a no-go in the park for even the most attractive graduate transfers.
He was allowed to join the team and start preparing for the 2021 season with the Bears, but there was only one truth he needed to face: He wouldn’t get a scholarship.
“I came from the University of Texas, where I was a student-athlete on a four-year scholarship,” Bemag said. “Then I came here, and they told me I couldn’t get a scholarship, it was hard to swallow a pill.”
Bimage had to walk.
Walking anywhere, let alone Power Five School, can be an endless nightmare — scouting teams, early morning weights and earning every shot you take in practice can be almost too much. And at the end of the day, you still have to pay the tuition fee as well. Bimage never thought he would find himself in this situation.
But he wasn’t about to let that stop him.
“I had confused men,” Bemaj said. “They thought I was on a scholarship.”
It makes sense why they might think so. Bimage had a whole bunch of scholarship offers from high school (and funny one of them was from Cal). Bimage was also interested in noting that after joining Cal as a student, he got another phone call with an offer: This time, it was USC.
“I said no – I didn’t want to do that,” he said with a smile. “I prefer to walk UC Berkeley.”
It’s an ability to act attitude that translates well to the field and to his contacts at Cal in and out of the locker room. This attitude also helped propel him through an ongoing process that is rarely perfect. But for Bimage, this was just a first step in the right direction.
“This is a position for which I am very grateful, just to go through the process,” Bemag said. “I feel like I’ve seen two perspectives on being a student-athlete.”
“I don’t know if there’s a chip on my shoulder necessarily,” the star continued from outside midfield, “but I definitely felt like I had something to prove to myself as a person and to the coaches to earn that scholarship.”
For his brother, Bimag’s position was no surprise.
“He always had that drive, this passion for whatever he puts his mind to. What you see now is always like that from a young age,” his brother said. “We talk about it all the time: excellence and determination. You cannot enjoy excellence without persistence.”
It won’t be long at all until Bimage’s decision to pay dividends comes. The day before the fall classes began, he was awarded a full scholarship.
“I’ll remember this feeling until I die,” he laughed.
In just a few months, the Texas move was already starting to make its mark on the show.
There is a level of consistency from Bimage that is seldom found and seldom matched, but that’s what makes special people, well, special. But for him, it’s about more than “just” football.
Growing up in Texas, about 45 minutes from Texas A&M, Bemig was well aware of the kind of pressure put on his shoulders. Bimage started playing football at the age of five, and almost immediately after he started, his father started putting him in the age group above his own, sensing that he had stopped playing football with children his own age.
His brother laughed: “I remember when we were younger – I’m 26, he’s hardly 23, and he was always older than me.” “I just remember over the years it has accelerated, and it has always been bigger.”
Bigger and stronger, sure, but Bimage’s brother might have some issues with “The Faster” – he’s been a talented footballer himself for a while too.
“Growing up and playing football in Texas, it was a big deal,” Bemag said. “I definitely saw it as the main focus.”
But for Bimage, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“You don’t have to play this sport to be successful in your life,” he said. “I feel like it’s the adult-driven life of these kids, to put all your eggs in this sport, but that’s not the case.”
Bimage has witnessed firsthand how a world view centered around sports can rob people of their self-esteem and direction.
“When you see her in high school, seeing her in college, there are guys who just don’t live up to their ‘potential’ in college, and then they say, ‘Oh no, what do I do? ” ” He said. “All their eggs are in that basket, and it’s okay, but no one tells them they don’t have to do that, you can do other things in life, and it’ll be fine.”
Bimage knows exactly what he would do if he wasn’t playing football.
“If I wasn’t playing football, I would definitely be a graduate student here at UC Berkeley,” he said.
Given how he got to Cal without a football, there is no reason to believe otherwise. Now, Bimage is on his way to the future, studying the intersection of sports and education at the #1 school in the country.
Bimage’s brother said, “If you have someone close to you and you know their potential, all you have to do is treat them like a car: just fill them up.” “Just being able to try to keep that person empty – you can get close to the empty space, but as long as you can take them to the next stop to get home, you’re good to go.”
And so, when Bemag went on his way to Berkeley, he had a few people convincing him. His brother, girlfriend, and Mrs. Lauren Hill kept it going.
He is determined to finish that driving and he is determined to be excellent.
Jesse Stewart covers soccer. Call him at [email protected]And follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.