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The Power of Determination and Perseverance in Your Career

Episode overview

What was your first dream job? Is it still a career path you are pursuing?

Special guest Marshall Hilaman joins Pete Newsome to share his inspiring story on how he achieved his dream job as a recent college graduate on this episode of finding career zen.

At a young age, Marshall dreamed of having a career in football. Even though his life threw him a few curveballs, Marshall never gave up on his goals. He first started playing college football at Southeastern University, but when it got too expensive, he transferred to a community college in his hometown, Tallahassee, FL. What would be next for Marshall? He wasn’t too sure how he would get there, but Marshall had his sights set on playing football for FSU.

Despite many rejections to FSU, he finally received an acceptance letter and the opportunity to try out for the FSU team. The defense coordinator was very impressed, but due to unforeseen circumstances, he didn’t make the team. Marshall created a list of goals and his own conditioning program to prepare himself for the next time an opportunity came. After a lot of hard work, faith, and patience, Marshall finally made the team!

But unfortunately, Marshall faced some injuries that ended his football career. Or did it? Marshall’s faith got him through the tough times, as he trusted God to help lead the way. And luckily, opportunity presented itself again, but this time in Northern Arizona. What exactly was this opportunity? Tune in to find out!

42 minutes

View transcript

Advice for landing your dream job

If you truly want something, you’ll find a way to make it happen

Or you will at least learn from the experience by trying. The process of chasing your goals and dreams will prepare you for what you’re going to need and where you’re going to end up.

Stay ready

Always be ready, because you never know when your moment is going to come. If you’re always prepared, you will always have the option to say yes to new opportunities.

Make a good impression

The relationships you create along your path can impact your future. Lasting impressions have the potential to open doors you never thought possible.

Get back up, again and again

Undeniable determination is hard to come by, and certainly unforgettable. Failure does not equal impossible. Hard work will never go unnoticed. 

Additional resources

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome headshot

Pete Newsome is the President and founder of zengig, which he created after spending two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also the founder of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed and award-winning staffing and recruiting firm he started out of a home office in 2005. Pete’s primary mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way; with a commitment to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts.


Pete Newsome  0:15  
You’re listening to the finding career zen podcast. I’m Pete Newsome and my guest today is Marshall Hilaman. Marshall recently graduated from Florida State University. And he is currently working as a graduate assistant in the strength and conditioning program at Northern Arizona University. Thank you for getting up early to speak with me today, Marshall. How are you?

Marshall Hilaman  0:34  
Good. How are you? Thanks for the opportunity.

Pete Newsome  0:36  
I am great. I am great. So how long have you been in Arizona?

Marshall Hilaman  0:41  
I just moved out here about a month ago. So I literally just got here.

Pete Newsome  0:45  
So I asked you to come on today to give our listeners a bit of a different feel than a lot of the guests we have on. So of course, our podcast is intended to talk about career success, and how it happens, how people become successful. But when I’m talking to a lot of folks who are, let’s say a little farther along in their career, like I am, the stories tend to sound the same. 

Pete Newsome  1:11
And for people closer to your age, I think they’ve become a little skeptical of our memories and the way we talk about having to walk uphill, both ways to get to school, and all of those stories that are cliche. But I’m excited to talk to you because you’re living this right now. You are really at the beginning of your career path. But you’ve already done a lot to get there. So if you don’t mind, I want to just talk through that today. From the time when I first met you, when you were in high school, and where you are now and where you want to end up. How’s that sound?

Marshall Hilaman  1:45  

Pete Newsome  1:46  
Awesome. Well, let’s start at the beginning man. You grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, right?

Marshall Hilaman  1:51  
Yes, sir. So I was born and raised in Tallahassee. You know the goal was always to go to Florida State, play football at Florida State, that’s the dream you had as a kid. Ended up in high school, my junior year, I actually moved to Orlando. Finished out high school down there. Didn’t have any offers coming out of high school. I was at a smaller school. My film wasn’t great. I wasn’t the most athletic. 

Marshall Hilaman  2:13
I had one interest from a small school called Southeastern, down in Lakeland, Florida. So that was kind of the route I took, it was about 5000 kids. The program was really good at the time and so I chose that route. Some things happened in that semester with some family and ultimately, we just couldn’t afford to go there anymore. So I literally had one option, that was to move back to Tallahassee and live with my grandma. So I lived in a little tiny twin bed in the corner of one of her rooms in her house, for eight or nine months, just trying to figure out what my life was. 

Marshall Hilaman  2:45
My parents were really going through it so I didn’t really have much support from them. So I was kind of on my own for a little bit. And once I got back up to Tallahassee, I got a job at a Gold’s Gym. And I was going to community college, taking three or four classes, just trying to figure it out, figure out how I was going to do things. 

Marshall Hilaman  3:04
And I figured if I’m in Tallahassee, I’ll at least train and try to make this dream a reality and play at Florida State. So I ended up working at Gold’s, I was going to community college and ended up getting another side job on the weekends, bartending, just so I can make some extra quick cash. I did that for about two years. So that was kind of how I started.

Pete Newsome  3:21  
So it’s safe to say that your dream of playing for FSU wasn’t looking like a given at that point. Is that pretty fair?

Marshall Hilaman  3:29  
I would say at the beginning when this journey first started, when I first went back to Tallahassee, I mean, I literally didn’t have much in my bank account. I was living with my grandmother, taking like three classes at community college. You go from playing college football, to going to community college working two jobs. I mean.

Pete Newsome  3:47  
That doesn’t look like you’re heading in the direction you wanted to at that point, right, of putting on a Seminole uniform?

Marshall Hilaman  3:55  
Yeah, no, it wasn’t looking good. It was hard for a year, there were a lot of doubts I had, especially when I was training. I’m like is this really going to happen? I had a lot of doubts for a good solid year of whether or not this would actually be a reality. And I did my best to make it a reality and did what I could.

Pete Newsome  4:13  
So I know a little bit about that world, having gone through the same sort of hopes and dreams with my oldest son, who you of course know. And that world’s pretty harsh. There’s no handouts, there’s no one to help you do it, to do the work. You have to do it yourself. So a year is a long time at that point. It’s a pretty lonely place to be, I’d guess.

Marshall Hilaman  4:41  
Yeah, it was hard. And I actually applied to Florida State four times before I actually got accepted. I was denied all four times. So every semester I was reapplying, and I kept getting denied. And it’s kind of one of those hopeless feelings of like, is this really going to happen? So that was really crushing. So that year, year and a half period, was long. It was hard. It was just put your nose down and work and it was literally say a prayer and see if you can make it.

Pete Newsome  5:10  
And I know you did a lot of that, I know your faith is important to you. Something you make very public and do you think that that played a big role in helping you stay the course?

Marshall Hilaman  5:24  
Absolutely. I’m a big believer. Big believer in where you are is exactly where God wants you to be. I’m a big believer in God will open the right doors at the right time, and His plan and His purpose will come to play. And it was a big teaching moment. It was a humbling moment for a year, two year period, of just learning to trust God and learning to just be where your feet are and trust the process. 

Marshall Hilaman  5:49
And during the time, you’re a 19-20 year old kid, you hate going through it. But now I’m 24, I look back at the journey. I’m so glad that that journey happened because now I have a testimony to share with other people and encourage other people and motivate and inspire other people who are in similar shoes, similar dreams that I had.

Pete Newsome  6:06  
So many young men, young women, who dream of playing sports at a higher level are in that position and it’s not uncommon for them to work really hard. That’s a necessary component of it and to pray, and it still doesn’t always work out. So what turned the tide for you? Where did you get that opportunity? How’d it come to fruition? 

Marshall Hilaman  6:30  
So I actually had two tryouts. I tried out in 2019, when I first got into Florida State. So I got accepted that summer and I had a tryout with them. Dominated the tryout, killed the tryout. I thought I did great and came very close with the defense coordinator at the time, Coach Harlon Barnett, who’s now at Michigan State, but me and him hit it off well. 

Marshall Hilaman  6:51
And he said, hey, I really like you. I’m really impressed by your work. And he gave me a report, they said August 26th, we want you to come to the office, we’ll get everything squared away and we’ll go from there. Showed up August 26th, it was a Monday morning. Waited about all day long just to hear from somebody and finally got to talk to the guy that I was supposed to talk to. And when he comes up, he says hey, I don’t have any paperwork on you. 

Marshall Hilaman  7:11
I don’t know, got no information on you, you’re gonna have to come back in January, there’s nothing to do right now. And I was crushed. Because I was like, I waited really two years for this opportunity. And I finally got it and I was told that it was gonna happen, and then a snap of the fingers. It was gone. 

Pete Newsome  7:27  
Yeah, within seconds, it just gets taken away. Needless to say, you didn’t see that coming on that day. Right? You thought you were walking in to be exactly where you had been working to end up. And I didn’t know that part of the story until now. I mean, what was your mindset then? In that moment?

Marshall Hilaman  7:47  
I remember I looked the guy in his eyes and said, thank you for the opportunity. And I didn’t really know what else to say. Looking back now I wish I would have just argued and tried to say like, hey listen, I was told to be here. But I don’t know, it just was a knife in the chest. And I was like, I just said thank you. And I remember I went home, sent a couple text messages to people to just let them know. And I remember, I cried for just a week straight. And I was like, what am I gonna do with my life? What am I gonna do? 

Marshall Hilaman  8:12
So I remember, I said, okay. I talked to a couple people in the next couple of days and I gave myself a week. I have a week to decide what I really want to do. I said, a week comes later and I feel like you know, God’s leading me down a different path, then I’ll go down a different path. But if I want to give it one more shot, I’ll give it one more shot. I remember I gave it a week and the next weekend, I remember I wrote down a list of eight goals. And I said, okay, I’m not gonna make this if I don’t hit either of these goals. 

Marshall Hilaman  8:43
So one of them was a GPA. One of them was just athletic performance. So I wrote my own workout program. That’s kind of how I really got into strength conditioning, I had a passion for it. So I got with the right people and said, okay, if I want to be this speed, if I want to be this strong, if I want to be this size, what do I need to do? 

Marshall Hilaman  9:00
So I wrote out my own programs, like 18 weeks long, which gave me till about the second or third week of January, once I finished it, which was perfect. Because that was around when the next tryout was. So I wrote that and I remember, it was fall 2019. I mean, I literally tuned the whole world out. 

Marshall Hilaman  9:19
I said for 18 weeks, I’m just gonna go as hard as I can. So I was working two jobs again, going to school full time. And then I was waking up at five o’clock in the morning to go work out. And I was doing 14-15 hour days, just back to back to back to back, for 18 weeks. And it was hard. I mean, there were some dark days in those times. 

Marshall Hilaman  9:40
Because eventually, Willie Taggart got fired that season. Mid October, when that happened, I’m thinking, who’s going to be the next head coach? Are they going to have a try out? Are they going to bring on walk ons? That was another thing that was up in the air that would really test my faith was, you know, is this really going to happen again?

Pete Newsome  9:56  
Well, I want to set the tone of the timeline for anyone who’s not as familiar with the college football season and what we’re really talking about is. You walked in August 2019, thinking you were going to be on the team that season, that you had earned the right to play that fall season when college football takes place, and you were effectively turned away, unceremoniously, right? Never to be heard from again, potentially. 

Pete Newsome  10:22
And then you had to recommit. Basically start from scratch, right, and go back to the well and just try again. And it took you what? How many months? You said 18 weeks, so between August and January, while the season’s going on that you’re in no way part of the team or the organization, you had to stay focused or refocus all over again, that’s just an incredibly challenging and frustrating thing to do. I mean, very few people would have that kind of fortitude.

Marshall Hilaman  10:55  
Yeah, it was hard, it was very challenging. The only thing that really kept me going was okay, if I train this hard for X, Y, and Z days and X, Y and Z weeks, even if it doesn’t happen, I have faith that there’d be a purpose within that for some reason. And then now I look back and say, okay, now I have kind of two testimonials about it. 

Marshall Hilaman  11:17
But now that I have that program written now, that was what kind of led me down this path to where I am now. Because now I have the knowledge of how to properly train, how to properly use technique, how to properly program stuff to make a kid faster, stronger, bigger. And now I use a lot of that knowledge where I am at now.

Pete Newsome  11:33  
Yeah, and I think it’s worth noting that while you’re a fit, strong, athletic guy, you’re not 6’5, you’re not 300 pounds, presumably you didn’t run a 4.2 40. I know you were fast, but I don’t think you were that fast. Right? Did you run a 4.2 40?

Marshall Hilaman  11:52  
I went 4.43. 

Pete Newsome  11:53  
Okay. So I mean, listen, by any standard, that’s fast. But we’re talking, playing at the highest level of college football, and having to make the team that certainly wasn’t a red carpet that was laid out for you, especially given what you had to go through in that fall. So what happened when January came around?

Marshall Hilaman  12:15  
So January rolled around, I think it was like January 6th or 7th, which was the first Monday of the school year. And I said, I’m going to show up every day to the front office at 8am when they open and I’m gonna say hey, I want to try out.

Pete Newsome  12:28  
So Coach Taggart was gone, right? That new coaching staff, was Coach Norvell in place by then?

Marshall Hilaman  12:34  
He had just gotten hired, like a week before. So there was a whole cluster of just commotion going on in the office because they were making so many new hires. So nobody was working up there.

Pete Newsome  12:46  
And by the way, COVID just started.

Marshall Hilaman  12:49  
COVID was a factor in that, because now you got a rumor that this virus is going to shut everything down, which it did. But I remember it was about a two week process where I showed up every single morning, like 8am, right when the doors open. I said I want to talk to somebody about walking on and they didn’t have anybody at the time that had any information on it. 

Marshall Hilaman  13:07
So finally about two weeks later, they had hired a grad assistant, I guess was in charge of that. He said, let me get your information, this, that and the other. They hired another guy a couple of days later. I was up there again, for like the third week in a row and he brought me back to his office. He said, listen, we’re planning a try out, we’re probably going to have one. It’s going to be the first week of March, right for spring ball. He says, we need more information on it. 

Marshall Hilaman  13:28
And then a couple of weeks later, they posted a flyer about it. So at that point, I was like, okay, if I really want to impress myself, what do I need to do? So remember, and this is just a tryout. This is one of those things you just show up.

Pete Newsome  13:42  
And they may take nobody, right? They may take a couple? I mean, I’ve read some stories of these tryouts that it’s not very promising when you show up for them.

Marshall Hilaman  13:53  
No, no, like they’re looking for tackling dummies, not looking for anything special. 

Pete Newsome  13:58  

Marshall Hilaman  13:59  
Which is hard. It’s a hard reality as a walk on. That’s what you got to deal with. But I remember, I think March 2nd was the tryout date. I remember I wrote another six week workout program. And I was like okay for six weeks this is what I’m going to do. D load week right before the tryout and when the tryouts go, I’ll be peaked. 

Marshall Hilaman  14:15
So one of the things that I did that I felt was very important was, we had a meeting right before the tryout and I remember I got a folder together. And I said okay if for some reason I make the team they’re going to need X, Y, and Z of information. They are going to need transcripts, doctor reports, paperwork, all this stuff. So I went online, or actually went up to compliance. 

Marshall Hilaman  14:36
I said, hey, if I were to have an opportunity, what would I need? She gave me a list of all the paperwork, all the stuff and information they would need. So I went home, printed it all off. It was like six or seven things they needed and I actually had to go to the doctor for it just to get some stuff signed off. 

Marshall Hilaman  14:50
But I wanted to be as prepared as possible so that if my opportunity came, they wouldn’t have any questions. I put together a folder, had all that information in it, and the day of the trial meeting I gave it to him. And I remember I looked the guy in the eyes and said, hey, I’m ready to go. This is all the paperwork that you need. And he looked at it and he said, okay, well we’ll see you March 2nd, we’ll go from there.

Pete Newsome  15:09  
So you effectively filled out your new hire paperwork, if we equate this to a job, the new hire paperwork before you even interviewed? 

Marshall Hilaman  15:18  
Yes, pretty much. 

Pete Newsome  15:21  
Which no one ever does. So I love it. That’s great. So keep going.

Marshall Hilaman  15:25  
Yeah, I mean, that’s just how kind of determined I was. I was like, you know what, if I’m gonna do this, I want to leave no trace and say no doubt that I wanted to be here. I remember I even wrote like a three page paper of why I wanted to be here. I put it in there and it was for Norvell. I don’t think he ever read it. He probably didn’t. 

Pete Newsome  15:43  
He should read it now if he has it. I love it. So that’s commitment. 

Marshall Hilaman  15:51  
For sure. Remember, I committed myself. I’d been through this for two years. And I was like, I’d committed, I’d been so all in for it. And I want to leave no doubt, leave no trace, I want to go 110% into this thing. And then, tryout day rolled around. It was March 2nd. 

Marshall Hilaman  16:07
I showed up, there were probably maybe 40 kids. And just from being up in the office, I knew a couple of people out there. So they knew I was coming. And I remember, one of the first things we did was the 40. I was thinking, okay, I have to run fast or I’m not going to make it.

Pete Newsome  16:24  
What was the number you thought you had to run? Do you remember?

Marshall Hilaman  16:28  
I was thinking I would at least have to run 4.5. 

Pete Newsome  16:31  
Okay. Yeah. 

Marshall Hilaman  16:33  
I was thinking 4.5. I was like, okay, if I run 4.5, I’ll be in good hands. And I got up to the line and I ran the first one. And there’s two people, they got their hands out and they’re holding the stopwatch. I remember they clocked me and as soon as I passed, I just heard this whoa. And I’m thinking okay, I must have run something decent so I’m in good hands. 

Marshall Hilaman  16:54
So I finished the 40 and I remember I stopped and I went to turn around and Coach Dillingham, Kenny Dillingham is now at Oregon, is running a full on sprint at me with this big smile on his face. He comes up to me, he goes, hey man. I was like what do I say to this? He sticks his hand out and he goes, what’s your name? And I said Marshall Hilaman. And he just looks at me and he goes, do you have any idea what you just ran? And I said, I honestly have no idea. 

Marshall Hilaman  17:25
And he goes, you ever played running back before? I literally looked at him and I said, I will play offensive line for you. I don’t care what you want, I just want to be a part of this program. He just smiled at me, didn’t even say anything, just smiled at me and went, okay, that’s great, go run another one. So I go to run another one and when I go to run this one, there’s probably 15 people at the 40 yard, with their hands out with a stopwatch.

Pete Newsome  17:50  
Now they’re paying attention. 

Marshall Hilaman  17:52  
Yeah, this is probably the most pressure I’ve ever had in my entire life is to run another 40. I think I went for 4.47 on the second one. And then after that, when he came back up to me again and I remember he followed me around the whole tryout. We had some other stations and he followed me. And after the tryout we did a conditioning test. And I remember I was like, okay, I’ve planned for two years to be on this team. 

Marshall Hilaman  18:16
I was like, nobody’s going to beat me on this conditioning test. And I passed the test like 40 yards in front of everybody else. And I was like, okay, this is good. And I remember after that, there wasn’t much else said and I shook a couple hands and just said thank you for the opportunity. And they said hey, if you make it, we’ll give a phone call in the next couple of days. So that’s all we can tell you. It was actually the next day. 

Marshall Hilaman  18:45
I was going to one of my classes, it was like voting, and my one thing in my mind is I’m just going to class. It’s going to be three or four days before I get a phone call. I’m not worried. I remember, I literally walk into class, I sit down, and this random 850 number calls me. Should I answer this? It’s a random number. But you know what, I’ll answer it. I’m sitting in class, class hadn’t started yet. 

Marshall Hilaman  19:12
I picked up the phone and it was Coach Lock at the time, who is also at Oregon now. It was the shortest conversation I’ve ever had. And he calls me and goes, hey, Marshall, it’s Coach Lock. He goes, listen, you are one of the guys we selected, don’t post nothing, don’t say nothing. I need you to come to the office to fill out some paperwork and he goes, show up tomorrow at 5am. 

Marshall Hilaman  19:34
And he hangs up the phone. And I’m like, I don’t even know what to say, I don’t even know what to do. So I just walked up to the football office to fill out some paperwork and they’re like, yeah, show up tomorrow at 5am. Don’t be late. And I showed up tomorrow. 

Pete Newsome  19:48  
And that’s it. 

Marshall Hilaman  19:50  
That was it. 

Pete Newsome  19:51  
You’re on the team. Congratulations. And having had a couple conversations with Coach Lock, I can completely envision how that call went. Be here and that’s it. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Marshall Hilaman  20:03  
Yeah, it was maybe all of 20 seconds. And that was how I found out. I don’t even know what to say. So I went up to fill out my paperwork and I showed up the next day. 

Pete Newsome  20:13  
Man, that is so cool. And the fact that you had to perform, you get quite literally one shot at that, and if you don’t, that’s it. Where they will never see you again and going in, not being on their radar screen at all, man you had to stand out and you did it. That’s a great lesson, I think, because a lot of kids who, as you know, dream of playing college athletics. 

Pete Newsome  20:46
And just because you don’t get that opportunity right out of the gate, just because you weren’t heavily recruited, there’s so many reasons why that could happen, doesn’t mean you should give up. And if that’s your dream, as you’re describing, it took you years to achieve it. But by not giving up, you accomplished what you set out to do, which is really an admirable thing. 

Pete Newsome  21:13
So you made the team, you’re on, from what I could tell from seeing pictures and seeing you on the sideline, looks like you enjoyed it. It looks like it was worth the wait, right? There were always big smiles on your face.

Marshall Hilaman  21:28  
It was unbelievable. I know that first year was weird, because COVID hit. So I literally made the team and then a week later, we all got sent home. So it was like crap, well I just got here and now I can’t even be a part of it. So we went home for two and a half, three months.

Pete Newsome  21:42  
Yeah, because spring football was canceled after a week, right?

Marshall Hilaman  21:45  
Yeah, one week of spring ball and then boom, it was all canceled. But we got back for summer and everything was up in the air, the season was up in the air. There were a lot of moving pieces, the workouts were a little bit different, because nobody had been working now. So that whole period, even that season, was just very odd. 

Marshall Hilaman  22:02
Just with COVID protocols, there weren’t any fans. It was just very strange. So I didn’t really get the real experience until the second year when I was there. That’s when it really hit, I was like okay, I’m really doing this now. That’s when it really got fun.

Pete Newsome  22:15  
Yeah, that was a strange time to be a student, to be an athlete, well to be a citizen. To be alive. It was a strange year. As I just said, I always would see you in the front of the pictures and it looked to me like you fully embraced every second of that. 

Pete Newsome  22:37
Just like you said, you weren’t going to leave anything unsettled and it looked like you carried that through to your experience on the team as well. Tell me how you went from player Marshall to Coach Marshall, because I saw that transition, but I don’t know that story. I’ve just followed your progress on Instagram, for the most part.

Marshall Hilaman  22:59  
Yes, so going into that year two phase, that was when I really turned it on. I want to play. Like year one is over with, the honeymoon phase is over with. I want to play. So I came in the next year, spring ball. Couple days before the spring game, I got a concussion. So I missed the whole spring game, which was pretty upsetting. But it’s football, it’s what you sign up for, it’s things that are gonna happen. 

Marshall Hilaman  23:26
That was kind of one of the factors that played into it. So it was kind of a long healing process, I healed a little bit longer than what it took. Summer workouts, just really that year, I just built a very good relationship with the coaching staff. It was one of those, I was always in their office and talked more than just X’s and O’s. There’s talk about life, talk about their families, my family, my journey, their journey and just making relationships and building that foundation with them I felt was very important to me. 

Marshall Hilaman  23:54
So I made sure I did that with the entire staff. Fall rolled around, it was actually week two of the season, I got another concussion, got it in practice. And it took me about four weeks, almost five weeks to even really kind of even remotely heal from it. I mean, I was in a bad spot for really two or three weeks, just really battling some tough symptoms. I wasn’t even allowed at practice, I wasn’t allowed at games for a good three weeks just because of the severity of it. 

Marshall Hilaman  24:24
So I was out for a little while and it got to the point where I couldn’t even work out because my heart rate got too high. I would just want to pass out because I had a lot of pressure built up in my head and was dealing with a lot of stress. And I remember I think it was the end of week four going into week five, because I had to checkup with the doctor weekly and the week prior, I asked what’s your healing process, what is it going to take for me to really get back? 

Marshall Hilaman  24:52
And he goes, honestly next week will be kind of a tell all. So I’m back the next week and it was one of those things where I had to list all of my symptoms, what I was going through. It was one of those things at the same time, I can’t BS around, I had to be brutally honest because this could be something that could seriously affect me and my career long term. I laid out all my symptoms and we talked for a while. And I kind of asked him, at what point is this too much? 

Marshall Hilaman  25:20
We had kind of hit it off for just a little bit of conversation and he eventually came to me, and he’s like, hey listen, it’s probably best that you hang this up and move on to something else, just for the stress factor factor, just for relieving a lot of these symptoms, just for getting a lot off your plate. So it’ll probably help you out a lot, if you just, hang this up and move on. Because it’s obviously dangerous. If I were to have the opportunity to come back and play it again, I would have gone 10 times harder, because this would have been my last year and I want to see the field. 

Pete Newsome  25:52  

Marshall Hilaman  25:53  
So I would have gone, head butting everybody, trying to dog my way on. So I probably would have got a third one, which would not have been smart. 

Pete Newsome  26:00  

Marshall Hilaman  26:01  
But the severity is of, hey, you know, if you get even two, four months apart, it’s not good.

Pete Newsome  26:08  
That’s a big deal. That’s bad stuff.

Marshall Hilaman  26:10  
Yeah he was saying if you were to get three within six months, you could actually be having severe damage that could affect you long term. And we talked about that for a while. And it was a very hard conversation. And he just put his hand on my shoulder. And he was like, listen, you’ve had a great career, you gotta do what a lot of kids didn’t get to do and signed some paperwork for it. And that was kind of the decision we made. 

Marshall Hilaman  26:31
And I went upstairs, and this is kind of how my coaching career got off. And I went upstairs. And Coach Fuller, who’s the defense coordinator there, was at a staff meeting. And I was like crap, I walked in, I know they’re in a staff meeting. Like dang I gotta tell the whole staff this right now. I told him in front of like, 20 people, and he just looked at me and said, hey, take a week off, go home. He’s like get out of here, go get out of Tallahassee, go do something else with your life for a week. 

Marshall Hilaman  27:01
He says if you want to come back and work in a week, you let me know. So I came back in a week, I say listen, I want to go, I want to be a part of this, I want to embrace this new role. And so I became the signal caller. So you sit on the sidelines, you get the guys in usually different colored shirts that are calling in the plays with all kinds of hand signals with the headset on. So that’s what I became. I was the defense signal caller, which honestly, I had a lot more fun doing that than I probably would have been killing myself at practice.

Pete Newsome  27:30  
A little easier on the body.

Marshall Hilaman  27:34  
Well, yeah, but every game, I mean, you’re on the front row in the fire, calling all the plays. Like that was really cool. It was a lot of fun, a lot of learning, you’re around the staff a lot more. So you’re just building relationships and learning a lot more so that was really cool. Another thing was, Coach Storms let me continue to work out with the team, once I had started to heal a little bit again, I could actually be active. He let me be a part of workouts, let me be a part of the team, which is really cool.

Pete Newsome  27:58  
So, it’s always sort of been your thing, right? Independent of football, I know you take a lot of pride in strength and conditioning, both for performance, as well as just overall health. How did you make that transition from the field and decide this is something you wanted to pursue?

Marshall Hilaman  28:20  
So actually, I wanted to be a football coach when I first graduated. That’s what I really wanted to do. I was asking around, seeing for opportunities. And throughout my career at Florida State, I always did well with strength conditioning, I always did well with and performed well in that aspect. So me and Coach Storms built a very good relationship, he almost turned into like a second dad to me, while I was at Florida State. 

Marshall Hilaman  28:47
So we always had that relationship. But when I graduated, I really wanted to coach football. Dream was always to be a head coach and just moving my way up. And actually, Coach Marve, who was with us, actually took the defense coordinator job at Virginia Tech. Well, first of the year, we had been back and forth texting and he actually gave me a call and he said, hey listen, I got a GA spot open for the DBs. 

Marshall Hilaman  29:11
Talk to these guys and we’ll get the ball rolling from there. And I remember, we talked, I talked to both the other DB coaches and I was hoping for about a two week period before I’d hear something. And I was pretty much set on going to Virginia Tech just because after our conversations, it was looking pretty promising. 

Marshall Hilaman  29:27
And he called about two weeks later, and he said, hey, our head coach wants to go with the kid from Virginia, just for recruiting purposes. Because, as you know, college football is big on recruiting nowadays. So a lot of these big power five programs want to recruit within their state. 

Pete Newsome  29:42  

Marshall Hilaman  29:42  
So especially being his first year he wanted to recruit heavily in Virginia. So his rule obviously overrode Coach Marve’s rule. So that kind of shot me down. I still keep in touch to this day, we actually talk every other week, but that was kind of one of those things where God closed the door on football. 

Marshall Hilaman  29:58
I remember I talked to Coach Storms about it. And he says, just come work for me. So that was when I really got into it and I interned for him in the spring, for about four months. If you know anything about intern work in the sports world, it’s like 80 hours a week for free.

Pete Newsome  30:15  
Yeah it’s not glamorous.

Marshall Hilaman  30:17  
Oh, no. I remember some days I was there at 4, because we had stuff at 5 or 6am. So a lot of those days you’re there at 4am and you’re not leaving until 7, 8 at night. I mean, it is long days, and you’re doing all the work nobody else wants to do.

Pete Newsome  30:35  
Yeah, and those guys, from my understanding, end up putting in significantly more hours, as you’re describing, than the athletes, but there quite literally is no glory. Of course, the team, the organization appreciates them. But I don’t think fans really realize all the behind the scenes work that’s necessary to support a team who plays at that level.

Marshall Hilaman  30:56  
Oh, it’s brutal, it’s ugly, it’s not fun. But at the same time, that’s kind of how you earn your way in this industry. In this industry, nothing’s earned. Nothing’s given, it’s got to be stuff that you earn.

Pete Newsome  31:08  
Well and your reputation, right, is everything too. That has to be built along the way and I don’t have any first hand knowledge of this, but I would have to assume based on being a pretty big sports fan over the years and just watching how things go down, that most jobs happen because of who you know and what you’ve done. Your reputation certainly is everything. So putting in that time now is how you build it, right?

Marshall Hilaman  31:40  
Absolutely and a lot of those times when you’re starting off, first getting your foot in the door, it’s all about relationships. And if you make a good impression on somebody, they could take a job and they could take you with them. They might know somebody. That’s kind of been my situation out here. It’s just that somebody knew somebody, and I had a good reputation with where I was, and they made a phone call for me. And now I’m here.

Pete Newsome  32:03  
And we completely glossed over this Marshall, but when you were on the team at FSU, which is a full time job. You were also going to school, so you’re a full time student full time athlete, and you would leave football practice and go work at night. Which hardly, I mean that no one does that. Right? I mean, that’s an anomaly, to say the least. So how many hours were you working outside of football and school, to earn income?

Marshall Hilaman  32:34  
It was roughly 20 to 30 a week, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was a decent amount. And I was going Monday to Friday. So obviously we practice in the morning at Florida State, so I was at the facility at 6am. So I was up at 530 every day. So we’d have practice, I wouldn’t leave the facility till about 1, I’d go to class from 1 until 330 and then I would go to work from 4 till about 9, 930 every night. 

Marshall Hilaman  32:58
Get home, make dinner, do homework, and it’s 1130, 12. Turn around, be up at 530 again the next day. So it was rough, it was hard. But at the same time I loved it. I loved what I did. And I had to work. There wasn’t anything, as a walk on, you’re not getting all the scholarship stuff that all the other kids are getting.

Pete Newsome  33:13  
Yeah, that’s something you don’t want to gloss over. You can’t overstate that, with some exceptions, everyone on a football team knows kind of where they are in the pecking order and their likelihood of getting on the field. It sounds like you had an opportunity to do that your last year before getting hurt. 

Pete Newsome  33:34
But the year prior, you’re doing all that with very little expectation that you’re going to get to play and so you’re doing this for free and then you’re having to go work to pay your bills afterwards, while keeping your grades up as a student. I mean it’s a lot and very few do that. I mean, college athletes aren’t supposed to go to work after practice, they’re supposed to recover.

Marshall Hilaman  34:00  
It’s hard. Yeah, no, it’s hard. It was a lot on the body. I definitely felt it, especially towards the end of the season, just because I was on my feet all day long. Especially when I got to work, I was on my feet for another five or six hours. 

Marshall Hilaman  34:11
And I was at a gym so I’m moving more weight, so I’m burning more. It was hard, it was a lot of pressure. It was a lot of work. But I embraced it because I knew that, eventually, this would be a part of the journey and it was worth the sacrifice for sure.

Pete Newsome  34:26  
One of the things that is a theme from the interviews I’ve done so far, although this is still a relatively new podcast, is that if you find something that you would do, whether you received income for it or not, whether you’re paid for it or not, that should be the goal. To really immerse yourself in and to commit fully to something that you’ll do whether money’s involved or not. 

Pete Newsome  34:52
And you found that thing and so really all the work you did, out of love for it and desire to do it, set you up to be in the place you are now, which is to pursue that dream and to actually live the dream after college of staying in football and college athletics. So you went out to Arizona? Do you know anyone in Arizona? Or did you just pack up and go when the opportunity came?

Marshall Hilaman  35:25  
I literally packed up and just went when the opportunity came. It was one of those I couldn’t turn down. Quick overview of how I got here. So, it was actually at Pro Day. I saw an ad for this position here and I asked Coach Storm, hey, do you know anybody? He said yeah I know the head coach there. Like oh, this could be a good collaboration. 

Marshall Hilaman  35:50
So he literally sent the head coach a text, I got a phone call two days later, I got an interview the day after that, and I got the job the third day. So that’s kind of how quick this works. But the backstory of that is, the head football coach here’s name is Chris Ball. He was the defensive coordinator at Memphis, when Norvell was at Memphis, in 2015 and 16, I believe. 

Marshall Hilaman  36:16
And then prior to that, they were all together at Arizona State, back in 2014 and 13. So there was a big tie, there was a big connection with their coaching tree here. So it was literally one of those things where they made a phone call, boom, boom, next thing you know, I’m packing my bags and here I am. 

Pete Newsome  36:30  
That is awesome. All the work you did set you up for that success that you’re having now and well, look, you still have a long way to go. Right? You’re very early in this curve. Where’s this path going to lead? Where do you want it to lead?

Marshall Hilaman  36:48  
Well, I’m only a grad assistant. I’m 24, I’m a pretty young grad assistant so I’m working my way up. In regards to athletic performance and strength, I would love to try the NFL, just to learn. I don’t think I would want to be there the rest of my life but I would love to learn from the highest level. I would love to learn from the most elite athletes in the world, how you train them, how you maintain them, how you keep those guys healthy. 

Marshall Hilaman  37:14
It’s a lot of things that I’m intrigued by. But eventually I would love to be a head strength coach at a power five. Big time power five school, just working with the Rolls Royces of athletes, especially at the collegiate level. Just guys that want to work, hungry to work, eager to work, and just build these guys up and make the best product you can for them so they’re ready to perform on Saturdays.

Pete Newsome  37:38  
Is it safe to say you’re willing to keep grinding for as long as it takes to achieve your goal?

Marshall Hilaman  37:47  
Absolutely. But another thing is obviously in this industry there’s a lot of money, the money doesn’t really mean anything to me. The money is just one of those things that comes with it, but I’m more excited for the opportunity to just meet new people, go to new places, go to new schools, go to new cities, experience college football, experience life, experience different cultures. Especially out here, you go from the southeast to the southwest and it’s a different culture out here. They do things differently.

Pete Newsome  38:14  
There is a lot of money, coaches at a high level, even assistant coaches, staff. I see what those salaries are. They’re giant, but I don’t think anyone who ends up there did it with that in mind. And the reason I say that is because that’s years away. It doesn’t start off high, right? I mean, there’s only a few who get to that point. So you don’t go into it for the money because it certainly doesn’t come early. 

Marshall Hilaman  38:51  
For sure. 

Pete Newsome  38:52  
And I kind of really like that premise because only those who’ve earned it, as you said earlier no one can just hand that to you, no one would do that with a coaching job. That’s not how it works. You need to build that history and success and reputation over time. But it’s not a quick climb, it can be a long one.

Marshall Hilaman  39:14  
It can be a long journey. I mean for some it works better than others, sometimes a lot of it’s just playing your cards right. A lot of times people get offered different opportunities and they take jobs at the snap of the fingers, but some people wait. They wait their turn, they wait for their process and their purpose and they figure it out and they get with the right people and the right coaches and God opens the right doors for them.

Pete Newsome  39:40  
Well if I were betting, I would put my money on you. I’ll say that. Everything I’ve watched you do, hearing even more about it today, you’re doing it the right way, Marshall. And it’s admirable and I’m really glad that I was able to hear more of your story today. But there’s one more question I want to ask you, which is what advice, even though you’re still living it yourself, what advice would you give to others slightly younger than you, around your age, that they may find beneficial to hear?

Marshall Hilaman  40:15  
One of the biggest things I’ve learned, especially in college, was if you truly want something, you’ll find a way to make it happen. And even if it doesn’t happen, you will learn from that experience. And you will learn from what you went through to ultimately something bigger and better. I’m a big believer in God opening the right doors and he closes the right doors. 

Marshall Hilaman  40:34
So what you learned throughout your time and your process of chasing your goals and chasing your dreams may not be exactly what you think it’s going to be. But learning in that process, and that due time is ultimately going to prepare you for what you’re going to need and where you’re going to be. So that’s a big one that I like to do. And the other one is just staying ready. Always staying ready, always being prepared, because you never know when your moment is going to come. 

Marshall Hilaman  40:56
I took this job on literally about a week’s notice. And I packed my bags to move across the country. So it was one of those things where for four months, I was ready at any moment, I was ready for my time. And that time came and I was ready. Especially even playing football, watching film, being ready physically, always being ready for that opportunity, even before I tried out. Having a folder with all my information and just staying ready for that opportunity I feel like is a big key just so you’re prepared for it.

Pete Newsome  41:22  
Man, I think that’s a great message. And I think that’s a perfect place to close. I don’t think we’re gonna get better than that. So it is awesome advice. Thank you again for getting up early. Is that the weight room behind you there, that I can see over your shoulder?

Marshall Hilaman  41:36  
It is behind me. They got some, I don’t even know what they’re doing. They got construction crews in here right now. They just built this facility. It’s a new $50 million dollar facility. 

Pete Newsome  41:47  
Oh wow.

Marshall Hilaman  41:48  
It’s crazy because it’s nicer than a lot of power five schools.

Pete Newsome  41:51  
Really cool. Well good, we’ll put up a link. I’m sure there’s pictures for the facility so we’ll put a link to that.

Marshall Hilaman  41:58  
There’s a video on YouTube where they go through the whole thing. So I would definitely check it and I can send you a link for it. 

Pete Newsome  42:03  
Cool. We’ll put that in the show notes. That’s really neat. I look forward to seeing it. Well, thank you so much for getting up early. Thank you for sharing everything today and I’m going to be watching you, man, and look forward to seeing your success over the years to come. So Marshall Hilaman, thank you very much and everyone listening, have a great rest of your day.

Marshall Hilaman  42:22  
Mr. Newsome, thank you so much. I appreciate it. 

Pete Newsome  42:24  
You’re welcome.