The weight rests upon his shoulders.
And it feels amazing.
Kyle Markway never knew how good the weight would feel. He never knew what he was capable of. Sure, he imagined. But he never thought those fantasies would spring to life.
Markway, a 6-foot-5 and 236-pound brick wall, has only scratched the surface of his potential. A senior at St. John Vianney High School in suburban St. Louis, Markway never invested himself in serious weight training until last summer when Paul Day was hired as coach.
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A longtime successful and prominent coach at Fort Zumwalt West, a suburban public school, Day brought a new attitude and a new plan to Vianney’s moribund program. The weight room was once an afterthought for the Golden Griffin gridders. The day Day walked in, it became the team’s second home.
“Before Coach Day came there wasn’t much of a weight program. It was just me with a personal trainer,” Markway, 17, said. “Then basketball came around so I cut down a lot. I was a toothpick. He was hired and introduced a new weight program and it’s helped me a lot. I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”
Markway’s strength has grown by leaps and bounds. He maxes out on the bench press at 265 pounds. He squats 395, power cleans 285 and push presses 320 pounds. His vertical leap was measured at 27 inches. All of this came just a year after he committed to lifting.
“His overall power wasn’t where it needed to be,” Day said. “He’s got loads of power and he’s just now starting to learn how to use it.”
He showed enough potential that South Carolina came calling and offered Markway a spot on the roster as a tight end. The Gamecocks weren’t on his radar when he began hashing out his recruiting plans.
Far from it.
“Before everything started me, Coach Day and my parents sat down and decided eight hours would be as far as I’d go for my recruiting,” Markway said. “But then when (South Carolina) started contacting me I got interested. They offered me so I took a visit. I just fell in love with it.”
There’s plenty to love. Markway felt an immediate connection with the coaching staff and a handful of the players he met. That the Head Ball Coach likes to sling the ball all over the place, including to the tight end, sealed the deal for Markway.
“That got me interested,” Markway said. “They use the tight end a lot.”
Markway had plenty of suitors, including Big 10 mainstays Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan State. Some wanted him as a tight end, while others thought he’d make a ferocious defensive end.
“Some thought they’d wait and see,” Day said.
Markway’s first choice was to be a tight end. But his play for Vianney made the case that either would be a good fit. He led the Golden Griffins with 28 catches for 254 yards and scored one touchdown for an offense that was geared around a power rushing game and went through three quarterbacks before landing on one that could run the offense.
On the defensive line Markway was credited with 64 tackles (14 for loss) and a team-high seven sacks.
Those numbers are far from eye popping, in part, because Vianney’s program was just at the start of its rebirth. In Day’s first season the Golden Griffins won their first Metro Catholic Conference game since 2009.
That’s another piece to the puzzle that is Markway.
The lead plates he throws around in the weight room are light compared to the pressure of pushing a football program out of mediocrity. Vianney is starved for success, which is why it hired Day and spent this offseason rebuilding its football facility. There is a buzz about Vianney football and, for the first time in a long time, the expectation of success.
Markway is the star attraction on and off the field. Day said that an individual who commits the way Markway has is so critical in changing the culture in a program. There are kids just starting out that want to be where Markway is and now they have a blueprint.
“They understand that’s how it has to be done,” Day said. “It changes the perspective of that kid.”
Markway spent the spring and summer training to be as prepared as he can be for the fall. He said it’s nice to have his college commitment complete as he heads into the fall. It will make handling a heavy senior year that much more palatable.
“I’ve had a lot of pressure on me. I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “It’s exciting. I can go play and have fun.”
He’s going to relish every minute of his senior season because he knows it will come and go in the blink of an eye. But, he also knows there’s an enormous challenge and opportunity waiting for him when it’s over.
“I couldn’t pass up playing in the SEC playing for the most passionate fans against the best players in the country,” Markway said.