Marcus Serrano always plays hard for his teammates.
Serrano is a recent graduate of Frankford High School and during his time as a Pioneer, the starting safety did whatever he could to help Frankford win games. He did this by always giving 100 percent.
But this summer, he did something different for a teammate. He played the piano at a memorial service for Angelo Walker, a sophomore from the school who was shot and killed.
“I felt so honored to play, because they could have asked a lot of people, but when they asked me, I was honored,” said Serrano, who lives in North Philadelphia. “It meant a lot to me. I was proud to do it because I wanted to do something to honor (Walker). When they asked me to, I was happy to do it.”
Serrano played “Rise Up” to honor his fallen friend. And while it was a sad occasion, he performed beautifully.
Music has been a way for Serrano to express himself since he was 13, and he does it in many different ways.
“When I was younger, like 13, my cousin got a keyboard,” Serrano said. “He let me use it, and I taught myself how to play. I learned just by playing, just trying to play things.”
Then he got his break.
Serrano was spotted in church playing the piano, and he was told he had talent. Then he got to Frankford, and was asked to join the modern rock class.
“I learned to play a lot of instruments, I did the piano and the keyboard, then I started playing the guitar, the electric bass and the drums,” Serrano said. “I liked learning new ones. I love music, so for me it was fun. I was just trying to learn as much as I could.”
For Serrano, music has been a great outlet to express himself, and it also helps calm him down. Few expect a punishing hitter to play beautiful music, but when they see Serrano perform, it quickly changes their mind.
“The biggest thing I’m trying to do is change stereotypes that football players can’t do other things like play music,” Serrano said. “People see you playing football and they never expect you to do other things. But I love music. I love listening to it and playing it. It’s helped me a lot.”
But don’t let the music fool you, either.
When he’s on the field, Serrano is hitting everything that moves.
During his time at Frankford, Serrano has played safety, cornerback and outside linebacker. He enjoys covering people at corner and popping people at linebacker, which is why strong safety suits him the best.
“Strong safety you’re doing everything and you have a lot more freedom to do things,” Serrano said. “I like covering guys one on one, and I like when I can come up in the box and make the play. You’re doing everything at safety. I like all the positions, but safety, strong safety is my favorite.”
That’s exactly what he’s slated to do in college.
Serrano accepted a scholarship for academics to Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, and the plan is for him to play free safety.
The football part worked out very well, but Serrano loves everything about the school and believes it will be a perfect fit for him to hone his skills in music.
“The school is about four hours away, and I know I’ll get homesick, but I’m happy because I don’t want to be in Philly, it can be dangerous,” Serrano said. “I want to go somewhere where I can focus on football and my academics. I like the school because it’s so small. It’s not big, so you get individual attention from the teachers. I think that will help me.
“I like the football team, too. They weren’t that good for a few years, but they’re getting better and they have a new coaching staff who really seems good. They’re giving me a chance to learn, a chance to make sure I stay away from doing things in the street and a chance to play football. And they’re giving me scholarship money. It’s just a blessing.”
At Seton HIll, Serrano plans on majoring in accounting while minoring in music. He hopes he can continue with his passions long after college.
“I think being an accountant would be cool because I love working with numbers and math,” Serrano said. “But I really want to become a professional football player, and then open up a music school or just bring music to the city. I want to give kids a chance to learn about music and love music like I do.”
No matter where he ends up, Serrano is on the right track. And he believes his friends at Frankford are a big part of that.
“Coach (Bill Sytsma) has been a big help to me, helping me getting into college,” Serrano said. “He’s been there for me the whole time. He really cares and he made sure I was able to take care of things.
“And I have to say my music teacher Mrs. (Rebecca) Wizov helped me a whole lot. She was like my mom, she made sure I learned what I needed to and she always was there to help me.
“I really want to get a good education, play football and continue with music. I had a lot of help, but I’m going to do it. I’m blessed.”