They grew up playing football together, and now they’re helping other young players do the same. Meet two Lake Brantley High football stars who are giving back to the local program that made them.
For Lake Brantley High School athletes Brett Haecker and Marcus DeQuattro, it’s a full-circle football experience. The two quarterbacks are stars for the Patriots’ varsity team today, but the duo remembers their roots as young Pop Warner players, practicing and learning together on the small local fields that prepared them for the packed high-school stadiums they perform in today. Now Marcus and Brett are determined to give back to the community. They’ve both returned to the Pop Warner program to coach and mentor the next generation of football players in the same place where they first learned to play.
Every fall, hundreds of young Lake Brantley Pop Warner football players descend on the practice fields across from LBHS, dressed in pads, cleats, and helmets, ready to learn the right way to play the game. A small army of parents and team coaches are there to support them, but the young players benefit from another group of mentors, as well: Pop Warner’s Junior Coaches.
Junior Coaches are Lake Brantley High School football players who become certified volunteers to help coach the kids during the season. In addition to their own athletic responsibilities,junior coaches show up at weekly team practices and dedicate their Saturday mornings to help motivate young players at every home game. Although their role on the field is voluntary, their impact is tremendous. And in the kids’ eyes, Junior Coaches encourage a hopeful and positive glimpse into the future.
Brett and Marcus are two of six Lake Brantley Pop Warner Junior Coaches this season, and they are volunteering their time with the Mitey Mites, one of six Pop Warner teams in the organization. Since Marcus and Brett grew up playing Pop Warner themselves, they not only enjoy relating to the kids, but also revel in the nostalgia of their familiar childhood football territory.
Brett, a junior at Lake Brantley and one of four brothers, has played quarterback for the last three years in addition to stints at running back and wide receiver. He credits his nine years of Pop Warner experience for making him fall in love with the sport of football.
“I knew that when I got to high school [junior coaching] would be one of the things I would put my time into,” says Brett. And although he’s volunteered with Pop Warner for a few years, this is the first year he gets to help coach his younger brother, Aidan. “I love the game of football, and I really wanted to help my little brother progress in his own development as a player.”
And the best part of Brett’s position, he says, is seeing the kids have fun and being able to relate to his own Pop Warner days.
Brett also met current football teammate Marcus through the Pop Warner organization when they played on the same team together. Like Brett, Marcus was inspired to play football in high school after his eight years in Pop Warner. A senior quarterback at Lake Brantley, Marcus is enjoying his first year volunteering as a Junior Coach.
“I was inspired to give back to my community,” says Marcus. “I hope to instill the fundamentals of football so the kids can continue to grow as players each year.”
In addition, both boys put an emphasis on teaching the young players the importance of respect for their coaches, teammates, and themselves.
Mitey Mite assistant coach (and Brett’s father) Mark Haecker says the involvement of Junior Coaches each football season has been extremely helpful.
“Most of our Pop Warner players attend the the Lake Brantley Patriot games Friday night,” says Mark. “The next day, our boys get to work with many of the same athletes they saw the night before. These wonderful high-school players set the right example for our younger players who idolize their Junior Coaches.”
The special bond between the Pop Warner program and Lake Brantley players continues to remain strong, and it benefits both organizations. Mark experienced this firsthand one year when the high-school team was headed to the state playoffs and one of the Pop Warner teams was about to compete for a national championship at Disney.
“The high-school coaches actually let the Pop Warner kids practice on the Brantley field after they were done, and the Brantley team formed the same cheer lines they do before every game to greet the Pop Warner players,” Mark recalls. “In the history of Lake Brantley Pop Warner, only one team has won a National Championship, and ironically it was in the same year that the high-school team went to compete for a state championship.”
For Brett and Marcus, football has been much more than just a game. Brett says the sport has made him into the person he is today.
“It has shown me how to overcome obstacles, to face defeat, and still keep going,” he says.
“On the field, football has taught me to be a leader and to work well with my team,” says Marcus. “Off the field, it taught me respect and discipline in my life.”
When it comes to coaching, Brett says, “I just hope I can help make them better kids and football players at the end of the day.”
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