Marques Anderson at WE First Gallery Rasmus

From Football to Philanthropy: A Former NFL Player’s Journey to Change the World

If you’ve done some browsing of you’ve probably run across a stunning photo, vivid green with a man walking along an almost invisible road through the forest. With such a compelling photo, maybe you clicked on the page to discover more about the man behind the photograph, Marques Anderson.

A former NFL safety, Marques played football professionally in the United States for four seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. Following his time in the NFL he traveled, earned a master’s degree, coached football in Norway and founded the World Education Foundation. In his role as director of the foundation he’s traveled to over 50 countries, documenting his travels through photography.

This month, as we end our series of interviews of athletes on and head into our month on sustainability and the environment (in honor of Earth Day on April 22nd), it seems apt to be sharing the story of Marques’s incredible journey through sports and how it is inspiring him to change the world.

Marques Anderson-Walking through the forest

Where did you grow up and how did you get into football? Did you always know you wanted to play in the NFL?

I was born in Long Beach, California, and raised by my wonderful and supportive parents, Maurice and Susan Anderson, accompanied by my two sisters Andrea and Ashley. My first sport actually was gymnastics, which I participated in from the ages of 6 to 12. When I was old enough to start playing organized sports I went all in; playing basketball, running track and playing football. Starting out, I did not favor any over the other, but always wanted to do my best in all of them. As I got older, I began to find my niche in football and running track, so focused a majority of my energy and time in those two sports. When I began getting recruited to play college football in my junior year of high school, I knew I wanted to work hard enough to at least have the opportunity to play at the highest level in the NFL.

How do you think football shaped your life and how did you make the decision to leave it? 

Football taught me many lessons when it came to discipline, hard work, focus, processes of learning and pushing myself past barriers to maximize my potential. Playing football allowed me to channel my energy to compete on the field and in the classroom. I always knew that the love I had for the game could only be explored through the commitment I possessed to do well in the classroom. As I continued to play, the game opened up many doors, allowing me to earn a scholarship to one of the most prestigious schools in America, UCLA. It allowed me to learn from and with some of the brightest minds and ultimately it set the stage for me to earn my bachelors degree in American Literature and Culture and be drafted into the NFL.

Marques Anderson-Boats

During my time in the NFL, I pushed myself to do well and be the smartest and most physical player I could be. At a certain point I began to think differently and wanted to explore where my mind could take me outside of football. This was inspired by a number of factors and catalyzed when I met my mentor Dirk van Berkel; an aviation man from the Netherlands. I met Dirk in Denver while I was playing for the Broncos and we became great friends and colleagues. After making the decision to leave the NFL, I traveled around Europe for 10 months and he introduced me to actors in the aviation, sustainable development, renewable energy, and research and development sectors. During that time I was watching a lot of Charlie Rose, and saw an interview with Amory Lovins where he mentioned a book he co-wrote with Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. This book blew my mind. It explored new models for innovation and business operations, along with revealing ways to create a close-looped, value added world, while supporting a sustainable eco-system with readily available technologies. The question was then posed, “why is the world not operating like this”? I wanted to get involved.

I reached out to Paul and had a few conversations, which inspired and motivated me to be the change I wanted to see in the world.

Marques Anderson-Kids in Barca jerseys

What impact did traveling have on you?

To me traveling was and still is the best education I can have. Through traveling I have learned so much about cultures, ideas, perspectives and most importantly, myself. Every time I travel to a new country or community it’s like being born again, as there is always something new to learn and engage with. Traveling has allowed me to develop relationships all over the world, share stories with people I admire and appreciate from all walks of life and witness some of the most beautiful places the world has to offer. As they say, travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.

During these travels, I knew I wanted to give of myself and create something that would support ways to bring peace into the world. Just like gaining knowledge and terminology for the game of football, I wanted to gain the knowledge and terminology to deliver systems of change in the world. As I began living in Norway during this time, I decided to go back to school and get my Masters in Adult Learning and Global Change in Sweden. What drew me to this particular program was it was interlinked with 4 global universities (British Columbia, Western Cape, Monash and Linköping) and explored globalization and its implications on learning.

Marques Anderson-Two Women

While living in Norway, I wanted to pass on some of the knowledge from my football career to the youth within the Norwegian communities and decided to become the Head Coach and Athletic Director for the Oslo Vikings. To my surprise, they had been playing football in the country since 1957 when Marines stationed at the American Embassy in Oslo started coaching players from two schools in the country. As this was the first time I had been a coach, the experience provided a whole new perspective, which was quite exhilarating. In this role, I could no longer just be a player; I had to be a facilitator, a counselor, a motivator and a support system for 100’s of kids, which was quite rewarding. I also saw the impact the sport could have in youth’s lives. This encouraged me to put on football clinics in a lot of the countries I was working in with the WE Foundation.

What is the WE Foundation and can you talk about the bio diesel project the foundation is working on in The Democratic Republic of the Congo?

The World Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) uniquely positioned to provide a pool of talent across disciplines to source and generate solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The WE Foundation was initiated to create a global community of change makers from all walks of life, allowing individuals as well as organizations to give of themselves in order to bring real Peace into the world! The WE Foundation bridges the gap between academic knowledge and implementation in global communities. The main areas WE work in are, Energy, Health, Education, Infrastructure and Sports.

Marques Anderson-Leaning on the wall

The Bio-diesel project is working to mobilize 3,000 farmers to create livelihoods, food production and local energy through the application of intercropping food and energy crops to feed local communities and process local biodiesel. Most of the fossil energy coming into the east of the DR Congo is sourced from the Middle East, dropped off in Mombasa, Kenya and then overland over rugged terrain into the Congo. WE look to provide local work, to produce local products and use the sustainability of the project to build out the infrastructure of the communities within the DRC.

As of December 2014, WE are working on facilitating an innovation center in the Domiz refugee camp in Iraq; setting up a platform for local youth to solve local problems and create livelihoods. WE look to create an open sourced platform, which will allow other development agencies and refugee camps to learn, share ideas and exchange best practices across borders.

How did you get into photography?

I always had a thing for photography, even when I was little and had a Kodak Polaroid I would be in my families and friends faces getting reverse selfies. I began to fall in love and take it a bit more seriously when one of my good friends let me borrow a Canon 7D before one of my trips to Rwanda and the DR Congo. I bought a couple of lenses and then started snapping shots. A lot of trial and error, but I have been trying to get better and better by documenting some beautiful moments, which I will cherish and pass on to the next generation.

Marques Anderson in the DRC

How did you hear of and what made you sign up for it?

I heard about from my sister and I signed up because I truly appreciated the authenticity of its members. Even though people tell about their occupations, they are not defined by them, but able to really tell the world in a succinct way what they are passionate about. In short, it’s a safe space where users are not focused on just what they do, but who they are. Plus I like connecting to people and hearing their stories.

What’s your favorite feature on the platform?

I think all of the features work well together to provide a really good experience.

How are you using the platform on other digital mediums?

I’m currently using it in my email signatures. Good way to provide a bit of info on who I am.

Have you used to connect with others on the platform?

Yes. The global WE community has definitely grown since using

Eliana Arredondo is the Community Manager for She is a graduate of Stanford University.

32 responses to From Football to Philanthropy: A Former NFL Player’s Journey to Change the World

  1. Dwight Wilson

    Tremendous job from Marguez. I would not expect anything less. He comes from a family who has great pride in the Long Beach community. He comes from a high school (Long Beach Poly) whose entrance to the school says “Enter to Learn Go Forth to Serve”. Marquez life so for has exemplified just that. He has transformed himself into a world changer .

  2. Mark Jackson

    So proud to see you as a full man walking a great path in life to help other. May God keep you on your walk.

  3. sue

    This is the highest form of a human’s evolution. May all people grow into this kind of maturity.

  4. Aliah M. Henry

    Awesome article …Keep striving to change the world!

  5. Giving education, to any area of life is to give the opportunity to someone to Improve his life and sport is really important in many areas of life maybe some people ignore some , you do a good work and continue .your work around the world.
    Let God bless you

  6. Fantastic story with well documented feelings about his life and purpose. The photography is very interesting and well done, too. An inspiration to those who read and want to follow in his footsteps to make a better world for all.

  7. Lydia Perez

    I love this… It is just what the people have to do in this world.. Go Marques Anderson Go.

  8. Great story.I am working on helping children include global education in their college curriculum. I helped my son travel to over 40 countries. Good Luck…I will be looking for your work

  9. Service work is what I ‘ve found to be the only true labor. a labor of love. Among the people understand there are stars and saints and angels.Namastr.

  10. Elma Alorro Dionela

    You are an inspiration to both young and old.I love your story.I always wanted to help less privileged intelligent students whose parents have experiencing obstacles on how to give a better education to their children.If there is one like you could share and change their world,the world will be a nice place to live with less problem. More Power to you and God bless.

  11. As an author and educator I am thrilled that your organization recognizes and promotes education as vital solution to social, moral, economic, and spiritual issues throughout the world.

  12. How can others get involved in World Education Foundation? How many longuages has Marques learned? Norwegian, Swedish, French, Arabic? I love the combination of energy, health, education, infrastructure, & sports.

  13. Congratulations Marques on being a great example of how we are much more than a singular job title. Your passions and dreams will always lead you to your purpose. I wish you and the World Education Foundation continued success. Thanks for being a beacon of hope for people in your community and around the globe.

  14. It is a pleasure to know a caring and doing person like Marques. As far as education is concerned and how students struggle with it, I have also created a system of education to expedite learning and growing see: http://www.scienceskillscenter,org/gpage10.html. I find that by integrating knowledge and skills, delivering the result in a hands-on fashion via what I call total immersion, students learn fast with retention and applying what they learn to their life and growing. The system works with everyone especially with deprived children including disabled persons. The fundamental tenet of this system is that during the birthing process the fetus happily floating around in a mother’s womb suddenly experiences a turmoil in his or her life as if a tsunami hitting the fetus. This experience turns on the survival instinct which manifests via learning, surviving and growing. Clearly, the infant does all of the learning on his or her own. W are keeping that process functioning and assisting the child while when a child goes to school, the child is required to abandon that process in place of what he or she is expected to do in accordance with the schools’ teaching format which is asking the child to learn their way and if he does not, gets branded as learning disabled or with ADD, a psychological trauma the child finds hard to overcome. The education process needs to be based on “from birth to home and then from home to school but the schools needs to bring the world to the child so the child can keep on learning using his or her own learning format which is observing, experiencing, deciphering and growing in body, mind and soul.

  15. T. Reese Ryan

    Mr Anderson, truly an inspiration! As a huge NFL fan, it’s beyond refreshing to see someone you’ve watched and admired take out-reach and education to such a tremendous level. Being fairly new to the organic farming/sustainability and livestock wellness arena I’m forever in search of fresh and uplifting stories – so thank YOU for the ‘lift’ and may you stay safe and blessed throughout your endeavors!

  16. Very inspiring. Education is more than acquisition of knowledge, facts figures and book work. It is a life long experience where qualities such a honesty, integrity and mental discipline play a very important part, particularly in the early years.

  17. John

    Your work is inspiring, my prayers are with you brother.

  18. Awesome Journey, awesome path you follow!!! I am working on a documentary that follows the reformation of the Newark, NJ school system and it’s effect on students of the community. Hope to work with you in the future. Contact me if ever wanting to discuss solutions on education or to be part of the solution in Newark, NJ.

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