If you’ve done some browsing of about.me 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 about.me 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How did you hear of about.me and what made you sign up for it?
I heard about about.me 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 about.me to connect with others on the platform?
Yes. The global WE community has definitely grown since using about.me
Eliana Arredondo is the Community Manager for about.me. She is a graduate of Stanford University.