M.P.O.D. making noise with a positive messageWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second installment of a weekly series in which Staff Writer Mike Bauman will profile sixth-year Toledo senior cornerback Desmond Marrow for the 2011 season.
Ever since they played in the Volney Rogers Youth Football League back home in Youngstown, Desmond Marrow and close friends Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Kevin “KT” Moses have dreamed of making plays on the gridiron.
Now, the trio is making plays off the field with M.P.O.D., Inc. While all three hope their athletic apparel company — which stands for “Make Plays Or Die” — becomes a household name like Nike and Under Armour, they also want the brand to inspire kids and people to strive to succeed.
“We stand for hard work,” said Johnson-Koulianos, who serves as M.P.O.D. co-CEO with Marrow. “We stand for dedication. It’s kind of a representation of Youngstown, who we are.”
M.P.O.D. spawned from Marrow and Johnson-Koulianos’ motivation to fulfill their football dreams; they often said, “Make plays or die” to one another while playing at Cardinal Mooney.
“Our motto on the field was ‘We need to make plays or die,’” Johnson-Koulianos said. “Basically, if we don’t do our job and make plays, we’re not going to win. Losing was dying to us.”
Marrow started saying “M.P.O.D.” at Toledo, and the slogan caught on with his teammates. After promoting the movement online last year, PRYD Clothing contacted Marrow via Facebook and has been printing M.P.O.D. shirts ever since. The shirts, which Marrow distributed for free last season, became so popular that M.P.O.D. recently launched a website to keep up with the demand.
The website — mpod.bigcartel.com — is operated by Moses, who said that it frequently gets shut down because of the traffic.
“Basically, all the money that we make is just going toward making shirts, so nobody is really leaving with money in their pocket,” said Moses, a business marketing major at Marian University in Indianapolis. “All the money that we’re making is going to keep the movement in cycle, to keep it going.”
M.P.O.D. is also developing a large following on Twitter. The account @MPODinc has more than 700 followers, while an additional Twitter account for updates on M.P.O.D. events (@MPODevents) has more than 160.
“It’s basically a life motto just saying that you get out what you put in,” Moses said. “So it’s not just a sports thing. It’s a life thing.”
When Marrow started pushing M.P.O.D. last year, he went to Toledo head coach Tim Beckman to ask for permission.
“We just, again, checked it out with [Toledo Associate Athletic Director for Compliance] Brian Lutz and made sure that he was doing everything that was under the regulations of the NCAA,” Beckman said. “And the NCAA isn’t against anything of that nature as long as he’s doing what he abides by, NCAA rules-wise.”
NCAA Bylaw 12.4.4 states that “A student-athlete may establish his or her own business, provided the student-athlete’s name, photograph, appearance or athletics reputation are not used to promote the business.” Marrow’s name does not appear on any M.P.O.D. merchandise, and he does not receive any money the company makes from sales.
“I’m kind of taking the reins right now as far as getting all of the legal work done,” said Johnson-Koulianos, who finished his football career at Iowa in 2010 and is currently not enrolled at the university. “Any income that’s being made from M.P.O.D. is solely in my possession of course until Desmond is done, seeing that he’s under NCAA rulings and such.
“We just took a business approach to it and we’re doing things the right way because we feel like a lot of people can be motivated and benefit from M.P.O.D.”
Marrow said he believes one group that can benefit from M.P.O.D.’s message is children. He went to the Boys & Girls Club every Thursday during the 2011 spring semester.
“It was cool because I grew up going to the Boys & Girls Club, and then just to go back there and just see the kids in the same place that I was, it was kind of cool,” Marrow said. “Just to go that route with the kids, to give them activities and things to do. Especially back home in Youngstown, just to give kids more opportunities besides sports and to let them know there’s more things to life than just sports.”
M.P.O.D. has recently drawn interest from a few small colleges as well as UT football outfitter Under Armour. Under Armour Sales Director Sean Sullivan recently attended one of Toledo’s practices, and Marrow sent him his résumé.
“I think my creativity and M.P.O.D. thing just came from I want to be successful, but I don’t want to be focused on just football and trying to make it to the NFL because that’s not promised to me,” Marrow said. “So I just try to come up with other ways to just be a successful person in life, on and off the field.”