ST. LOUIS — Around Markus Golden’s junior year of high school, he and his mom, Rhonda, sat down and began setting goals. That year, he was being given a second chance at Affton (Mo.) High School after spending time at South County Opportunity for the Purpose of Education (SCOPE).
The first goal had nothing to do with his athletic ability; it was about the kind of person he was going to be off the field.
"She wanted me to come to school every day and talk to a kid that I didn’t know," says Golden, who was chosen 58th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. "That was my first goal, that my mom made. She made the first goal, to come to school and talk to somebody new every day, that looked like they didn’t have friends or something. From then on, we wrote down sports stuff."
One goal that the Missouri grad admits he didn’t write down, however, was getting his jersey number retired at Affton — an event that brought him back to the school Friday for the first time since the draft. Golden sat up on the stage with his parents and several former coaches in front of an auditorium filled with well-wishers, as football coach Dan Oliver officially announced the retiring of Golden’s No. 2 jersey at Affton.
Some of the biggest cheers from the crowd came when Oliver talked about Golden’s academic accomplishments, which included a 3.1 GPA over his last two years at Affton and a diploma from the University of Missouri. At another point, while Oliver was listing Golden’s athletic achievements during high school, which included setting a school record for most tackles in a season (161) and most career yards (3,669), someone in the auditorium shouted, "Is he human?"
"Not on Sundays," Oliver responded.
The former high school running back and linebacker says he has stayed busy since the call, adjusting to a new playbook down in Arizona. He says that transition is going well, as is the shift to outside linebacker after playing defensive end in college.
"I’ve been out front competing at a high level. Still rushing the passer a lot from the outside linebacker (position), but at the same time, dropping, so it’s going real good," he says. "I’m back to myself. I always played linebacker, and I can use my skills."
His son, Markus Golden Jr., was also born two days after the draft ended, which Golden says is the coolest thing that’s happened to him — the jersey retirement is second — since getting the call from the Cardinals.
On Friday, meanwhile, he amiably posed for picture after picture by his glass-encased jersey with the crowd of people who lined up on stage. He also took the time to thank the coaches at Affton who’d helped him reach this point and, in a move startling for a professional athlete, even thanked the local media for being there during his high school career.