(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
Marcus Ball has a lot of tattoos. Each one serves a particular meaning or purpose, but there’s one on his leg that stands out: a puzzle piece with a football inside. Written on the football are the initials “LXB.” Above the puzzle piece is the phrase “Find Your Peace.”
Ball said the tattoo represents his two greatest loves. One has been part of his life for over a decade, the other just four months.
Legend Xavier Ball, Marcus’s son, was born on April 4. He weighed in at eight pounds and measured 20 inches; with hair his father calls “Mad Wavy.”
Becoming a dad has changed Ball’s entire outlook on life and leadership. He sees his football career and role as a father as deeply intertwined.
“When I’m on the football field and when I wake up and look at him, I find peace,” Ball said. “I can always draw back to that when times are tough because those are the two things I find peace in.”
A self-proclaimed sponge, Ball is constantly absorbing the advice of his coaches, using football as a tool to become a better man. What sticks with him most is the idea of being a representative for the name on the back of his jersey.
Ball saw the way his mother sacrificed for him growing up in Westerville, Ohio. He became a highly sought-after football recruit thanks in large part to the advice she provided.
His goal has always been to do right by his mom — right by his family. Now that family name has been passed on to a little boy with wavy hair.
“No love is greater than that of a father for his son” pic.twitter.com/haJ5DkcVEt
— Marcus Ball (@Marcus_Ball31) August 17, 2017
Legend isn’t a fussy baby. Ball said he’s rarely whiny and doesn’t keep him up more often than he’d like. That’s a relief when there’s a lot on Ball’s mind in his first football season as a dad.
Deciding on the name was a no-brainer. Whatever Legend ends up doing in life, Ball hopes he lives up to his first name and does his last name proud.
“I wanted something different,” Ball said. “I wanted him to be legendary and leave a legacy behind.”
Ball’s legacy at ASU is complicated. Injuries and circumstances off the field have kept him sidelined or held him back at times. His talent and versatility is clear, but coaches have worried about where he’d fit in.
Legend’s birth put everything in perspective. Balancing the pressures of being a student-athlete with being a father has been a humbling experience.
“It made me realize that I have to wake up daily and be an example to my son,” Ball said. “It’s developed me as a person and I’m going to continue to grow as a leader.
“Those leadership qualities at home have a direct correlation to how you present yourself as a teammate.”
That’s why the leg tattoo is surrounded by a puzzle piece, because Ball sees his son as the missing piece in his life, one that provides a kind of serenity rivaled only by football. On August 31, when Ball runs out the tunnel at Sun Devil Stadium, he’ll know his little Legend is up in the stands watching.
In that moment, Ball will have found his peace.