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Marlon Hairston: “Being patient was the hardest part for me.”

Hairston talks to Brian Jennings about what it takes to become a consistent player in MLS.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

To be a true MLS “Iron Man” a player has to be talented, consistent, a hard-worker, and let’s be honest - at least a little bit lucky. Marlon Hairston is one such Colorado Rapids player who is now in the short list of players like Tim Howard, Micheal Azira, and Eric Miller as the leaders in time spent on the field.

In fact, Hairston is the only Colorado player to see action in every 2017 match, amassing 2605 minutes in 29 starts. “This year I set another career high—last year was a career high in goals, assists, and minutes also—but setting another career high was something I wanted to achieve,” the versatile defender/midfielder Hairston told Burgundy Wave.

“It’s something I’ve worked hard for and had to be patient for a few years. Being patient was the hardest part for me, but I just have to keep chomping at the bit,” he admits. That drive is exactly why Hairston has seen his goals surpassed the last few seasons: He has been ready whenever playing time has presented itself. “The last couple years the opportunity has come a lot more often and it’s something I’m very happy with and proud of,” he said.

“Coming out of college, leaving school early, you don’t really know what to expect because you’re so used to playing every game, being one of the key players on the team. You come into another environment and it was a humbling experience because you had to take a step back, re-evaluate yourself, and just wait for your opportunity,” explains Hairston on his learning process the last four years.

“Very few guys come into the league and jump right into things right away. My rookie year I still played a lot of games, not a lot of minutes, so I was happy with that.” In fact, the coaching staff must have been happy as well considering that Hairston featured in 22 matches after being drafted in the first round in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. “To be on the field was a great experience and now four years later and still be a part of this club and play with some similar faces is great to be a part of.”

Hairston admits his playing position wasn’t locked in then, but has not been afraid to grab a spot wherever he is needed in this year’s lineup. “It surprised me because I didn’t know what position I was at that time,” he says. “I was playing in the middle of the field, I remember playing a little bit on the wing, but I don’t remember playing right back my rookie year.”

Hairston was eager not to have a repeat of last season’s false start as he came into 2016 slotted in at right fullback and ready to show the league what he had learned. Unfortunately, an early injury derailed plans for a bit, and he was not going to let happen yet again in 2017.

“Last offseason, I put in a lot of work and I got injured the first game of the season. That was frustrating for me knowing how much work you put in to prepare for that moment,” he explained. “In the off-season I told myself I wanted to be as fit as I could and play as much as I could. Credit to Miguel [Motolongo, Performance Analyst/Strength Coach] - with the workout plan and the coaches I’ve been able to accomplish that.”

The quiet but intense Hairston has never had a problem putting his head down and doing the work that needed to be done but wouldn’t get done by many other players. In fact, that may very well be the reason he wasn’t discouraged after seeing limited action back in 2015, but continued to work hard with the Charlotte Independence to become the mainstay for the Rapids that he is today.

“At night I’m just waiting for the next day to come so I can get back to practice and see the guys, be competing. That’s the motivation I have - to continue to get better in practice and continue to go out and train some more, after training maybe doing some extra (work), and just continue to grow as a player. Four years now, I know there’s still a lot that I can get better at.”