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Champion of the Underdog: Overcoming Adversity Between Hash Marks and Business Parks

By Will Tober

On a Sunday afternoon in early 2016 I sat down to watch The Pro Bowl—the NFL’s version of an all-star game. For those of you who follow professional football, you know that the game can be a little underwhelming to say the least, so my attention was split between the game and answering emails. While my focus began to switch from the TV to my computer screen during one commercial break, I was caught off-guard by a familiar voice. There on my TV screen was Hughes Marino CEO, Jason Hughes. I had just returned from a job interview with Jason earlier that day so it’s safe to say I was a little surprised to now see him on TV.

Throughout the 30-second commercial, he talked about the landscape of the commercial real estate industry, the services Hughes Marino offers and how his team was taking an entirely new approach to corporate real estate advisory. But what really stood out and resonated with me personally was when he said, “At Hughes Marino, we are champions of the underdog.” Instantly, I connected in a deeper way to the idea of tenant and buyer representation, and I decided on the spot that Hughes Marino was where I was going to work, because, you see, that’s my story. I’m the underdog.



When I was 7-years-old in my first year of tackle football I weighed 48lbs. At that age, the leagues require you to meet certain weight requirements and the minimum weight you had to be in order to play was 50lbs. So, on the way to the weigh-ins I chugged a massive jug of water to gain the two extra pounds I needed to play. Thankfully, it worked and I was able to play that season and every season up to and through high school. I did grow, but not a lot. I have always been one of the smallest guys on the field, and I have always had to make up for that with hard work, dedication, focus, attention to detail and generally doing anything and everything I could do to gain some advantage, from “do or die” workouts to studying game films to becoming a technical master at my craft.

That’s me, #36, at top right in cardinal and gold.

These strategies worked well for me, but even my closest friends thought I was crazy when I announced that I was going to try out for our football team at the University of Southern California my senior year — USC would be starting the season as the number one team in the country. Sixty-eight players showed up for tryouts in the spring. After six months of 100% effort and conviction, I was one of four “walk-on” players to make the team. I’ll never forget our opening game, running through the tunnel and out onto the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum wearing the cardinal and gold Trojan uniform, and the sound of close to 100,000 crazed fans cheering.


As I think about my journey, as an athlete and now as an associate at Hughes Marino, and the journey of every underdog that has ever overcome long odds, I believe there are three primary characteristics of people who triumph over adversity to win in the end.

1. Resolve

You can’t beat the person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth

At USC, nearly every player was bigger, stronger, faster, and more talented than I was, and I knew that in order to be successful I needed to take on a never-quit mentality. When they knock you down, get back up. Every time. We may not win every time, in every contest, but I am not going to give my opponent the victory by staying down, by quitting. Resolve to stay in the game, to keep working, learning, growing and fighting. Never quit. Get to work.

2. Hunger

“There are no limits, only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

One of the most common attributes in all underdogs is their drive to be great. On the football team this hunger pushed me to be in the weight room after practice, in the film room before class, and on the field getting extra reps in the offseason. At Hughes Marino we have an insatiable appetite to be the very best we can be for our clients, to disrupt the dysfunction of a landlord-dominated industry, and to level the playing field on behalf of corporate tenants. Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep working. Stay hungry. Get to work.

 3. Stealth

“Stay under the radar and you’ll outlast all those who strive to be recognized.” – Lau-tzu

One of the benefits of being the underdog is that your competition may not take you seriously and they won’t see you coming until it’s too late. In football, I was able to make an impact in the game because my opponents would often underestimate my ability. I have always allowed my results to speak for themselves — no showboating, no bragging, no arrogance. At Hughes Marino, one of our ten core values is “Be authentic, grateful and humble.” Check your ego at the door, don’t seek the spotlight, just get busy. Our results speak for themselves. Get to work.

Yeah, I’m an underdog. And Hughes Marino is a champion of the underdog. We are quietly and steadily gaining marketshare across the country as we help companies to make better real estate decisions. We are steadfast in our resolve to only represent tenants, and to deliver excellence in everything we do. And we have a tremendous appetite for growth, as an organization and as individuals.

Now let’s get back to work.

Will Tober is a senior vice president of Hughes Marino, a global corporate real estate advisory firm that exclusively represents tenants and buyers. Contact Will at 1-844-662-6635 or will@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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