“And that’s how I saved the world,” Marc Letzkus shirt reads. It’s a Spider-Man comic print with the sleeves cut off. The added shoulder room allows for his suit of armor.
“I wear a vest underneath my shirt,” Letzkus says. “Because playing so often I would have a lot of spots on me.”
Getting hit with a paintball will do that to you. If you visit Orlando Paintball in Maitland on a weekend it’s hard to miss Letzkus. He wields a shiny gold Paintball gun that talks when you turn it on.
A welcoming jingle begins as he presses the button. “Powering on,” the female voice says. “Battery level 100%.”
He also wears cleats, knee pads and a full coverage helmet.
“A lot of good players do not have the top on their helmet,” He says. “But I got hit on the head on top so I just get tired of that.”
On the Paintball field Letzkus puts his equipment to good use.
“See if you can go to that can in the middle,” he says to a younger player before the game begins. Letzkus loves the strategic side of the sport.
“It’s a good way to forget about your troubles because if someone is shooting at you that’s what you’re thinking about” he says. “I just enjoy it. The strategies that go on, trying to eliminate the other opponents, it’s exciting for me.”
He’s a friendly guy and a role model to the other players. But when the whistle blows….watch out.
“He’s quick and he’s got the gun to do it,” Shane Reyes, a regular at Orlando Paintball says. “He can shoot and he shots accurately. He does not miss.”
“That guy he’s one in a million for sure,” Mark Bradham another regular echoes.
For this round of speedball as it’s called, Bradham and Reyes are on Letzkus’ team. A speedball field has fewer places to hide and usually results in a quicker, higher intensity game. Exactly the kind of game Letzkus likes.
“Okay get ready,” Letzkus says.
“3-2!” the referee calls as he sounds the whistle on one. Letzkus darts for a piece of cover called a Dorito because of its triangular shape. Letzkus fires off several rounds as he runs. He quickly reaches for a new batch of paintballs which are attached to a utility belt on his waist.
He let’s off a few more rapid fire shots then “splat!” A paintball hits the top of his helmet just like he said it does all too often. I’m right there behind him to witness.
He turns and asks, “Am I hit?”
I tell him I see some paint on top of his helmet. “Okay I’m out then,” he says.
Letzkus raises his hand as he walks off the field signaling he’s been hit. Paintballs have a way of finding even the most experienced players. After he exits the field he removes his mask to reveal his 78 year old smiling face.
“Had a good game, hope you enjoyed it” he says. Another round in the books for the man affectionately known as “Pops.”
“I found out I was old when a few years ago the referee was picking up teams and they pointed at me and said Pops you’re on this team,” he remembers. “I’d never been called Pops before.”
Letzkus first started playing paintball with his son. He had retired from teaching and was happy to try something new.
“My son got a team started,” he says. “He asked me to practice with him and I wasn’t sure about that. But I started and after I got hit a few times and learned that I could be a survivor, then I started liking the game.”
His son eventually stopped playing, but for Letzkus something about paintball just clicked.
“I kind of found my niche that the lord has given me a little talent to do this game. So I just keep on doing it because I enjoy it.”
Marc puts his helmet on as he gets set for another round of speedball.
“Now I’m a super hero,” he says as he makes some karate moves with his hands.
“I definitely want to be here in the 80’s, the age 80’s,” he says. “I am really looking forward to it because at the moment I can’t see any reason that’s going to change.”
Of course even super heroes have to take breaks. After his third round of speedball he takes a seat.
“Going to go get a drink. I might eat my favorite sandwich also. Peanut butter and sweet pickle,” he says. “Don’t tell anybody it’s the secret to staying young.”