The definition of a second chance means finding the opportunity to try something again.
If you look below the definition, it might direct you at the end to “See Nick Marshall.”
A little more than 1,100 miles separates Garden City Community College from Auburn University. Marshall, who attended Wilcox County High School in south-central Georgia, took advantage of every opportunity he came across in the long and winding journey that has taken him from a backup role at an SEC East school to the Jayhawk Conference offensive player of the year to a starting SEC West quarterback.
Marshall’s story is similar to that of former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Both are from Georgia, both made mistakes. Newton overcame and won a national title in 2010 along with the Heisman Trophy, eventually becoming the top overall pick in the NFL Draft to the Carolina Panthers.
Newton reached Auburn after an academic fallout with the University of Florida. He was allegedly caught cheating three times before leaving the school in late 2008 after he “purchased” a stolen computer. Newton wound up at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas where he accounted for over 3,500 yards of total offense and 22 touchdowns en route to the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship.
He then rewrote the Auburn history books.
Marshall may not be as big as Newton and definitely will not be as highly sought after in the NFL, but the collegiate commonalities between the two are scary. Especially when you watch them run the patented Gus Malzahn up-tempo, read-option offense.
Marshall was a standout two-sport athlete at Wilcox County, probably more so in basketball than he was in football. He led Wilcox County to the 2009 1A state title as a quarterback, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with a dramatic five yard scramble and a two-point conversion pass. Come winter, his natural athletic ability translated to the hardwood, averaging 28 points per game his senior year.
Initially, his basketball talents are rumored to be what put him on the University of Georgia’s recruiting radar. Marshall was friends with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a standout basketball star at Georgia and last year’s eighth overall pick to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Draft. (The two reportedly played AAU ball together. In one game, Marshall scored 44 points and Caldwell-Pope 31 to give you an idea of Marshall’s basketball abilities.)
Because of the limited number of scholarships in basketball compared to football, the gridiron was Marshall’s only chance to play for Georgia. The coaching staff asked Marshall if he would be willing to trade his dream of being the UGA quarterback to play defensive back. (Ironically, Georgia coach Mark Richt also tried to recruit Cam Newton to play for the Bulldogs as a tight end.) Marshall agreed and spent his freshman year as a backup defensive back and special teams player, appearing in 13 games.
Then came the fallout.
In February of 2012, Marshall and two other teammates were dismissed from Georgia’s football team for violating team rules. Sources reported that Marshall was connected to an on campus theft that occurred in a dorm room and was out of the school later that week.
Marshall faced a choice to either lay down and accept that he had blown his chance at playing NCAA football or persevere. His road to redemption lead him to Garden City.
Marshall took “just focus on football” to another level, throwing for 3,192 yards, rushing for 1,095 yards and accounting for 37 touchdowns (19 rushing, 18 passing) as the Broncbusters finished with a 7-4 record. He resurfaced onto the college football radar after finishing the season averaging 444 yards of total offense per game.
Just as former Auburn coach Gene Chizik turned Auburn around with the signing of Newton, the newly-installed coach Malzahn (via Arkansas State) jumped at the opportunity to sign Marshall and get him to Eastern Alabama.
In the spring of 2013, the quarterback controversy at Auburn was heated even before Marshall stepped foot on campus. Junior Kiehl Frazier saw the majority of reps last season as the starter, but Auburn finished the 2012 season 3-9, going winless in the Southeastern Conference. The offseason was supposed to be a battle between Frazier, freshman Jeremy Johnson and sophomore Jonathan Wallace, with Marshall figuring into the mix.
Frazier, the favorite heading into the spring and probably the most prototypical quarterback to the Malzahn-attack, removed himself from the race when he volunteered to switch positions to wide receiver. Marshall came in and the rest is what it is.
Marshall orchestrated the Tigers offense to a 12-1 season and an SEC title, Auburn’s first since 2010 and Newton. The junior has completed 60.4% of his passes, throwing for 1,759 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. One of those touchdowns was a 73 yard miracle pass against his former team that kept Auburn’s national title hopes alive.
Auburn also boasts the best rushing offense in the country, averaging 335.7 yards per game. Marshall is responsible for 1,023 rushing yards and 11 more touchdowns on the ground.
Marshall will attempt to put a cherry in the shape of a crystal football on top of his road to redemption story tonight as Auburn faces Florida State for the BCS National Championship. The undefeated and No. 1 ranked Seminoles are 10.5 point favorites in Pasadena.
Marshall has already defied the odds to reach this point… playing the underdog role tonight in front of 93,000 fans should be a familiar feeling.
—This story was written and compiled by Beau Tiongson. Sources hyperlinked in text. All rights reserved