He can see it and feel it and maybe even smell that natural grass being rolled in via field trays, envisioning a time when the dream becomes reality. Foolish is the person who doubts Brandon Marshall’s pursuit.
Overcoming odds is his thing, after all.
He wants to finish on his own terms, and that means as an NFL linebacker playing in his hometown, a thought so preposterous until just a few years ago that talking about it now still seems a fantasy.
“It would be like a fairy tale,” Marshall said. “Obviously, I have to make it, but just thinking about it gives me goose bumps.”
The Raiders are coming to Las Vegas and Marshall is going to do every last thing to be part of that 2020 roster, the Cimarron-Memorial High product having signed a one-year deal with the team this season, his eighth since being a fifth-round draft pick by the Jaguars out of UNR in 2012.
I think of Marshall and how fitting such a conclusion it would be to play out his career in the new Raiders stadium, and yet football isn’t close to being the primary reason for hoping it happens.
His impact can and has been so much more than on Sundays.
It is called the Williams-Marshall Cares Leadership Program and the goal is to create tomorrow’s leaders from local at-risk youth through acts of service and education. It’s a mentorship that could have a far more personal impact should Marshall play in Las Vegas and be around those his program (which also has a chapter in Colorado) directly affects.
“Each of the kids has to maintain a certain GPA and have a certain number of community service hours and not get into trouble at school,” Marshall said. “We put them around doctors and lawyers and successful business professionals. We recently took them to CNN in Atlanta for some volunteer work and they saw the house Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in.
“I’m just trying to create our next leaders. That’s very important to me. I never had a father figure growing up. I had to figure things out on my own about being a man. I know everyone doesn’t become (an NFL player). Some go the other way. But it’s important that I try and guide these kids on the right path.”
His journey to remaining with the Raiders after this season won’t be easy, Marshall having been limited to 11 games and 42 tackles last year with a knee injury.
But he has practiced the opening three days of training camp and is an above-average cover linebacker on a team that couldn’t defend a tackling sled last season. So in a matchup league of running backs and tight ends that need to be accounted for, Marshall on the weak side in base defense and also seeing time in a nickel package could prove valuable.
He is 29 and has been to the depths of the NFL by getting cut and to its summit by winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos, and every twist and turn in life on the practice squad in between.
A mother’s love
He was 10 when his mother, Barbara, hid Brandon and older brother Marcus in a Las Vegas shelter, concealed with other victims from those who inflicted all the pain and suffering, cloaked in secrecy among others crouched in the corner, shut off from the outside world and more bruises.
Marshall’s father was abusing his mother over and over. She just couldn’t take it any more.
Marshall has bought his mother a new home in Las Vegas, and it’s expected she will move back from Denver, where her son played six seasons before the Broncos declined the option on his contract in February, making him a free agent.
A month later, a guy named Jon Gruden called.
“We were taught to hate the Silver and Black (in Denver),” Marshall said. “Me personally, I never hated the Raiders. It’s just the aesthetic that came with being a Bronco. So, when they didn’t bring me back and the Raiders were on the table, I was all in. I’m like, ‘Cool. This is where I want to go anyway.’ ”
He wanted to go there and he wants to stay, his dream perhaps not yet within a close grasp, but a possibility all the same.
Brandon Marshall wants like nobody’s business to come home and play.
He can see it and feel it and maybe even smell it.
Las Vegas would also be much better for it, especially its youth.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.
Brandon Marshall By the Numbers
NFL seasons: 8
Teams: Jacksonville (2012); Denver (2013-18); Oakland (2019).
** Super Bowl 50 champion with Broncos.