If you have a fine attention to detail, you might have noticed that the man in the photo in this article is not Brandon Marshall. Perhaps you noticed that Marshall wears No. 15, and the man in the photo is wearing No. 27.
However, many people who read this do not know who the man in the photo is. His name is Darrent Williams, and he was a former teammate of Marshall's during the 2006 season. Williams was a cornerback who played for the Denver Broncos in 2005 and 2006 after being drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft out of Oklahoma State University.
Williams was a rising star in the NFL, pairing up with future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey to form one of the most dynamic cornerback tandems in the NFL.
But then, in an instant, Williams was gone.
On Dec. 31, 2006, the Broncos ended their season with a devastating 26-23 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers, which dropped them to a 9-7 record and cost them a playoff spot. The Broncos had reached the AFC Championship game in 2005—and they were trying to build on it with a second-straight playoff appearance.
But that was not to be.
That night, Denver Nuggets star Kenyon Martin had a birthday/New Year's party at a downtime Denver club. Among those in attendance were Martin, his superstar teammate Carmelo Anthony, and Broncos stars Javon Walker, Williams, and Marshall.
What happened that night is disputed, but according to police, a confrontation occurred between the athletes and their entourage and a group of people later found to be part of the Crips gang. It is alleged that Marshall and his cousin may have been doing something as innocent as spraying champagne, and a gang member asked them to stop.
Perhaps it was jealousy on the gang members' part—one can only speculate—but something sparked an altercation in the club that night. It is alleged that Marshall and his cousin got in an argument with some of the other club patrons—which escalated into shouting and culminated in one of the gang members gesturing that he had a gun.
It is also alleged that Marshall taunted the patrons by saying, "You ain't got no f---ing gun," among other things. The taunting went back and forth, but ended without violence. Little did the players in the V.I.P. know, the night would hold something far dire in the near future.
Shortly after 2 a.m. on New Year's Day 2007, an entourage of people—including Walker and Williams—left the nightclub on their way home after the night of partying.
According to police, the rented Hummer H2 limousine that the Broncos players and their friends were traveling in was stopped at a red light at about 2:10 a.m. All of a sudden, a barrage of bullets pierced the limousine, spraying at the passengers in a drive-by shooting.
One of the bullets struck Williams in the neck, killing him instantly, as his body slumped into the arms and lap of teammate Walker.
This past weekend, gang member Willie Clark of Denver was convicted on 21 counts, including two first-degree murder charges for the killing of Williams—including a count of murder with "extreme indifference."
Williams left us far too soon at age 24, leaving behind his girlfriend and two young children. Williams was trying to calm down his friends and teammates to prevent the situation from escalating.
Marshall testified during the trial this past month that the bullets that Clark fired were meant for him. What the gang members didn't know is that Marshall was not in the limo—he had separated from that group at some point following the altercation in the club.
Marshall says he has been haunted every single day during the last three years, thinking about how his actions may have led to this heinous crime being committed. He wishes now he would have acted differently.
Let me be clear. I don't blame Marshall for the death of Williams. But Marshall has demonstrated poor judgment off the football field far too many times in his life for me to feel sorry for him.
A quick look at Marshall's Wikipedia page shows all of the legal trouble that Marshall has gotten into since 2007 alone.
Domestic violence accusations. Driving under the influence. More domestic disputes. More incidents involving vehicles, alcohol, etc. Battery charges, more domestic issues.
All from 2007 to the present. All since that fateful night, when Marshall should have learned his lesson after seeing his teammate killed.
What exactly has Marshall learned from these incidents?
Marshall was one of the three Denver Broncos known to be at the club that night. Walker went to the Broncos facilities the next morning still soaked in Williams' blood. Walker has been unproductive on the field after the traumatic incident.
Yet Marshall, the admitted instigator of the altercation in the club, walks away unscathed.
Hell, I give Marshall a ton of credit for being mentally tough enough to compartmentalize on the field and be one of the best damn wide receivers in the game. Not a lot of players could go through the guilt after seeing that tragedy firsthand like Marshall did and bounce back to have a productive career.
But it drives me absolutely insane to see him being so incredibly foolish so many times off the field since then. It's not like he was an angel before his pro career—his Wikipedia entry mentions an incident in college.
And I ask you as Jets fans, or any fan of any team in the NFL: Is Brandon Marshall's off- the-field baggage worth his on-field production?
I say no. I think the Jets are just fine with Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Wide receivers can be drafted (think Texas WR Jordan Shipley), developed (David Clowney, Brad Smith, even Danny Woodhead) or found elsewhere.
Let Marshall make his own bed—either in Denver or somewhere else.
(For more Mets, Jets and Nets analysis, visit my personal blog, MetsJetsNetsBlog)