The newest addition to the Miami Dolphins, wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, made a pit stop to the school that gave him the chance to make it in the National Football League. Saturday afternoon, Marshall walked on to the field at Bright House Stadium, home to the UCF Knights, waving and smiling at the hundreds of fans, who watched him don the black and gold, to orange and blue, and now the teal and blue.
At Central Florida, Marshall caught 113 passes for over 1,600 yards in his 21 starts, 13 of which were touchdowns. In the 2005 Hawaii Bowl, he caught 11 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, earning him the honor of being named to the All-C-USA team. When the UCF safety went down, Marshall played center field, leading the team in tackles (51), and even making an interception.
UCF is where Marshall calls home. When he was injured during the 2009 training camp, he traveled to the Central Florida campus to train with head coach George O'Leary and the Knights' athletic staff.
Drafted 119th overall, Marshall presented all the physical tools to succeed as a dominant receiver in the NFL. He has caught at least 100 passes in each of his three professional seasons, becoming only the fifth player in NFL history to accomplish that feat, and broke the record for most receptions in a game (21), and third most receptions in a game (18) this past year, also making the Pro Bowl trip to Hawaii twice along the way.
While Brandon Marshall has been highly criticized for being a "diva" or "prima donna", along with multiple incidents involving an arrest at the University of Central Florida, a domestic dispute, and a DUI, his coaches and teammates say otherwise.
Former UCF team mate Jimmy Flyzell stated, "He's a great guy who has made some mistakes, but I think he's learned from all of it and really seems to be on the right path right now," Fryzel said.
"He was always such a hard worker and a really selfless guy. I mean, he switched to safety one season to try to help his team win games. That's big. Us receivers, we don't like to get hit. He has always been willing to do anything for his team. People need to understand he's a really great person."
Other UCF products Asante Samuel and Joe Burnett attended campus as well.
In a press conference in Miami, Marshall addressed the issues with the media, stating he wasn't concerned with Davone Bess' No. 15, that he is in a new place with a new start, and the only number that matters is the number of wins at the end of the season.
After signing a contract guaranteeing an average of $10 million per year, Marshall is now the face of the Miami Dolphins franchise. The Fins recently traded their former first round draft selection, Ted Ginn Jr., to the San Fransisco 49er's for a fifth round pick.
A receiving corps consisting of Marshall and Davone Bess (who is projected to play in the slot—a position he fits the exact profile for) gives up-and-coming quarterback Chad Henne a little bit more to be excited about this season.
By trading for Marshall, the Dolphins are proving they are dedicated to being national contenders, based on their high-profile ownership. The AFC East is one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, and with secondaries containing Darrelle Revis, Jairus Byd, Antonio Cromartie, Leigh Bodden, and Darius Butler, passing weapons are a necessity to compete.
Recently signed backup quarterback Chad Pennington had this to say about the addition of Marshall: "I think it's comparable to when New England acquired Randy [Moss],'' Pennington said. "Before New England acquired Randy, they were a consistent offense, but they weren't as explosive. You've seen what they've done over the last two years with Randy in the mix [with Tom Brady healthy], especially with their undefeated year."
Indeed, with the size of players growing each and every year, the need for a big, fast, tough receiver that can break tackles is a desperate one for every team.
Take a look at the playoff teams this past season: The New Orleans Saints had Marques Colston, the Indianapolis Colts had Reggie Wayne, the Minnesota Vikings had Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, the New York Jets had Braylon Edwards (and now Santonio Holmes), Dallas Cowboys with Miles Austin, Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, Cincinnatti Bengals with Chad Ochocinco, and the Green Bay Packers with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
The Ravens didn't have a top-notch receiver, but they utilized versatile Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in the pass game as well.
Now, with Brandon Marshall on the Miami Dolphins, they are instantly contenders. The team is very young and rich with talent.
The Dolphins are looking ahead, and with GM Bill Parcells and head coach Tony Sparano making all the right moves, the Fish now have a young franchise quarterback, a franchise left tackle, solid pass rushers, a young and athletic secondary, and now a top-five receiver in the NFL.