Is Brandon Marshall on a Path to Destruction?

Charlie ScaturroCorrespondent IApril 26, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 27:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 27, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Broncos 30-27.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

He’s one of the most electrifying players in the National Football League, and he’s heading into the prime of his career, yet Brandon Marshall can’t seem to get out of his own way.

The 26-year-old wide receiver is blessed with a rare combination of size, power, and speed that few others in the NFL possess, which makes Marshall a player that both scouts and quarterbacks dream about.  

At 6’4’’ and 230 pounds, he can make every play on the football field. With his height and athleticism he can win almost any jump ball thrown in his general direction, with his strength he can shed would-be tacklers with ease, and with his speed he can create the necessary separation to break long touchdowns.

With all of these physical gifts, Marshall is a nightmare for opposing defenses to contain, and since being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2006 he has been one of the most consistent receivers in the league. Marshall has been regarded by most defensive players as the hardest receiver to tackle, which is evident when you look at his high yard after catch numbers.  

Marshall has been nicknamed “The Beast” because of his blend of size, strength, athleticism, and speed. In what was a testament to his physical abilities, while at the University of Central Florida, Marshall was asked to play safety in 2004 because of injuries that had been sustained by players on the defensive side of the ball. 

Despite only playing safety for seven games, he managed to lead the team in tackles as well, as record an interception and force a fumble.

More recently, Brandon has been dominating at the highest level of competition, playing in the NFL for the Denver Broncos. He is one of only five players in NFL history to catch at least 100 passes in three straight seasons (2007-2009). 

During week 16 of the 2009 season, Marshall posted one of the best games for a wideout in NFL history when he broke the record for most receptions in a single game, catching 21 passes in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. 

For the entire afternoon Marshall was simply unstoppable, and in addition to his 21 catches he finished the day with 200 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

In the three seasons since his rookie campaign, which is generally an adjustment year for most wideouts, Marshall has tallied 307 receptions, 3,710 receiving yards, and 22 touchdowns. 

If Marshall were just an immensely talented receiver who was poised to have a great career, it would be a joy for NFL fans to watch him set records for the next decade—but his on-field success is only half the story.

Since his junior year at the University of Central Florida, Marshall has been in the news as much for his off the field issues as his performance on it. 

He has found himself on the wrong side of the law on so many occasions it’s difficult to keep track, and while none of these incidents have landed him in any significant legal trouble, they have certainly raised questions about his character.

Marshall’s off the field troubles have run the gamut from minor run-ins with the law to much more serious incidents, as well as a few that make you simply scratch your head. 

Speaking to the latter, in 2008, while Marshall was wrestling with family members, he slipped on an ill-placed McDonald’s bag and fell into a nearby television set. He suffered right forearm lacerations to one artery, one vein, one nerve, two tendons, and three muscles and required surgery to repair the damage. 

Marshall would recover from the injury and not miss any time on the football field. 

In 2005, while attending college, Marshall was charged with retail theft at a Burlington Coat Factory when he tried to return a stolen set of bed sheets that cost $20 (the charges were later dropped). 

Although both incidents didn’t end up putting Marshall in much trouble, it makes you wonder what he was thinking at the time of both these incidents. 

Then there are the more serious matters that Marshall has been implicated in. Starting in 2006 and continuing through 2009, he has been involved in 11 separate documented cases of domestic disputes with his former girlfriend Rasheedah Watley and current wife Michi Nogami-Campbell. 

The majority of these cases occurred between Marshall and Watley and were generally arguments that escalated into violence, although neither Marshall nor Watley were ever seriously injured and no charges were ever filed. 

It appeared that Marshall had put this ugly chapter of his life behind him in 2009 when he and Watley ended their troubled relationship. 

Soon after, it was discovered that Marshall and Nogami-Campbell were engaged, and at this time Marshall had not been involved in a documented domestic violence incident for almost a year. But on March 1, 2009, an off-duty Atlanta police officer saw Marshall and Nogami-Campbell kicking and punching each other on the sidewalk outside of Marshall’s Atlanta condo. This time both were arrested, but again, the charges were dropped.

A much more disturbing and tragic incident involving Marshall occurred on New Year's Eve in 2006. 

Marshall, his cousin, and other Denver Bronco players were at a Denver nightclub to celebrate Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin’s birthday. Over the course of the evening an argument erupted between Marshall’s group and another group of men (who are thought to have gang affiliations) allegedly because Marshall’s cousin sprayed them with champagne. 

The men that Marshall’s group had gotten into an argument with were subsequently kicked out of the club, and witnesses stated that they saw Marshall and his cousin arguing with the same men outside of the club shortly before the club closed. 

Later that night, Denver Broncos cornerback and Marshall’s teammate, Darrent Williams, was killed in a drive-by shooting outside of the club, and it is believed that the men who were arguing with Marshall were responsible. 

To what degree Brandon Marshall contributed to this terrible tragedy will never be fully known, but some believe that Williams was not the target of the shooting and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.   

Just a few months ago Marshall was called to testify in the trial of Willie Clark, who was accused of killing Williams. During his testimony Marshall stated that while he had initially tried to calm the situation down, he ended up escalating the altercation and making it worse. 

Also during his testimony, Marshall was very emotional and broke down in tears while being questioned. Marshall stated that he has thought about that night every day since it happened, although he hasn’t talked about it publicly.        

Marshall has also been at odds with the coaching staff in Denver for more than a year. He has been unhappy with his contract and demanded the team either trade him or give him more money. Marshall was so dissatisfied with his contract that he began acting out during the team’s 2009 training camp and essentially forced the coaching staff to suspend him for “conduct detrimental to the team.” 

However, (you’re probably noticing a pattern), Marshall did not miss any regular season games and helped the Broncos get out to an impressive 6-0 start to the 2009 season. 

After Marshall had been reinstated and was a big part of the Broncos' great start, he said that everything was fine and that all of the problems he had been having with the team were in the past. 

The Broncos would only win two of their next nine games, leaving them with a record of 8-7 going into the last week of the season, where they needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

With their season on the line and their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels announced prior to the team’s week 17 game that Marshall, the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon, would not play because of disciplinary reasons. 

This entire situation doesn’t make any sense. Marshall had said a few weeks earlier that everything was fine and that he and Coach McDaniels had a good relationship, but then he was benched in the team’s most important game of the season because of “disciplinary reasons.” 

Obviously, there’s something going on here, but the thing that really resonated with me was the fact that Marshall made it a point to do all of the sports talk shows and basically went out of his way to tell everyone who would listen that everything was great between him and the Denver Bronco organization, when it clearly wasn’t.

Without Marshall, the Broncos lost their final game against the Kansas City Chiefs and didn’t make the playoffs.

But just when you’re ready to label Marshall as a bad guy or troublemaker, it seems that there’s more to his personality than just another selfish athlete who doesn’t get it. 

During a large portion of the 2008 NFL season, Marshall volunteered his time speaking at a gang-prevention program in northeast Denver called Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.

Marshall talked to groups of children of varying ages who were a part of at-risk communities and encouraged them to focus on their education and be aware of who they were associating with. 

Marshall is also a member of the Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Central Florida and actively participates in the group's charity work. Finally, Marshall is working on a project to restore Larimer Park in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

You can also see Marshall’s good side when looking at his testimony during the Darrent Williams trial. 

He stated he was trying to calm the situation down before things got out of hand, which sounds like a mature and intelligent action to take. Marshall testified that he even invited the men into the club’s VIP area for drinks in an effort to smooth things over.

Judging by this testimony, it would seem that the other men were the aggressors in this situation and had repeatedly rebuffed attempts by Marshall to smooth things over, at which point Marshall lost his cool. 

The bottom line in this situation is that because of who Marshall is (a professional athlete), he shouldn’t be at a nightclub arguing with alleged gang members at three o’clock in the morning. 

He can’t put himself in these kinds of situations because the second anything goes wrong he will be blamed for it, regardless of what his intentions were.

While looking over all of the things that Marshall has been through, it is apparent that he has made his share of mistakes and that he still has a lot of growing up to do. 

The biggest problem with Marshall seems to be his decision-making. When considering his numerous domestic violence issues, it would seem that he was involved in a very dysfunctional relationship with former girlfriend Rasheedah Watley. 

Despite the fact that police officers were being called to Marshall’s Atlanta condo to deal with allegations of domestic violence on a regular basis, the couple stayed together for over three years.

When Marshall injured his arm while wrestling with family members in 2008, he probably should’ve thought about his career in the NFL and how something as trivial as a McDonald’s bag could possibly have ended it.

After watching professional athletes play for a couple of years, it may seem like we actually know who they are.

I’ve personally been a fan of Marshall for the last three seasons because of how good he is on the football field. I can tell you a lot about the way he plays the game, where he went to college, his statistics, and even who he’s dating. But this doesn’t mean that I really know anything about him. 

I want to believe that Brandon Marshall is a good guy who’s just made some bad decisions and that he’s moving in the right direction by trying to steer his life away from negativity, but I really don’t know whether or not that’s true.

The only thing I do know is that Marshall is one of the best wide receivers I have ever watched and that it would be a shame if his troubled past finally caught up with him.

Nobody’s perfect, and people make mistakes, but the only way to become a better person is to learn from your mistakes.

The most troubling thing about Marshall’s past is that it has taken him a long time to learn from his mistakes, if he has learned anything at all. Marshall has been very lucky to this point in his life because he has been given many second chances.

But at some point, Marshall will run out of chances. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes before it’s too late.

On April 14 Marshall got his wish and was traded to the Miami Dolphins. He also received a four-year contract extension worth $47.5 million, of which $24 million is guaranteed. 

Marshall should be one of the happiest guys in the league right now. He got out of Denver (which he reportedly didn’t like) and was traded to a Miami team that should contend for a playoff spot next season.

With seemingly everything going for him, it would be a shame if Marshall didn’t take full advantage of the fresh start he has been given and reward the Miami Dolphins franchise for taking a chance on him.


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