Brothers and Rivals: The Bond Between Running Backs Keith and Marcus Marshall

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 23, 2015

Georgia RB Keith Marshall (left) and Georgia Tech RB Marcus Marshall (right)
Georgia RB Keith Marshall (left) and Georgia Tech RB Marcus Marshall (right)Getty Images

ATLANTA — The annual rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech is known as "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate."

This year, though, it has a more wholesome twist.

Brotherly love.

When the Bulldogs and Jackets take the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia senior running back Keith Marshall will look across at the opposing sideline and see a familiar face—his brother, Georgia Tech freshman running back Marcus.

"Our dream growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, was always to play together," Marcus told Bleacher Report. "But against each other on the big stage is just as cool. It's a dream come true to be playing against my brother."

The elder Marshall, who will not pursue a fifth year of eligibility after missing most of the 2014 season, hopes to close out his Georgia career with a bang in front of a friendly face.

"It'll be interesting," Keith told Bleacher Report. "We've never competed against each other in football. It'll be fun."

Georgia RB Keith Marshall
Georgia RB Keith MarshallRonald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

The game is something that has been brewing in the Marshall family ever since Marcus signed his national letter of intent to play for his brother's bitter intrastate rival.

"I'm sure they're going to be cheering for Georgia," Keith joked. "Nah, I'm sure they're not going to care who wins that game."

The bond between the Marshall brothers runs deep.

The two grew up playing with each other, with Keith—who's three years older than Marcus—dominating family events.

"It wasn't really competitive, because I'm older than him," Keith said. "But we competed in NCAA, Madden, and I used to beat him up in that too. He's probably better than me with that now because he plays more."

The rivalry was heated when the age difference didn't get in the way, but Marcus credits Keith for his success by setting a high bar to reach after Keith's high school football success.

"He's definitely a role model for me," Marcus said. "He set the blueprint of what I needed to do and take care of throughout high school, and just growing up in general. In high school, I'd try to break his records and stuff like that. He was just somebody who I looked up to."

He did just that. Marcus set the school record at Millbrook High School with 2,198 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in 2014, according to Georgia Tech's official site, and he holds the school record for points scored in a season with 186 and rushing yards in a game with 350. The two brothers share the school record with 30 points scored in a single game.

Despite Marcus' joining him in the record book, Keith isn't ready to give up the title of "fastest Marshall brother" quite yet.

"Oh, I'd win the 40," Keith said. "And he'll tell you that I'll win."

"Yeah, he'd win right now, I'm not going to lie," Marcus admitted.

Georgia Tech RB Marcus Marshall
Georgia Tech RB Marcus MarshallKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When Marcus stepped on the field for his first career college game against Alcorn State on Thursday, Sept. 3, his biggest cheerleader was a wreck.

"I remember me and [offensive tackle] John Theus were watching his first game, and Marcus took his first carry to the house," Keith said. "We were running around the house screaming. Honestly, before his first game, I was more nervous for him than I was for myself.

"I take pride in my little brother, and I want him to be the best he can be."

He was that night. Marshall finished his first career college game with 184 yards on just eight carries, scored twice and established himself as the featured "B back" in head coach Paul Johnson's triple-option offense.

"It feels great," Marcus said of his success this season. "I didn't really know what to expect when I got here, but I knew there were a lot of opportunities at running back. I knew that this offense is one that's suited for running backs. After the first game, I was pretty excited about what the season had in store. It has definitely exceeded my expectations."

Georgia Tech RB Marcus Marshall
Georgia Tech RB Marcus MarshallMike Stewart/Associated Press

The two Marshall brothers are bigger pieces to the running puzzles for their respective teams, but it almost didn't happen.

Keith was a 5-star prospect in the class of 2012 who came to Georgia in the same class as former Bulldog Todd Gurley, but Marcus, a 3-star prospect who wasn't offered by Georgia, according to his 247Sports recruiting profile, wasn't too far off from lining up on the opposite side of the ball.

"He came to us and in his freshman year played some running back," Millbrook head coach Clarence Inscore told Bleacher Report. "Sophomore year, he was such a great athlete, we actually had him up on varsity playing defensive back. He started at corner. He broke his leg, and when he bounced back the next year, we were going to play him at receiver since we had a senior who had backed up Keith. We struggled early that year and got Marcus a few touches to see what happens. The first game he played running back for us, he rushed for 215 or 220 yards and never got out of the starting lineup."

Georgia RB Keith Marshall
Georgia RB Keith MarshallSam Greenwood/Getty Images

For Keith, the game vs. Georgia Tech won't just be "clean, old-fashioned hate" with a brotherly-love twist. It will be a goodbye, of sorts.

Marshall announced earlier this month that he will not seek a fifth year of eligibility in 2016, which he would be eligible for after only playing three games in 2014 before a season-ending injury.

"Obviously he's come in and played extremely well for us throughout his career," head coach Mark Richt said, according to the school's site. "He's going to be graduating. He just wants to go ahead and move on and take his shot at the NFL when this season is over."

For the brothers, Saturday afternoon on the Flats could be the only shot to capture a special moment for the siblings.

"After the game, we'll get a picture," Keith said. "Hopefully I'll get to rub it in his face that we just beat him. It'll be a lot more fun if we win, of course."

For people who grew to know the brothers, it will be a special moment.

"I'm hoping for the best for both of them," Inscore said. "The big thing for those guys is that they're both playing football at a high level, and it's important for them. At the end of the day, they're still going to be brothers."

Georgia Tech RB Marcus Marshall
Georgia Tech RB Marcus MarshallMike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Where the family sits, though, could get tricky.

The Marshall brothers are planning on creating half-Georgia, half-Georgia Tech jerseys for family members to wear Saturday in Atlanta.

"They have a rule in our section that you can't have other teams' gear on," Keith said. "I know they have the same rule at Tech, so they're going to have to rotate through the stadium."

Regardless of who wins, it will be a memorable day in the Marshall household as one brother caps off his college career while essentially handing the baton to the other.

"It's going to be a dream come true," Marcus said. "Hopefully the next time we're taking pictures on the same field after a game, it's in the league somewhere."

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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