Broncos WR goes from malcontent to magnificent
Brandon Marshall brought his 17-year-old cousin to Denver to get him out of the same menacing Pittsburgh neighborhood where he was raised.
The move has been a success for both.
Under Marshall's wing, Rayshon Williams has improved both his grades and his football skills at Mullen High School, where the junior wide receiver is already drawing interest from NCAA programs.
Marshall, the Denver Broncos' star receiver whose career has been marked by professional and personal slip-ups, has done some growing up himself over the last four months.
``There's a lot of things that young athletes deal with outside of football, the transition from college sports, where you're pretty much sheltered, to a professional athlete. It's scary and it could be dangerous,'' Marshall said. ``The transition for me didn't go as well as I wanted it to, but having family like Ray in my life in a way made me grow faster and become more accountable.''
His teammates say they've seen a maturation in Marshall, predicting he'll no longer find himself in commissioner Roger Goodell's office to explain his actions, as he did earlier in his career.
A big reason for Marshall's metamorphosis from malcontent to magnificent is Williams, who returned to Denver this fall after Marshall sent him home for the summer to gain an appreciation for the opportunities he had back in Colorado.
``Oh yeah, because I can't preach this message to Ray and at the same time be doing the opposite,'' Marshall told The Associated Press. ``So, I had to just grow up because I want to see him be great. I want to see him be successful in whatever he does. I'm that person in his life now that guides him, and you can't be a hypocrite.''
After serving a nine-day suspension for throwing a temper tantrum at practice during training camp, which followed yet another rejection of his request for a new contract or a trade, Marshall returned to the team with a renewed focus on football and family. He became determined to act like a professional and prove he was worthy of the big contract he craves.
He's done that, chalking up 86 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns so far, proving he's completely recovered from offseason hip surgery.
The Broncos probably did him a favor by rejecting his contract demands four months ago because he's setting himself up for a big payday. As it stands, with an uncapped season ahead, he'll be a restricted free agent in a few months after wrapping up his contract with the Broncos that's paying him $2.2 million this season, one of the biggest bargains in the NFL.
Marshall, his agent, and the Broncos all declined to discuss his contract during the team's stretch run. Suffice it to say his paychecks should soon match his stellar play.
Nobody in NFL history has ever had more receptions in one game than Marshall did last week, when he hauled in 21 of Kyle Orton's throws for 200 yards and two TDs at Indianapolis.
``There's no more deserving guy than he is,'' said Terrell Owens, who set the old mark of 20 catches for San Francisco on Dec. 17, 2000. ``He's been a hard worker and supposedly they said he's the 'Baby T.O.' All records are meant to be broken. I wish him well and he's going to have a great career.''
Marshall doesn't think his record will stand for long, however.
``Wes Welker might break it this week,'' he said, only half-joking.
The bank is what Marshall could be breaking soon.
``I think we all go through a maturation process, both personally and professionally, and we are witnessing that growth in Brandon,'' said Marshall's agent and confidant, Kennard McGuire. ``Brandon has created a different bar for the wide receiver position and he has a tremendous amount of hunger and thirst to be the best.''
Marshall credits McGuire, along with his cousin, for getting his mind straight after his crazy offseason.
``He's more than just an agent. I mean, he's my mentor. He advises me in every aspect of my life now and I couldn't ask for a better person to confide in,'' Marshall said.
McGuire was the one who persuaded Marshall to put money matters on the back burner.
``Oh, he gets a lot of credit. And it's not just about the things that you guys see. There's a lot more to it. There's a lot of things that I had to clean up outside of the locker room and he just helped me put things in perspective and helped me put my priorities straight,'' Marshall said.
``I have never been more happier with the things that I'm doing, the way I'm going about doing it. Every day is a challenge because I'm far from being the man that I want to be, but I think the biggest thing is noticing there's some things that I struggle at and trying to change those things on a daily basis.''
Is he the player he wants to be yet?
``No, not yet, I'm far from it,'' Marshall said. ``I've got so much more to work on.''
Marshall famously said during camp that he hadn't bothered to learn the new coach's playbook, but that was just posturing. It took him no time to get up to speed.
``One of the things that I admire most is how smart he is,'' coach Josh McDaniels said, citing the way the 6-foot-4, 230-pound mountain of muscle deciphers defenses, finds ways to get open and even offers suggestions on the sideline.
Orton is more dazzled by what Marshall does after the ball is in his hands.
``His size and physical ability is what to me is the most impressive,'' Orton said. ``But he's a total football player. You're not as good as he is without understanding the game and understanding defenses and what teams are trying to do.''
Marshall said his goals aren't so much financial as they are historical.
``I'm thinking greatness,'' he said. ``I'm thinking about how can I be mentioned with the Cris Carters, the Michael Irvins, the Jerry Rices, the Art Monks, the Rod Smiths.''
Isn't he on that level yet, given his record-breaking performance last week?
``Not even close,'' Marshall said. ``But I will be soon. Every day I get closer.''
To greatness and a big payday, too.