CARLSTADT, N.J.- Brandon Marshall’s professional move from the New York Jets’ home turf (no pun intended) in Florham Park, New Jersey to the New York Giants facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey was the single best off-season transaction in the National Football League. “Why’s that?” Marshall asked me at his Wide Receiver camp at Capelli Sport Center in Carlstadt, New Jersey. Let me explain:
- Giants fans know that as a physical player standing at 6’5″, Marshall “fits the profile” of quarterback Eli Manning’s preferable wide receiver. With Marshall in mind, fans have already conjured up memories from Super Bowl XLII. With 35 seconds to play in the game, Eli Manning capped a 2 minute and 7 second, 83 yard drive by finding Plaxico Burress (who, also, is 6’5″) in the far left corner of the end zone. That go-ahead touchdown proved to be the game winner. This Giants victory derailed the New England Patriots’ plans to become the first team in NFL history to finish with a perfect 19-0 record.
When I recounted this Super Bowl memory to Marshall, and told him that Giants fans are expecting him to replicate Burress’ catch, he replied, with a laugh: “I’m expecting it from myself! … [Being with the Giants], this is another opportunity for me…to take a run at this Lombardi Trophy”.
2. Marshall’s troubles in Chicago and Miami are well-documented, but since then, he has found solace in mental health through his work with Project 375. Marshall is going to be an excellent mentor to one of the youngest receiving corps in the league: Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram. He explained to me the important message he conveyed to the young football players gathered at his camp: “The thing that’s invaluable is: us talking about character, us talking about work ethic, us talking about the process of going from high school to college and the distractions off-the-field. That’s the thing that they can’t buy anywhere.”
Forty-three minutes separate the Jets and Giants facilities, but they may as well be a world apart. Marshall is quickly building a rapport with Professional Football Hall of Fame worthy quarterback Eli Manning. Marshall has nothing but praise for the veteran signal caller: “When you have a veteran quarterback who knows what he wants and he’s a great communicator, it’s so easy to get on the same page. It’s really simple, he’s like: ‘Look: here’s our offense, this is what you do, and do it’. But then there’s those little finer details when it comes to press coverages,…cover two, or, this little adjustment, that little adjustment that [Manning is] awesome at just sitting the receivers down and saying ‘Listen, this is how it all works for all of us’. And it’s been great.
Marshall, a potential Professional Football Hall of Fame candidate in his own right, hopes to establish a symbiotic relationship with the Giants’ young and wildly talented receiving corps. When I asked what it was like to line up alongside players like Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, he joked: “Where’s the ball goin’!?” That will be the number one question for all opposing defenses this year. Marshall continued: “What I love about it is that they’re younger guys and I have so much experience, I’ve been through so much…hopefully those guys pull from me so I can make their game better…. I’m excited to see how we all work together.”
When second year receiver Shepard heard that Marshall was coming to the Giants, he told me: “I was happy. I mean, we had no guy, I think over 6 foot, I mean, we did, but not a big presence like him. To have him in the green zone, I think that’s where we struggled a lot, so to have him there, it’s going to create some…mismatches and it’s going to help us out a little bit.” With voluntary workouts underway, Shepard has already ‘pulled’ from Marshall’s vast knowledge of the game: “He’s been in the game a long time, so he’s been teaching me a lot so far: …different releases to use and different hand techniques, so it’s great to have a guy like that with you here.”
Marshall has also taken on the role as student of Professor Shepard. “For me, what I’m teaching him? A little bit of swag! We gotta teach him how to cut up in the end zone and everything!” Marshall, a few minutes later, without overhearing me talking with Shepard, echoed that sentiment: “[Shepard’s] my swag coach, so he helped me with my hair… he’s helping me with my dress, because these younger guys? They got it. I’m older, I’m tryin’ to stay young so I need help with my touchdown dances.” It already seems as though they’re on the same page!
When I asked if Marshall been working on any touchdown celebrations yet, he replied: “Not yet. That’s phase two. Right now, it’s just getting the appearance right: I got the hair, I think im going down the right direction when it comes to the hair, now it’s my attire, and then it’s going to be celebrations, like outwardly, ‘what’s my swag going to be?'”.
It is shaping up to be a fun season for the Giants, but even more fun would be to win another championship. “I think we have a really good team. I think that when you look on paper, which is sometimes a bad thing to do, but on paper, this is a really talented team. The thing that you don’t see is how these guys go about their business. They’re pros, they’re on time, they work hard, they love it, and it’s hard to find that throughout your entire team in professional sports. I know it sounds crazy to say, but I’m just proud to be a part of the Giants.” How has Marshall been adjusting to life in blue? As good as those in and around the Giants could have hoped.