ATHENS, Ga. – Late in the spring of 2011, a young man stood quietly on the sideline at the UGA practice fields, watching a Nike combine full of prospects looking to earn an opportunity to live out athletic dreams.
(Photo by Radi Nabulsi/UGA Sports Communications)
Nick Marshall had already earned that for himself.
A UGA signee from Wilcox County (Ga.) High School, Marshall was getting an early feel for his new football home.
“I want to show them I came here ready to play,” Marshall said at the time. “I’m focused on coming up in there and doing the best I can, trying to have a starting position. I’m coming out here working hard with dedication to try to follow my dreams up.”
He’s still following his SEC dreams, of course, but he’s doing it somewhere else.
As the starting quarterback for Auburn this season, Marshall has helped direct perhaps the biggest one-year turnaround in college football, leading the Tigers to a 9-1 record and top 10 ranking entering Saturday’s game against his old school.
Marshall spent one season and about eight months on UGA’s campus before being kicked off the team, leading to a year in junior college and then his arrival at Auburn with a new position. He and two other freshmen – Chris Sanders and Sanford Seay – were dismissed after reported accusations of theft from teammates, sources have said.
However, Marshall did make a few friendships at UGA that have lingered.
Georgia cornerback Damian Swann describes Nick Marshall as a "real good friend."
“We’ve been friends since we started,” Moore said this week. “It’s always good to stay in touch with the old friends, and that’s what we’ve done.”
“Me and Nick were real good friends,” Swann said. “So I’m proud of all of his accomplishments. I’m proud of everything he’s doing every week. I love to see when guys get another opportunity and make the best of it, and I think he’s doing that. He has really taken advantage of the opportunity that he has.”
Swann and Marshall were roommates that first summer at UGA, living in a dorm with other signees apart from other players.
“We were really all we had until we roomed to ECV (East Campus Village) with the rest of the team,” Swann said. “That kind built a bond between all of year, and I don’t really think that bond could be broken.”
During his one season at a cornerback at UGA, Marshall played in 13 games and was in line for a greater role the following season.
Marshall was known generally as a quiet guy, not very outspoken. Many former teammates – like linebacker Ramik Wilson – say they never got to know him that well. Others remember him generally as “a good guy,” which is how defensive end Sterling Bailey and receiver Michael Bennett each put it.
What they remember most is his athletic ability, especially his arm strength, which he would display occasionally in playing throwing competitions at practice.
UGA quarterback Aaron Murray admits that he never challenged Marshall.
Now a quarterback, Marshall has led Auburn to a 9-1 record this season.
“No, I was too scared,” Murray said. “I heard he could throw a ball like 75 yards in the air. I’m like, ‘I’m not going to try to go out there and throw my arm out.’ But he’s just an unbelievable athlete. I mean, the kid could play receiver. He could play DB. Obviously, he can play quarterback. He can do it all.”
Swann says it has been “maybe a month” since he last spoke with Marshall, noting that they’re definitely not talking this week. Moore agreed.
Nonetheless, each expects Marshall’s best on Saturday.
“I know he’s going to be ready to play,” Moore said.
“I’m pretty sure he’s going to come out on fire,” Swann said. “He’s going to come out fired up, because he’s supposed to. Whenever you’re going against a team that you used to play for, I’m pretty sure nobody wants to lose to them. … He’s going to come out ready to play, and we’ve got to come out ready to play.”
Swann and Moore each also said the circumstances that led to Marshall’s dismissal have never come up in conversations between them.
“We never got a chance to talk about that situation,” Swann said. “I think once it happened a lot of people put it behind them, and I’m pretty Nick put it behind him. Here we had to put it behind us and move on. I don’t think that was a topic that anybody really ever thought about. We just wished Nick well when he left. … Things happen. You can’t really fault somebody or fault other people for something that has already happened. I don’t think we have that here.
“I think with that situation, Nick learned from it. I think it made him a better person, and I think it’s making him a better player, as everyone can see.”
READ MORE: NICK MARSHALL WEIGHS IN ON UGA REUNION
CLICK HERE FOR A FREE TRIAL to try Dawgs247 through the end of the year
Already have an account? Sign In