Behind every pro football player, is most likely a driven and dedicated mother. In Brandon Marshall’s case, his mother Barbara had to overcome more than just the challenges of being a football mom. She’s had to contend with the national backlash of LB Marshall making an unpopular gesture. There’s a human story to be told because Brandon is more than a champion for equal treatment, he’s also someone’s beloved son.
Because Marshall’s NFL experience has been a tumultuous one, they may have been more prepared than your average player to handle the onslaught of negativity that rained down on Brandon. Before that, he was a little boy growing up in Las Vegas
Brandon started out playing soccer at three and from there, spread out to baseball, basketball, track, tennis, golf and football. Many know the story of Barbara Marshall’s odyssey from victim to advocate and because of it, Barbara kept her sons busy and grounded, helping shield them from the worst of a chaotic father.
To help other boys who may lack a good male father figure, he has started a foundation called the, Williams-Marshall Cares Leadership Program. Its objective is to mentor boys between the ages of 14-18. The goal is to give these young men role models and show them a way to stay off the streets. The foundation is developing programs to achieve this goal not only through football, but additional forms of support. The aim is to help these young men become productive members of society. When the foundation web site is up later this summer, you can learn more.
Brandon has two football camps scheduled this summer, June 10th in Las Vegas and a second one scheduled for a later date in Denver. Part of the proceeds of this second annual camp will be used to support the foundation.
Barbara was aware in raising her two sons, that sports were the best way to keep them from the streets and a life of misery. Even though she worked two jobs to pay for the pricey expense of playing sports, she never missed a game and rarely a practice. Barbara planned her work hours around her sons’ various activities. As many sports moms know, sometimes it feels as if you live in your car and wonder if adding a camping toilet wouldn’t be a bad idea. Williams never went that far, but she did burn the candle at both ends to provide the best opportunities for her boys.
It was important for her to make sure her sons had everything she could give. Years later, Brandon gave his mom a car and later a house in Colorado. What better way to make sure she didn’t miss a thing? Well deserved recognition for a mother’s sacrifice and devotion.
While older brother Marcus was able to play Mitey-Mites, Brandon had to wait until he was eight. The reason? His size. In Pop Warner, they have strict rules in age and weight for participants, and had Brandon played in kindergarten, he’d have been on teams with second graders. Once Barbara felt he was ready, Brandon was allowed to play with ten year olds. His entire youth football career was spent with the older boys. Not until high school did things even out.
At Cimarron-Memorial High School, the first-team All-Sunset Conference selection linebacker and as tight end, transitioned from Barry Sanders and Terrell Davis as his childhood idols and focused on Ray Lewis. When you become a linebacker at his age, Lewis was the pinnacle of players to emulate. Yes, you’ve read it right–Brandon grew up a Broncos fan. Jamaal Charles has company.
When Barbara was asked what was the pinnacle, the game where she knew her son had a chance in the pros, her answer was the, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (formerly the Emerald Bowl). Nevada beat Boston College in a game dominated by the defense of the Wolf Pack. Brandon’s seven tackles helped hold BC to only 185 total yards and his play gave him national attention.
That ring was the culmination of years of hard work, of overcoming adversity. Brandon was a guy who played QB, TE and RB. In fact, the RB position was his first passion; however, it became obvious that defense was his niche. Outside linebacker to be exact, and thus the admiration for Lewis. Because he loves football so much, he was willing to play anywhere they wanted.
He has the letters ‘HDPB’ tattooed on his arm that stand for what his life has been about: hard work, dedication, prayers and belief. After speaking with Barbara, one knows this isn’t just for Brandon, but for her, too. It’s been a way of life for this family.
Brandon is passionate about football.
When he was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the thrill of victory turned into the agony of defeat. As so often happens, a coaching change and not moving Marshall from ILB to MLB lead to a difficult time in his career. When new coaches zero in on their pet players and/or scheme, it can be career ending for the players excluded.
Oddly, when Jack Del Rio arrived in Denver, he tapped the very player who’d been ignored on his previous team. After proving his worth on the practice squad, Marshall was elevated to the 53. Brandon rode the heartbreaking roller coaster of emotions from being drafted to being warehoused to being cut three times, to being demoted to the practice squad. Through these turbulent years, Barbara was there every step of the way being his rock, ear and cheerleader.
When Marshall made his appearance in SB48 due to Von Miller’s ACL injury, confusion about two Brandon Marshalls took over the air waves. While some of it was innocuous, it has become bothersome. Not as much from paid employees who don’t do their jobs, but from ‘fans’ who think the Marshalls are being hypocritical. How could they be victim rights advocates while he engaged in instances of domestic violence? Having the uninformed public think the worst, seems to be a common occurrence for this family.
A shared theme among the players and their families that I’ve written about, is one of blessings in disguise. The very roadblocks that seem to be curses, are actually stepping stones to a higher place. They join a deep club of determined ‘underdogs’.
Imagine a career path shifting from dejection, to playing in two super bowls and ultimately winning SB50. The Marshalls believed they’d seen and lived though it all. That all changed on one Sunday.
While mother and son knew there would be some fall out behind supporting Brandon’s college roommate, Colin Kaepernick, and the message he wanted shared, they weren’t prepared for the hatred on blast. Sometimes sinking into cruel bigotry.
In one day, he went from a beloved member of Broncos Country, to being vilified. Brandon was the same man at 1:00 p.m. as he was 7:00 a.m. but that was ignored by many angry fans. A record of good deeds, award winner, erased. Also missed was the fact that Marshall has military and police family members that he loves and supports.
How does a mother, one who was bursting in pride for her son, handle hatred and outright racism hurled at him? A man with a background of doing good works? How did she deal with the hurt, anger and the fear? Yes, fear. Barbara credits prayer and digging down deep for inner strength to weather this storm. No mom wants her child to deal with something that ugly and vicious, it doesn’t matter if her child is famous or not. It hurts the same.
To make matters worse, after winning the SB, Marshall has dealt with a few injuries that saw him sidelined him for a few games in 2016 and limited his production. Once again, from the highest of highs, to another low point. Will that hold him back? No way, as his mom says, football is his love and he will work his tail off.
This is his craft. He wants to be the best he can be at it.
With another season coming up, the Marshall family is prepared for whatever comes their way. They have each other and their belief. As far as where he’s at physically, Brandon says he’s in the best shape since he originally injured his foot. He’s hungry and ready to go. Once again, he’s suiting up to show that he’s better than what many say he is. No doubt his rock and biggest supporter will be in the stands wearing a 54, and beaming with joy.