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Phillip Marshall: Burden of leadership goes to Marshall

Aug 18, 2013

AUBURN, Ala. – Nick Marshall knows something about being in the eye of the storm. He was a legendary high school quarterback. He played cornerback for Georgia and later played quarterback for a junior college team with precious little talent around him.

But he’s never been in a storm like the one that awaits him now.

Marshall is Auburn’s quarterback, the face of the program that means so much to so many. Thousands of little boys dream of being where he is. They’ll clamor for blue jerseys bearing the number 14.

He carries on the legacy of Cam Newton and Pat Sullivan, who won the Heisman Trophy as the best players in the land. He carries the legacy of Jason Campbell, who endured intense criticism before leading the 2004 Tigers to a 13-0 record and becoming a first-round draft choice;. of Lloyd Nix and Randy Campbell, who won games and championships with the sheer force of their wills; of Dameyune Craig, who put a team on his back and carried it to the SEC Championship Game; of Reggie Slack, who won back-to-back SEC championships; of Jimmy Sidle, who ran for more yards than any quarterback ever had; of Stan White, who started for four years and passed for more yards than any quarterback in Auburn history; of Ben Leard, who overcame his doubters and made All-SEC; of tough guys like Brandon Cox, Pat Nix and Jeff Burger. He carries on the legacy of more than a century of Auburn quarterbacks.

The burden is heavy, the expectations high and sometimes unrealistic.

Marshall will be expected to be unflappable when the air is heavy with the bigness of the moment. He will be expected to be a leader and always do the right thing on and off the field. There will be nothing normal about Marshall’s college experience. When he walks to class, heads will turn.

Fans will be impatient. They always are. It won’t matter that the first snap he takes against Washington State will be the first he’s ever taken as a college quarterback. It won’t matter if a receiver runs the wrong route or an offensive lineman misses a block. He’ll be a hero when things are good and he’ll be blamed when things are bad.

That’s the life of an Auburn quarterback.

Marshall came from Garden City (Kan.) Community College just more than two months ago. Nobody gave him the job. He had to win it. Jeremy Johnson, the most impressive true freshman Auburn quarterback in many years, and sophomore Jonathan Wallace fought for it until Saturday. That’s when head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee made the call that Marshall was their man.

Maybe he’ll be great, carving his own niche in the history of Auburn football. Maybe he’ll be good. Maybe he’ll struggle. No one can say for sure.

Marshall is embarking now on the adventure of a lifetime, one that will change him forever. He earned the right to carry a burden that not everyone is man enough to carry.

And now the rest of the story is his to write.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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