Dec. 28, 2013
Nick Marshall has Auburn on the go heading to the BCS title game (AP photo/Dave Martin)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- He had played cornerback at Georgia, left for a Kansas junior college and was determined to return to Division I football as a quarterback, the position he had excelled in high school.
Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee were prepared to give Nick Marshall a chance to do just that.
At Arkansas State.
That's where Malzahn and Lashlee were when they begin selling Marshall on the idea that he could succeed in their offense before shifting their efforts to get Marshall to come to Auburn after the pair were hired in their new jobs. Marshall listened, signed and, some six months after arriving on campus, has Auburn playing in the BCS Championship Game against Florida State on Jan. 6.
Like Cam Newton in 2010, Nick Marshall can be a junior college transfer quarterback who can help lead Auburn to a national title in Malzahn's offense. Like Newton, Marshall began his college career at a different SEC school.
Marshall was remembering the recruitment as Auburn turned to the BCS, and how Lashlee formed a trust.
"The first time I met him he tried to recruit me to Arkansas State, but then he came to my high school and he came to Garden City, Kan., and recruited me. We just started to bond then and just kept communicating on the telephone," Marshall said.
"He came to my house a couple of times when they recruited me. And when I got here the bond we had, it just got closer. And then I went to his house with his wife and kids and just ate dinner and just watched television and it's been great from there on out."
Like plucking Newton out of a Texas junior college on Dec. 31, 2009, Malzahn's offense convinced Marshall, who like Newton, had been a high school star in Georgia, that playing closer to home in Auburn was the ticket. Newton picked Auburn over Mississippi State and Oklahoma. Marshall picked Auburn over Kansas State after first flirting with Arkansas State.
"We did our homework on Nick when we were there, then got a chance to get him here," Malzahn said. "We’re very proud of Nick as a person and as a player."
Nick Marshall would return, but before Auburn, he had made the decision to switch from cornerback to quarterback at Garden City. Mark Ledford, his high school coach in Wilcox County in Georgia, remembered.
"Small-school coaches were calling me thinking they could get one they couldn’t normally get. Junior colleges were calling," Ledford said earlier this season. "I said, 'What do you want to do?’ He said, “Coach I want to go to junior college and play the position that got me where I am now and get back in the SEC.’ Well, that’s what happened."
"They talked to me about being closer to home and then my family can come see me play also, it was just how they were talking, just like, 'When you come here, you can just be an Auburn man, and it's just a family here, just like at home,'" Marshall said.
Of course, there was Kansas State with an offer.
Now, says, Marshall, "I can't imagine myself being there."
Lashlee has spoken of working with Marshall.
"It’s like any relationship, the longer you’re around, the more trust you have and the better feel for people and the better you know them. It all goes back, he’s been coachable," Lashlee said. "From Day One, whether you’re teaching him something early on or whether you’re getting onto him, he responds well all the time. He’s always respectful: 'yes sir, no sir.' Not only does he respond right, but then his actions follow.
"I give him all that credit, from being coachable and then having the will and the desire to try to get better."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine