Did he leave too early? Jalin Marshall is set on making that an afterthought
Their comments were straightforward and to the point.
“Good luck making the league minimum.”
“There is almost no chance Jalin Marshall cashes a professional check in the NFL. He’s short and terrible.”
“Should have stayed one more year!”
Jalin Marshall’s NFL announcement caught some off guard. He got negative feedback from some — not all — Ohio State fans after sharing his early declaration to the world. It was different than when the top 2013 recruit in Ohio committed to his home-state school. Many, like Urban Meyer, expected Marshall to stay a fourth year and shine as the Buckeyes’ new No. 1 target.
NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said he was stunned that Marshall came out and that he thought he made a mistake.
The decision of a lifetime was met with more scrutiny than Marshall anticipated.
“It’s tough because you want to know what people say and what people think about you. It matters a bit, especially in the profession that we chose,” he said. “But everybody’s situation is different. They don’t know what’s going on with me. They don’t know why I chose that or why I had to do it. They’re just looking from the outside in.”
So why did he leave early? And did he regret his choice after seeing the criticism?
“I had to get my mindset off of that,” said Marshall, who had the second-most receptions by a freshman in OSU history. “It’s really not about what people say, it’s about what I do and how I perform and what I want for myself. I felt like I was ready to leave and I felt that I learned the things I needed to learn to go to the next level.
“My mindset was no matter what anybody says, I’ve got to make it happen for myself.”
Marshall knows that his battle is an uphill one. The former run-first high school quarterback is still developing as a pass-catcher and route-runner with only two full seasons at wideout under his belt. By high school, college and NFL standards, he’s small for a receiver at 5-10, 200 pounds.
He projects as a slot receiver/punt returner in the NFL, but some question if he can even do that. You don’t have to scroll very far down on Marshall’s nfl.com draft profile to see the doubt:
“He’s a running back playing in the slot. That’s how I see it. I think he’s just a guy,” one B1G area scout said. “He might make a living as a punt returner, but he better get better at fielding short punts or he’ll find the bench and then the waiver wire.”
Even though he doesn’t want to get caught up in those scouting reports, Marshall hears them. He’s in a different situation than most of his OSU teammates, many of whom are projected first-round, Day 1 starters.
At EXOS training facility in San Diego, that was no different. Former TCU receiver Josh Doctson, a potential first-round wideout, was there. Marshall’s OSU classmate Eli Apple was there, too. Apple didn’t get the criticism Marshall did when he left after his third year in Columbus. That’s because Apple already has the next-level size, speed and agility that warrant the first-round consideration.
Marshall’s decision wasn’t made based on his middle-to-late round projection. He left early because he didn’t want to be one of those players who came back to school and felt like they should’ve already been in the NFL. As he told cleveland.com at the combine, he saw guys who came back to school and were “miserable.” He didn’t want to be one of them.
Marshall’s decision, while unconventional for a future slot receiver without a 40-catch, 500-yard season in college, was his. The increased doubt just increased the fuel.
“Yeah, it drives me and my work ethic,” he said. “Why would I be where I’m at right now if I couldn’t play or wasn’t able to do these things? It motivates me. It’s like, ‘Man, you really haven’t reached where you want to get to yet because obviously people don’t think you’re ready.’”
But Marshall believes he’s ready to play right away — as a punt returner. That’s where he got his foot in the door at OSU. He spent two years as the Buckeyes’ primary punt returner and averaged 12.7 yards per return, which ranks fifth in program history.
Before he established himself as an open-field threat, Marshall had plenty of doubters. With the Buckeyes in need of running through the B1G to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive in 2014, Marshall lost two critical fumbles during a frigid, mid-November game at Minnesota. Even though the Buckeyes won, Marshall caught some serious heat on social media for his fumbles.
— Travis Williams (@Tramb0) November 15, 2014
Jalin Marshall is a walking fumble
— Dan Schweikert (@dschweiks) November 15, 2014
Jalin Marshall: the fumble specialist
— Zach Clark (@HangOnSloopy02) November 15, 2014
The following Monday, Ohio State players were given the day off. Snow plows cleared the outdoor fields outside of the Buckeyes’ practice facility. In a hat and gloves, Marshall fielded punts repeatedly.
Five days later, the Buckeyes found themselves trailing 20-14 late in the third quarter against an Indiana team that came into Columbus 0-6 in the B1G. One quarter later, the Buckeyes were up 42-20.
All thanks to Marshall.
His 54-yard punt return touchdown gave OSU the lead. Three straight receiving TDs from Marshall gave the Buckeyes the blowout win. The four-score effort went down as one of the great individual spurts in recent memory, and more importantly, it kept OSU’s national title season alive.
Marshall said that he felt like got a bear off his back after the negativity he got from the Minnesota game. Now he has a different bear on his back. But he still plans on using the post-Minnesota approach to get it off.
“It’s been like transitioning from semi-pro to professional,” he said. “It’s a lot of the same things I’ve been doing at Ohio State but at a different level. There’s a lot of stuff I had to learn and a lot of people I had to talk to make sure I could get to where I wanted to get.”
He wants to follow in the footsteps of former third-round pick and longtime Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith. Marshall feels their frames and skill sets are similar. A 15-year career with over 13,000 receiving yards isn’t a bad mark to shoot for. Marshall’s focus is on longevity, which obviously can’t be accomplished on draft day.
Ohio State can accomplish something in Chicago. There’s hope that the Buckeyes can tie or exceed Miami’s (FL) record of six players drafted in the first round.
That’s talk Marshall is on board with.
“They wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t possible,” he said. “I think we have 10 guys that could probably go in the first round if they had more picks.”
Marshall will have to wait longer than that. There will inevitably be more talk from draft analysts about his decision to leave early. Buckeye fans might always wonder if he could’ve turned into an All-American if he stayed one more year.
But that’s all out of his control. Marshall is ready for the draft — and his new career — however it plays out.
“It’s a nerve-racking, anxious process,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think it’s all worth it.
“It’s a dream come true for me, man. It’s a dream come true.”