Ever since Jalin Marshall decided to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and declare for the 2016 NFL Draft, one question has followed him at every turn—why?
Why would the Ohio State H-back pass up the chance to be the Buckeyes' No. 1 offensive weapon next season? Why would he leave a championship-caliber team in Columbus to test the unsure waters of the NFL Draft? Why? Marshall admits it wasn't an easy decision, but he believes he's developed the skills he needs to be successful at the next level and is ready for the challenge.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Marshall was a triple-threat at the college level, boasting dynamic receiving, rushing and return skills. In his two seasons at Ohio State, Marshall collected 74 receptions for 976 receiving yards and was among the best punt returners in the nation. He has a proven knack for big plays.
STACK caught up with Marshall at EXOS San Diego prior to this year's NFL Combine to talk about his time at Ohio State, his decision and his future.
STACK: What was the football atmosphere like in Middletown, Ohio where you grew up?
Jalin Marshall: It's basically like how people separate the conferences—Big Ten, SEC, stuff like that. Ohio is the Big Ten, because they don't think we're as fast, but we're real physical. When we play somebody, they're going to know it. There's a lot of talent coming out of Ohio for that reason and a lot of toughness.
You played quarterback in high school. Did you know you would be switching to H-back and receiver when you committed to Ohio State?
I did play QB in high school, and that was something I was really passionate about. Coach (Urban) Meyer came to Ohio State, and it was always my dream to play for Coach Meyer, so he just happened to come to Ohio State at the perfect time. He had coached Percy Harvin at Florida, and he kind of sold me the dream that I would play the same role. That kind of sucked me in and got me to go there. It made it an easier transition, because I had hoped it would be ok.
How was the transition from high school to college for you personally?
I had a chance to early enroll at Ohio State in the second semester of my senior year, but I didn't want to. I was on the basketball team, I ran track, I was in the choir, I had a girlfriend. I had all these things that made me not want to leave yet. Maybe I should have, but I didn't. I don't regret that. I left for college on June 9th, 2013. That was the first day I moved into the dorm. I cried like a baby when my mom and dad and my little brother left me. But I knew it was the next step in my journey in life.
What's your relationship with your parents like?
My parents mean a lot to me. They motivate me each and every day. We haven't always had it nice, it's been rough sometimes. So seeing them always grind through the tough situations and push forward to make something happen for us allows me to do the same for them and for myself and it helps me out every day.
What was the competition like at Ohio State with all those talented teammates?
The competition at Ohio State is like none other. It's almost like you're playing in a game every day, just because every time you go out to practice you're fighting for a spot. They always tell you they recruit well, and they don't lie. So they always bring in someone to replace you every year, just like it is in the pros. You gotta be on your A-game at every practice and compete like you don't have a job.
Last season, Urban Meyer said you were the best blocking receiver at Ohio State. How did you develop that skill?
My redshirt year, there were a lot of things I had to work on in my game to be able to excel at Ohio State and become one of the better players on the team. Blocking, learning the plays, playing fast, all those things I had to be the best at to play with the best. So I worked on those skills and became the best at it just so there was no reason for them not to put me on the field. I wanted them to know that at all times, Jalin was going to be where he needed to be to make the play for the team.
Do you think your experience at quarterback made you a better receiver?
Playing quarterback helped me a lot at receiver. It allowed me to know where the defense was and where they would be before the play started. In high school, I had to learn how to read defenses early and perform certain techniques to help the offense move better.
What's the toughest thing you had to overcome in your career so far?
Maybe redshirting my freshman year. I came out as a highly recruited guy from high school, and I knew that I was going to play, and I knew that I was going to be this and be that—and then it all didn't work out. Then I was stuck at a place that I thought I was going to be somebody I'm not. So I had to take it back to reality. That made me grow up and mature more. It helped me know that everything isn't always going to work out the way you want it to, so I changed my mentality and I switched my focus and tried to become what they wanted me to become at Ohio State.
Why the decision to leave OSU early?
For me, I felt like I opened up a lot of opportunity for myself from the things I did at Ohio State. A lot of people said I could've done more, and I feel like I could've done more, but what I've done was a lot, and it helped us win, and I feel like I can take that to the next level and be successful. Ohio State gave me a great opportunity and I learned a lot.
What do you want to show scouts?
If I was a scout looking at myself, I would see a guy who listens well, who pays attention to detail and who knows what's going on. I ask questions and I pay attention to every single detail and make sure that I know what's happening.
What motivates you when things get tough?
I came out early so I don't have a degree, and I know that if I don't go hard and take everything one step at a time, I'll be right back where I was. But if I take advantage of where I am and listen, I think I'll be alright. And that motivates me to get better each day.
What are your earliest NFL dreams?
I think when I probably turned 7 or 8 years old, I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete. I wore No. 7 in pee-wee football and I played quarterback, and that was right when Michael Vick was big. Then everyone started calling me Michael Vick, and I started watching him on TV. Then I got a Michael Vick jersey for Christmas one year and I probably wore it to school every day.
What advice would you offer to high school athletes?
Work hard now, have fun later. Figure you out what you want and go get it.
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