Marsh, a senior linebacker from Jupiter, was a go-get ‘em freshman back in 2009 and a little big for his britches, apparently.
“I was ready to kill somebody,’’ Marsh said of that first start against Webber International. “The first play of the game was a play-action pass. I completely left my zone and came straight up for the run fake. I was trying to make a play, of course, the wily 18-year old, big-eyed, looking to make a play.’’
The coaching staff wasn’t appreciative of the effort.
“I was pulled out of the game; they put in another linebacker for me so the coach could yell at me. That was an eye opener.’’
The yelling kept up for a drive or two and Marsh got the message.
Fast forward to this season and he’s off to a solid start. Through just three games, he has 15 tackles, nearly half his last year’s total 34 and the coaches are appreciative of his efforts.
“I was very disappointed with last year,’’ Marsh said. “Playing with injuries and not playing as fast as I could have, I was playing conservative.’’ The injuries included bulging discs in his neck and a foot sprain.
The body has healed and the extra year of experience, along with taking things a bit more seriously, has made the difference.
“Part of that is experience,’’ he said. “If you have any doubts of any of your coverages you’re not going got play as fast. Now, I’ve become more knowledgeable, I’m a student of the game and know exactly where I fit in every situation so my decisions are that much faster now.’’
He also is quick to credit defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jerry Odom with his progress.
“Not only am I putting in more time, I’m doing it more efficiently now,’’ he said. “And, coach Odom is the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever talked football with and he has a passion for it every day. He can point out 10 things I don’t even notice watching film. Whatever we’re doing I try to get something out of it.’’
The turnaround also is because of what many seniors say – the last season.
“It definitely gives you a sense of maturity, especially since you know it’s your last year here,’’ Marsh said. “I used to hear it all the time and you’re like ‘yeah, sure’ but once you’re in that spot it’s true. I have a sense of maturity and I want to get everything I can out of this year, especially because I was disappointed in last year, not only in myself but us as a whole. Any year we don’t win a championship is a disappointing season.’’
Odom said Marsh has, indeed, become more a student of the game.
“Anytime as you get older you’re going to be a better player because you understand more of what you’re doing,’’ Odom said. “You’re not doing it because coach told me to and might yell at me, you’re doing it because I understand where I fit in the scheme, how I fit in the scheme and what makes me better.’’
The coach also indicated he knew it was only a matter of time for Marsh to get it, mainly because the accounting major (3.53 grade point average) is so smart.
“I called him smart-dumb guy the first year I was here because he’s one of the smartest guys we have on our team, a very sharp individual,’’ Odom said. “He no longer has that moniker; he’s become a smart football player to go along with being a smart person. I like to give him hard time about that.’’
Marsh, who interned as a financial analyst for Lockheed Martin in the summer and continues to work with the company five to seven hours a week, is realistic about his football days which, he says, is helping him this year.
“The urgency is 100 percent because this is the last one,’’ he said. “I’m very realistic that I’m probably not going to play at the next level and I do have a good career I’m pursuing. I love this sport and I can live with it being the last year if I can go out on the right terms. It will be the right terms if I know I did everything I can in practice, workouts, didn’t take anything off. I want to win another championship and I don’t want to lose another game from here on out. That would be the right for me.’’
Oh, and Odom denies he was the coach doing the yelling in Marsh’s first effort.
“No, that wasn’t me,’’ he said. “He’s a super kid and a very hard worker. If everybody worked as hard as he does and cared as much as he does we’d be very, very good.’’
- Jim Nasella