This could be a story filled with heartache and anger. Most rational observers would understand.
Terrace Marshall Jr. was one of the nation’s top high school wide receivers in 2017, poised to take his pick of some of the nation’s best college programs. A furious bidding war broke out between Texas A&M and LSU, and he committed to the Tigers as the face of the movement to drag the stodgy offense into the modern era.
Only it didn’t play out quite the way as expected. LSU did set offensive records and win a national title in 2019 with Marshall putting up numbers never before seen in program history.
But he didn’t become a household name, and the coronavirus pandemic ultimately helped cut short his college career. Marshall has every reason to feel cheated.
It’s just that he doesn’t see it that way.
“Everything played out how it’s supposed to be,” Marshall said after LSU’s pro day last month. “I look at it as, I mean, everything happens for a reason, so whatever position I was in, that’s the position God wanted me to be in. So, I mean, now it’s time to go to the next level and take advantage of every opportunity I get.”
The 6-foot-2 5/8 receiver again appears poised for something special. There’s a solid chance he’ll be drafted late in the first round, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll last beyond the early part of the second.
He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and posted a vertical leap of 39 inches during the Tigers’ pro day, confirming the physical gifts apparent on film. Add a natural and willing physicality and inside-out versatility to the mix, and it’s easy to see why NFL teams feel Marshall could be one of the better values in this year’s draft.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has discussed the need for another play-making wide receiver multiple times this offseason, and there is reason to believe Marshall would be a good fit.
He’s used to sharing the ball with other weapons after playing alongside 2020 first-round pick Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase – potentially the first receiver chosen in 2021 – at LSU, and he’s known for his high character. Marshall never complained about being the third option for the Tigers during the national title run, and he’s been known to clean up laundry lying on the locker room floor so the equipment managers won’t have to do it later.
By all accounts, he’s humble and hard working. And he’s already proven he can handle major adversity.
As a high school senior, Marshall suffered a gruesome leg injury that stunted the start of his college career. He spent 2019 as a relative non-factor on LSU’s roster before breaking out along with the rest of the offense a year later.
With his speed and confidence back, Marshall caught 46 passes for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns during the Tigers’ title run. The touchdown total would have been a school record, if not for the fact Chase caught 20 and Jefferson pulled down 18 in the same season.
In 2020, Marshall had the spotlight to himself. Jefferson was taken in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings, and Chase opted out of the season. He caught 48 passes for 731 and 10 touchdowns in just seven games while breaking in four new quarterbacks after the departure of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.
In November, Marshall opted out himself and began his draft prep.
“I just feel like I had more to prove,” Marshall said of his decision to play the first seven games of a highly unique and challenging season. “… So I just wanted to go out there and play and compete. I love the game of football, so I went out there and just competed, felt like I had to prove myself some more.”
If there were any outstanding doubts, Marshall likely erased them with his pro day performance.
Still, this is another deep wide receiver class. Chase, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, Mississippi’s Elijah Moore and Florida’s Kadarius Toney are among the highly rated receivers just from Marshall’s own Southeastern Conference.
It takes a lot to stand out in this crowd, but Marshall is accustomed to the challenge.
He believes he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be and the best is yet to come.
“What separates me from everybody (else in the class) is just that versatility on the field – that versatility to be able to play inside and out and be able to produce the same amount of numbers and score the same amount of touchdowns,” Marshall said. “You’re just going to be getting a great teammate overall. You’re gonna be getting a hard worker — if not the hardest worker in the room, one of the hardest workers in the receiving room.
“You’re just gonna get that dog, somebody who takes advantage of the opportunities that he’s given and don’t take it for granted. Just overall a great person, great leadership. I’m gonna make everybody around me better.”