Nick Marshall’s switch from Georgia Tech to Georgia had more to do with the elite prospect’s lifelong love of UGA than anything anybody did or said.
That’s the word from both Marshall, who starred at quarterback on Wilcox County’s 2009 Class A state championship team, and his high school coach, Mark Ledford. Both individuals have caught flak and heard accusations fly after Marshall went from being a heavy lean toward the Yellow Jackets to a Georgia commitment this past week.
The bottom line, Marshall told me, is he grew up wanting to be a Bulldog. He wasn’t sure if that was going to be possible after Georgia accepted a pledge from national quarterback recruit Christian LeMay of Matthews, N.C. When the Bulldogs came back with a personal offer from coach Mark Richt to play defensive back in football and while also playing basketball for coach Mark Fox, Marshall said he knew in his heart that is what he wanted to do.
“I’ve been a Georgia fan since I was about 6 or 7 years old,” said Marshall, who also holds numerous scholarship offers as a guard in basketball. “I always wanted to play for Georgia. Now I know I can.”
That represented an about-face from Marshall’s stance of the last several weeks.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete had come just short of committing to Yellow Jackets — some have reported he was a “silent commitment,” though both Marshall and his coach deny it — who have recruited him hard from the outset. Marshall developed a very close relationship with his Tech recruiting coach, assistant Charles Kelly, and head coach Paul Johnson, especially in the weeks following LeMay’s April 30th decision.
“He had a really close relationship to Georgia Tech the last month or so,” Ledford said. “So [Marshall's commitment to Georgia] kind of came out of the blue.”
In the midst of a non-contact period in recruiting, Ledford has bore the brunt of the backlash.
“I was never in this deal,” Ledford said. “It was something Nick had to make up his mind about and that’s what he did. . . . People may think there’s some shady dealings going on but there’s not. It was just that Georgia offered him as a defensive back and that reopened things for them.”
Ledford said Marshall’s decision meshes with what the prospect told him months ago when the spring evaluation period began.
“Sometime in April, Nick told me he wanted to play basketball,” Ledford said. “I asked him, ‘where do you want to play basketball?’ He said Georgia. I said, ‘if you played football, where would you want to play at?’ He said Georgia.
“A couple weeks later is when Christian LeMay committed to Georgia and that put things on hold, especially after Coach Richt came out and said they were going to sign only one quarterback. After that he wasn’t really being recruited by Georgia anymore. He developed a great relationship with Coach Kelly and Georgia Tech and so did I. They were very professional and very straightforward with him. It wasn’t long after that he expressed to Georgia Tech he may be wanting to go there.”
Asked if Marshall actually gave the Jackets a silent commitment, as has been reported elsewhere, Ledford said: “I don’t know if you’d call it a silent commitment. I’m not sure where that term came from. I’ll just say he was very close to committing to Georgia Tech.”
Meanwhile, Georgia was reassessing its recruitment of Marshall. Two weeks ago, Richt called Ledford to say the Bulldogs wanted to re-offer him as a defensive back. Richt added the pitch that they felt it would be easier for Marshall to compete as a dual-sport athlete playing in the secondary in football rather than quarterback.
“About that time we were having 7-on-7 drills and Nick was having a lot of fun playing defensive back,” Ledford said. “He told me he could see himself playing defensive back in college. A lot of people don’t realize he had just as big an impact for us playing cornerback as he did quarterback. He had five interceptions in the playoffs. He returned one of them 95 yards for a touchdown to help us win a game. He’s a great DB.”
Said Marshall: “I like playing quarterback but I love playing DB. Sometimes I think I’d rather get an interception than throw a TD pass.”
Just as crucial to Marshall’s final decision was being able to play basketball for the Bulldogs. He said he has bonded with Fox and many of the Georgia players and is excited about the current direction of the program.
“He’s a cool guy,” Marshall said of Fox. “Me and him really get along well. I’m excited about the chance to play for him.”
Marshall and his mother, Shalena Mahogoney, made the call to Richt to commit to the Bulldogs last Tuesday night. Ledford was left to call the Yellow Jackets and tell them the news.
“Having to call them to explain what was going on was probably one of the toughest calls I had to make in my life,” Ledford said.
As for making a decision now, in early summer with months to go until national signing day, Marshall said it was important to get the process over with. He said it has become a major distraction and was weighing on him daily.
“It’s been wild. I’ve been getting calls about it every day,” he said. “I needed to get it behind me so I can concentrate on my academics and getting ready for the season.”
Said Ledford of his star player’s decision: “It’s what Nick Marshall feels in his heart.”
But the truth is this battle is probably far from over.
“It’s been a tough process for Nick and it will probably continue to be,” Ledford said.