ATHENS – Keith Marshall doesn’t need to go far to hear the story of a Georgia tailback trying to return from an ACL injury. He can just talk to his coach.
Thomas Brown, when he was a Georgia junior in 2006, tore the ACL in his right knee midway through the season. He returned in time for the following season, rushed for 10 touchdowns, and went on to the NFL.
Marshall’s path has been less quick. He tore his ACL during the 2013 season, and like Brown also returned for the start of the following season, but didn’t get far. He played in three games, gaining just 24 yards, then hurt his knee and ankle and took a medical redshirt.
Now he’s back for the start of this season and is one of the biggest X-factors on Georgia’s offense. If he’s healthy, he won’t push Nick Chubb for the starting job, but he will make the offense even more potent.
“I think he’s 100 percent healthy,” Brown said after Friday’s practice. “He looks good, he’s running around good, he’s got a great attitude. He’s in better shape, in my opinion, than he was in the spring. So I’m excited about him.”
Brown has spoken to Marshall about his own experience. Brown finished the 2007 season with 779 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, despite missing three games with a broken collarbone and sharing time with Knowshon Moreno.
“I don’t know how much I helped him with it,” Brown said. “But I talked to him about my own personal experience, like I always do with all my guys, not necessarily involving injury, but anything I’ve been through as a player, as a person.”
He’s preached to Marshall the importance of overcoming the mental part of it. Often the key with injured tailbacks coming back from knee injury is their vision: Looking for the hole and hitting it, rather than worrying about their knee.
And so Brown said his emphasis with Marshall has been getting him in the “best mental and physical state can be.” He believes Marshall is in a good place now.
“Sometimes coming back as a running back you’re thinking about what you’ve done before the injury, thinking about re-injurying something,” Brown said. “You just get over that and control what you can control. You can’t always control what happens with your body, but you can control your effort every single day.”