A Q&A WITH KEITH MARSHALL
ATHENS — Keith Marshall was among 38 UGA student-athletes and a dozen football players to go through the school’s commencement ceremonies Friday morning and receive an undergraduate degree. But few of them could have made more of the time and circumstances that befell Marshall during his four years of college.
Marshall arrived in Athens as literally the most ballyhooed member of the 2012 recruiting class. A 5-star prospect out of Raleigh’s Millbrook High, he was tabbed as the latest of the great tailbacks to don the red and black.
And he did not disappoint. Sharing time with another talented tailback from North Carolina — Todd Gurley — Marshall got loose for 850 yards and scored nine touchdowns while playing in every game as a freshman for the SEC East champion Bulldogs.
But a vicious hit to Marshall’s knee at Tennessee early in the 2013 season violently changed the direction of his career. And he’ll tell you today, that was for the better.
Not long after it was determined Marshall would require a complete reconstruction of his right knee, the sophomore underwent a complete reconstruction of his academic career.
The next semester he switched from a management major to a finance in UGA’s prestigious Terry College of Business. And it’s with that degree that he’ll leave school to begin training for the NFL draft next month.
“My dad kind of gave me the idea,” Marshall said of switching majors. “Management came a little bit easy to me. It wasn’t really challenging. This is when I got hurt. I took finance and I liked it so I just decided to switch. My dad kind of pushed me toward it, too.”
While the injury definitely slowed down Marshall’s football career — he gained only 692 total yards and scored six touchdowns in the three years since — it accelerated his vocational and academic pursuits. On the eve of UGA’s commencement ceremonies, Marshall was beaming with optimism.
“It’ll be a big day,” he said after the Bulldogs’ practice Thursday night. “It’s definitely a relief because I had a couple of hard exams. So it was good to get those out of the way and be graduating. The family is happy and everything. It’s a great time right now, really.”
Here are some more of Marshall’s thoughts on his time at Georgia, all the changes he has witnessed and been a part of and what awaits him in the future:
Q: What do you plan to do with your finance degree after college?
A: I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll get to play football, so I won’t have to worry about that for a while. Maybe I’ll get to manage my own finances. That was the thought initially. But that degree should open many doors for me. There have been opportunities I’ve already made. That’ll be great. Hopefully one day I’ll come back and get my MBA here.
Q: How do you rationalize your football career and what happened to you while you were at Georgia?
A: I’m not one of those guys that has a lot of regrets or dwells on things in the past. My main focus right now is just preparing myself for the future. Everything happens for a reason. I think Georgia did a great job of preparing me for the real world on and off the field. So I’ll take what I learned here and move on.
Q: How has it been finishing out this last month without Mark Richt as your head coach?
A: It’s weird; it’s real weird. The weirdest thing to me was I saw Coach Richt on Twitter saying ‘it’s about The U’ and stuff. Ever since I was a little kid, Coach Richt has been Georgia football, as long as I can remember. I know he won’t be here when I come back and visit and that just kind of sucks. But, you know, everything happens for a reason. They made the decision they made. I kind of don’t want to talk about that. I wish he was here, obviously.”
Q: What do you think of your Bryan McClendon, your recruiter and former position coach, being the head coach for the time being?
A: It’s a great opportunity for him. I’m happy for him. That’s one of my favorite people here. He’s the reason I came here pretty much. So I have a lot of respect for him and I’m happy he’s getting this opportunity.
Q: What’s your plans as far as pursuing a career in professional football?
A: I’m going to train down in Miami. I’m kind of trying to not talk about myself and all that right now.
Q: How well are you as far as contributing for Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl?
A: I’m good enough to contribute now, you know what I’m saying. Obviously you play a whole season, you’re going to be a little banged up. That’s everybody in the country. I don’t think anybody in the country is 100 percent. But I’m more than good enough to play right now.
Q: Are you proceeding with caution in regards to possibly jeopardizing your professional football pursuits?
A. Nah, that’s when you get hurt. When you start worrying about getting hurt, that’s when you get hurt. So I’m just practicing and playing the same way I always do.”
Q: Have you reached out to Todd Gurley for advice?
A: Oh, yeah, we talk a lot. We don’t talk about football too much. But I talk to him about the agent process and training and stuff like that throughout the last couple of weeks.”