Nick Marshall's on-field ability warranted an NFL opportunity as the former Auburn signal caller had 34 passing touchdowns compared to only 13 interceptions over his two-year tenure as a starter. Marshall also ran for an additional 23 touchdowns over this time, as the zone read quarterback was known for his great athleticism. In 2013, Marshall led Auburn to an SEC title and a BCS National Championship game berth.
He's had great success, but Marshall knew that his NFL career as a quarterback could very well be limited. Armed with this knowledge, Marshall made a bold decision before the first Senior Bowl practice in January. He asked to play cornerback.
"It's something I told the coaches I wanted to do before practice, and they said OK," Marshall stated. "I believe that's the position I have the best chance at in the NFL."
What many may not know about Marshall is that he began his college football career at the University of Georgia as a cornerback. After his freshman year, Marshall was one of three players dismissed from the football program amid theft accusations and hasn't played the cornerback position since. Now, he's re-learning the challenges of the secondary.
"The most difficult part is the backpedaling, getting my legs in shape by backpedaling," said Marshall. "Technique-wise, just recognizing receiver routes and the route combinations they're going to be throwing at me."
As he undergoes the transition process, Marshall believes his experience as a quarterback will continue to aid him.
"It's brought me good anticipation skills," said Marshall. "Just knowing where (the QB) will be throwing by watching how the receiver lines up, and then how the route combination comes."
With the position change, Marshall has turned his once questioned size (6-1, 205 pounds) into a strength as NFL teams seek big cornerbacks and safeties now more than ever. While his experience has been very limited, the Pineview, GA native demonstrated some flashes against top end talent at the Senior Bowl. NFL media draft analyst Mike Mayock was thrilled with how Marshall competed.
"To have the guts to roll out there and say I'm going to go cover some of the best wideouts in football, coming off playing quarterback in the last few years, that shows me something, and I liked it," said Mayock. "He's long. He competes. I talked to Doug Graber, the former Rutgers coach and NFL defensive back coach who is training him this offseason, and Doug told me point blank he's got an NFL skill set at corner, and I believe that."
Marshall is unlikely to be a significant contributor in an NFL secondary immediately, but he may fit a special teams role as he continues to learn the position. The team that drafts Marshall will have to be patient with him as he grows adept to defensive football, notes ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.
"I think NFL teams understand he's going to be a little raw and have his ups and downs, which is expected," said Kiper. "So I think they'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that as long as he competes and shows the skill set to play the cornerback, safety position in the NFL."
It doesn't matter where, Marshall just wants to prove that his talents can help an NFL team win football games.
"The man above blessed me with being versatile," said Marshall. "Just like I said, I'm going to do whatever the team wants me to do. I'm not going to argue with what they want me to do. I'm going to do anything to try to get on the field."
Marshall is projected to be a late round pick.