As team after team turned in their draft picks Friday night, as wide receiver after wide receiver's name got called, as pundit after pundit exchanged speculations on the medical red flags with a star LSU wide receiver, a familiar coaching staff finally showed it didn't mind.
Terrace Marshall was drafted No. 59 overall by the Carolina Panthers in the second round of the NFL draft — an arrangement that will reunite the Tigers playmaker with Joe Brady, Carolina's offensive coordinator who unlocked Marshall's potential as LSU's passing game coordinator in a record-breaking, national championship season in 2019.
Yes, Marshall suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle his senior year at Parkway High. That didn't stop LSU coach Ed Orgeron from signing the five-star recruit in 2018.
Yes, Marshall fractured his foot against Vanderbilt in 2019 — halting a four-game stretch in which he recorded six touchdown catches — but he returned three games later and finished the season with 671 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Yes, Marshall did not run a second 40-yard dash attempt at LSU's pro day in March because he was protecting a right hamstring injury. But that's because he ran the first attempt in 4.38 seconds, a time that tied with fellow star receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who was selected No. 5 overall by the Cincinnati Bengas.
The "injury prone" red flag is one that can fit easily on any player with multiple medical cases, and it's a reputation that can swiftly diminish a player's draft stock with NFL teams that are looking for a reason not to draft someone. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on Friday night's live broadcast that Marshall could've been a first-round pick had there not been such red flags.
Instead, Marshall was the 10th wide receiver selected. Yet, that Marshall was still picked in the second round represents the promise the Panthers see in the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bossier City native.
Brady is familiar with the deep threat that Marshall showed with a 75-yard touchdown reception against Missouri last season, or the route-running expertise Marshall showed with a crossing route touchdown against Alabama in 2019.
There will be an easy transition between Marshall and the spread scheme that Brady is now running in the NFL.
“The NFL, at the end of the day, it’s still the game of football," Marshall said at LSU's pro day. "It’s a thing I’ve been doing my whole life, it’s second nature to me. So I feel like everything that I did in college I’ll be able to carry it on to the NFL, using my mental more, being more smart on the field. I feel like it’ll all translate there, my hard work, I feel like it’ll all pay off.”
Throughout Marshall's career at LSU, his performances routinely flew under the radar. In 2019, Chase won the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top receiver and Justin Jefferson set LSU's single-season record with 111 catches. It's part of the reason, Marshall said, that he decided to play in 2020 instead of opt out and protect his health for his professional career.
“I just felt like I had more to prove," Marshall said. "I felt like I hadn’t done everything I needed to do to prove myself. I just wanted to go out there and play, compete. I love the game of football. I went out there and just competed, and I felt like I had to prove myself some more.”
Marshall finished the 2020 season with 48 catches, 731 yards and 10 touchdowns. He opted out seven games into the season, following LSU's 20-7 loss at Texas A&M — a game that was scheduled to be LSU's regular season finale before its games against Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss were postponed due to positive cases of coronavirus within the programs.
Now he'll begin his long-awaited professional career, following the path of his late uncle Joe Delaney, the 1981 AFC Rookie of the Year for the Kansas City Chiefs who died tragically in Monroe in 1983 while trying to save three boys from drowning.
The Marshall family adopted a mantra for their newest football star: "Meant To Be." Marshall has worn a necklace with an abbreviated M2B on the pendant throughout his college career.
With the Panthers exchanging three draft picks for New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, the franchise is on a path to building an offense that can make them competitive in the NFC South Division with the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I just want to go to an offense that throws the ball and a QB that can get me to the next level," Marshall said on pro day. "I’m pretty sure no team is going to have a quarterback out there that can’t throw. So I’m looking forward to going on a team, no matter which team it is, and contributing to that offense.”