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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

NFL: Brandon Marshall brings personality to Dolphins


By Greg Cote
McClatchy Newspapers

MIAMI First impressions? This is going to be fun. The kind of ride that makes you go, "Wheeeee!" and you can't help it. The Dolphins have committed around $24 million in guaranteed money to buy Brandon Marshall's skills as a pass catcher, but the team is getting something else, too. Call it a bonus.

The team is getting a personality.

The biggest and most engaging it has had in a while. In too long.

The new face of the franchise can't stop smiling. He was sitting in a Plantation hotel conference room at an introductory news conference Thursday, and his face kept lighting up. It was contagious.

"I love to have fun," he said. "Play with a lot of emotion and passion. I love this game. I cry over this game."

You have to love wide receivers. I mean, the really good ones with talent sufficient to explain the ego. The position seems to be an NFL breeding ground for all sorts of colorfulness, and Marshall, 26, fits right in.

"This may shock you guys, but I'm not a prima donna," he announced.

Nope. Not another one of those diva-receivas, he swore.

That was just before he declared, "I've always thought I was in a league of my own." And, "My goal is to be No. 1. I want to be the best receiver playing."

That was just before Marshall playfully tweaked the rival New York Jets and star cornerback Darrelle Revis, whom he calls a friend, when asked about visiting "Revis Island" twice a year.

"I'm not sure where that is," he teased.

PLAN ON BEING THE BEST

Yes, and that was just before the man with three consecutive 100-catch seasons and two Pro Bowl selections in a row revealed he expects more of himself.

"Absolutely," he said. "I plan on this year being the best year I've had so far."

The gift still waiting to be opened here is the idea that Marshall, just now coming into his prime, has only begun to see his star blossom.

Making that happen is the challenge for the player and the club if Miami is to truly get its money's worth from this kid.

That do-even-more attitude.

The bar can be raised higher still. Let's find out how much.

Marshall has been a "Beast" (his nickname) in terms of number of catches and moving the chains with first downs. But he can do better than last year's average of a modest 11.1 yards per catch with Denver. Surely, the Broncos underutilized the talents of a 6-4, 230-pound physical guy who is a bear to tackle.

Marshall averaged 16.1 yards a catch his final year at UCF, and 15.5 his NFL rookie year, and that's more like it. Miami needs to find a way to make Marshall not just "numbers productive," but a game-breaking, big-play force.

Post-trade, the Las Vegas over/under on his 2010 touchdown catches is 6.5, and I would jump on the "over" if Miami can squeeze everything from this guy's potential like I think.

Meantime, Marshall has done everything right so far. Give him an A-plus in the transition game, in erasing Denver and embracing Miami quite literally overnight.

On his first official day as a Dolphin on Wednesday, he appeared at a Heat home game wearing a Marlins cap. Smart. Only had he also worn a Panthers hockey sweater and made the sign of the "U" with his thumbs and forefingers would his instant adoption of South Florida been more complete.

At Thursday's first media session, he continued to do and say everything right.

You have to love a guy who calls Bills Parcells, "Mr. Parcells." And who says of coach Tony Sparano, "I watched Coach on the sideline last year get all red sometimes and fiery. That's the kind of coach I like to play for."

Marshall even diffused with aplomb a potential controversy over receiver Davone Bess, saying (through his agent) that he would not give up his No. 15 jersey number to Marshall.

"That's his number," Marshall said. "I'm coming into his locker room. I'll be fine with No. 87 or any other number."

(That's Brandon the diplomat. But I would say this. Dear Davone: Feel free to enter the real world at your earliest convenience. There is hierarchy at play here. There are unwritten rules. The Dolphins are paying Marshall hugely to catch 100 passes a year, and you, Davone, are a Dolphin of neither long-standing nor great accomplishment. Give up the number, pal).

This is the biggest Dolphins trade since the 2002 deal that brought Ricky Williams from New Orleans. Now we should hope we get a smoother ride with Marshall. Ricky's overall successful Dolphins run was pockmarked by the yearlong soul-searching retirement and the drug suspensions.

MARKS AGAINST HIM

In Marshall's case, the police report seems the greater danger.

He said a few times Thursday, "My past is exactly that the past," when pressed on his history of legal issues, such as arrests for domestic violence and DUI.

"I made mistakes and worked through some things. I continue to look in the mirror and try to better myself," he said.

Lessons learned? "Be more patient," he said. "Think things through. Be more of a professional, on and off the field."

What's easily said is for some not easily done, especially in the shadow of South Beach. But I believe in the clean-slate theory, in judging Marshall by what he does from this point forward. Do you?

Several positive factors suggest he might have turned a corner personally. Why benefit of doubt might be given with a degree of confidence.

First, being from Orlando, he feels as if he has come home. "My family is just ecstatic," he said of the trade. "I'm a Florida boy." You also see a modest wedding ring sparkling on his hand, put there just a couple of weeks ago. It seems like a grounding influence.

"She's probably responsible for the most growth in me," he said of his bride, Michi. "She taught me what true love is."

He has true love.

He has a team that feels like home.

He has a contract that thrills him (and should).

He has a fan base ready to embrace him.

He has a wonderful career just now picking up steam.

He has a fresh start.

And you wonder why Brandon Marshall is smiling?