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Navy’s Marshall more than just a football player

While most Navy football players might lack a recruiting profile, they certainly aren’t lacking when it comes to character, background, and accomplishments. While we’ll hear plenty about this group of over-achieving, under-sized, disciplined competitors this Saturday, I thought Cameron Marshall deserved some extra mention. Marshall may not make much of an impact this Saturday as a special teams player and third string defensive end, but his story definitely bears repeating.

At 26, Marshall is the oldest player on the Navy roster. The fact that he’s even on the football team is amazing. As a high school senior in the autumn of 2001, he watched the events of 9/11 unfold on television. The very next day he signed up at the Marine Corps recruiting office, and three days after graduation he was off to the Marine Corp Recruiting Depot in San Diego.

Camille Powell of the Washington Post profiled Marshall after Navy’s opening game against Ohio State, where he was selected by his teammates to carry the American flag onto the field.

The choice was obvious. Who should lead the Navy football team onto the field inside a packed Ohio Stadium last Saturday afternoon, proudly holding the American flag aloft? Senior Cameron Marshall, of course. The special teams player and third-string defensive end. The 26-year-old former Marine sergeant.

“It’s an immense honor,” Marshall said. “Holding that flag -- it feels like you’re holding the country in your hands.”

Marshall does not say that lightly. He spent four years in the Marine Corps and served two tours in Iraq before attending the Naval Academy. About 7 percent of the brigade is “prior enlisted,” or has already served in the Navy, Marine Corps, Army Reserve or Air National Guard. Marshall is the only one on the football team.

That experience has made him one of the leaders of the Midshipmen (0-1), who host Louisiana Tech on Saturday. For Marshall, football and the military are inextricably tied together. Football prepared him for the Marines. He helps his teammates understand what lies ahead for them after the academy.

“Some people hesitate and cringe whenever you draw parallels from football to combat,” Marshall said. “While I see their point, I think that it’s irresponsible not to acknowledge the similarities between them. I think America fights its wars like its football games. We love the tactics; we love big force-on-force battles. . . .

“There’s certainly a reason why General [George C.] Marshall said: ‘I’m looking for a man for a secret and dangerous mission. I’m looking for a West Point football player.’ Football is how we train young men for battle, whether we like to admit it or not.”

Keep an eye out for number 48 this weekend. You’ll be watching a true warrior on the field.

(H/T: DD)