SAN JOSE, Calif -
He's been compared at this stage of his career not only to his brother, Arizona State sophomore tailback and touchdown-leader Cameron Marshall, but also to the NFL's Jahvid Best
From the same San Francisco Bay Area region as Best,
Valley Christian (San Jose, Calif.)
uber-talented junior running back Byron Marshall
has received more than 30 Division I football scholarships - including Boise State, Stanford, Cal and Oregon State - but just about everyone is in hot pursuit, including LSU, Auburn and Florida.
“If he doesn’t go to Cal or Notre Dame, he might just go straight to the 49ers,” quipped West Catholic Athletic League-rival Serra (San Mateo, Calif.)
coach Patrick Walsh. “The kid is unbelievable. He’s unreal.”
On Friday, he hopes to turn around a recent trend when his Warriors (6-0), No. 6 in the state and 20th nationally according to the MaxPreps Freeman computer rankings, take on two-time defending Central Coast Section Open Division champion and a 2009 Division I State Bowl representative Bellarmine-San Jose
(6-0) in one of the nation's top-10 games Friday.
Bellarmine has knocked off Valley Christian four straight times - three by double-digits - since 2006.
After being peppered with several questions about how his team will deal with Bellarmine, Valley Christian coach Mike Machado was asked how he would defend his own super back Marshall.
After a long pause, Machado said: “Go to church Monday through Friday.”
Slowing down the fleet and powerful 5-foot-10, 190-pounder, picked as one of the nation's top 100 juniors by MaxPreps football editor Stephen Spiewak
, takes more than faith or prayer.
“Mother nature might help,” Walsh said. “A hurricane maybe. A tornado.”
Walsh decided to punt to Marshall during a 52-23 loss to Valley Christian earlier in the year. Not just once, but twice.
The result - perhaps predictably - were two touchdowns. Marshall went on to score two more, rush for 142 yards on 12 carries.
They were the first two punts Marshall received in the first four weeks.
Marshall is the defending Central Coast Section 100-meter sprint champion (10.73 seconds) and a state long-jump competitor. He started on Valley Christian’s varsity basketball team as a freshman.
He reminds Walsh of former Bellarmine star and now Stanford running back Usua Amanam, the West Catholic Athletic League’s only two-time Player of the Year.
“Usua was like a magician on the field, the way he would magically make you miss,” Walsh said. “(Marshall) is like a magician who can run you over.”
Marshall made a smashing high school debut, scoring five touchdowns the first five times he touched the ball in a freshman game. Machado immediately brought him up to varsity where he played in the same backfield with Cameron, who rushed for 1,331 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Byron, also a lockdown cornerback, got only 11 carries that season but after his brother graduated, he not only replaced him, but surpassed his numbers with 1,366 total yards and 23 touchdowns. He was voted the state’s sophomore Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.
"Cameron was fast but more of a power runner,” Machado said. “He’d run right through you. Byron can do that but he’s more elusive. He’ll leave you hanging and then accelerate. He’s just an incredible athlete. He does things on the field that you just can't believe.”
With more game-breaking athletes around him this season – including halfback
, fullback Jarrod Lawson
and wideout Brian Fobbs
– Marshall is touching the ball less but still has 869 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Without the ball, Byron carries a flair and passion not displayed by his brother.
“Cameron was very respectful and soft spoken,” Machado said. “Byron wears his emotion on his sleeve. As a competitor, he’s intense. At the same time, he’s very funny. Charismatic. The kids want to be around him on and off the field.
“I’ve known him since he was 10- or 11-years old. There’s not a thing I would want to change about him. He’s a great kid.”
Machado said Byron isn't caught up in the recruiting process too much. That's because he's having too much fun.
"He's a kid who just loves to play," Machado said. "He's not too worried about what people say about him or if recruiters are watching him. He's just going to go out and play and give it his all."
Though he could easily play defense, and recruiters have inquired about his cornerback skills, Machado said: "Everyone is looking at him as a running back. He also has great hands."
Raised in a track family - his mother Tammie is Valley Christian's head track and field coach, his father Greg is the former head coach, both were collegiate track standouts and sister Dahlys runs track at Arizona - Byron would like to compete in both sports in college if possible.
Football and school are his top priorities, he said.
He told the San Jose Mercury News: "I'm looking for a
place that can get me to the (NFL), but also a place that can get me an
education. Even if I go to the League, I'm still going to get
Marshall's dad is the strength and conditioning coach for Santa Clara University and the 49ers. He and his father constantly work on his physicality.
felt I needed to be quicker on my feet, hit the holes faster, and keep
my pad level down," Marshall said. "I still worked on everything else,
but paid special attention to those."