Make this clear. Valley Christian (San Jose, Calif.)
football coach Mike Machado doesn't want Byron Marshall
to change. Not one bit.
On the surface, that seems obvious.
Marshall, after all, is a game-breaker, a season-changer, a breath-taking, thrilling, strong, fleet breakaway back with major moves, sprinter speed and power to hurt.
"(Marshall) is like a magician (on the field) who can run you over," said West Catholic Athletic League-rival Serra coach Patrick Walsh.
He's the fourth-ranked senior tailback in the country and the No. 48 recruit overall according to MaxPreps.com/CBS recruiting expert Tom Lemming
But for all his dazzle and athleticism, for all the nearly 3,000 career yards and 45 touchdowns that he's accounted for, the uncommitted 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior has gained a reputation as a hot dog.
Like his idol Michael Jordan, he enjoys getting into the heads of opponents with pointed chatter. Like flamboyant Deion Sanders, Marshall has celebrated his many triumphs with extra flair.
The flair and chatter has led him to watching important action from the sideline.
The last two seasons he's been ejected from Week 10 games for taunting and excessive celebration – two flags in each game – and by rule that's forced him to miss first-round playoff games.
Worse than that, Marshall's reputation has been tarnished somewhat. Referees are watching his every move. Bloggers are writing more about his antics than his enormous talent.
Machado maintains firmly that there are no attitude issues – quite the opposite – and that Marshall's passion and thirst for life is a strength and simply part of who he is.
"First off, he's just a great kid – an amazing kid," Machado said. "He's passionate about life. He goes onto the field with his head on fire. I don't want to change the core of who he is. The person Byron is the kind of kid you want on your team, in your program, as a friend, as a teammate, as a son. … He's got a great foundation, great parents who are both educators. … The kids gravitate toward him and he makes them better. He's a captain this season and he's earned it. He doesn't throw yelling fits and he doesn't complain if he doesn't get the ball. He just a great teammate.
"All that said, he's also 17 and he's growing up. He understands with all his passion and talent and the attention he draws come responsibility."
In other words, Marshall needs to clean up the antics and he knows it.
He said he's been embarrassed and remorseful about the ejections and though he feels the second was unwarranted, it doesn't matter.
Marshall said he will make the adjustment without changing who he is.
"I just have to be smart and it's time for me to grow up," he said. "The first (ejection) my sophomore year was me being competitive and stupid. It was a stupid immature penalty. The second (ejection) I still don't think I deserved but it happened. I let my team down. It was real selfish. I won't put the team or myself in that position again.
"I know a lot of refs are looking for me now. I just plan to shut up and play."
That won't be easy. Marshall admits he loves the banter. Always has while trying to compete with his 27-month older brother Cameron, the starting junior tailback at Arizona State, and his older athletic friends.
"(Talking) was kind of how you stood up for yourself," he said. "I had to back it up.
"I'm kind of a natural at it. I like it. It's what I do. It's fun. I try to conquer my opponent mentally and then physically. Get them out of their game. It's really why I do it. To gain an advantage. But obviously at points the last two years it hasn't worked. I need to adjust."
The on-the-field banter obviously hasn't bothered college recruiters.