By Jared S. Hopkins, Chicago Tribune reporter
7:21 PM PDT, June 23, 2012
The call comes from an unknown number. I pick up and hear an unfamiliar voice.
"This is Brandon Marshall. ... I understand you're trying to find out some information about me."
Marshall — the biggest, and riskiest, addition to the Bears this offseason — had heard from his inner circle that I recently roamed the streets of his childhood neighborhood in Pittsburgh. He says my presence sparked excitement, also concern.
Marshall's history of alleged violence against women has been chronicled without restraint. Last year, he disclosed he has borderline personality disorder, a mental illness characterized by impulsive behavior and uncontrolled emotions. After six seasons of miscues, Chicago represents a clean slate.
When I say my story will be a thorough report on his life, he is skeptical. When I ask for an interview, he quickly declines.
The numbers suggest Marshall is already the best wide receiver the Bears have ever had. Since the team was founded in 1919, only one player has caught 100 passes in a season. Marshall did that three years in a row from 2007 to 2009 — an accomplishment matched by only four other players in NFL history.
But since the Broncos drafted him in the fourth round in 2006, Marshall has become known for more than his stats: Arrests for domestic violence and drunken driving. Arguments with coaches. Acknowledging he suffers from a mental illness.
A pattern has emerged: trouble, then promises he has changed, charges that go away, then more trouble. Two days before the Dolphins traded him to the Bears in March, a woman accused Marshall of punching her outside a New York nightclub at nearly 4 a.m.
Depending on your outlook, Marshall is either a brooding basket case prone to finding trouble or a terrific yet misunderstood athlete who needs proper guidance. Are the Bears — his third team in four seasons — his last chance? Can the patterns of his life be broken?
Researching his history, I had discovered police reports describing the family violence he witnessed as a child. I had learned about a father's dual legacy that echoed in his son: a spectacular high school football career followed by years of arrests and conflicts. But what did that mean for Marshall, the potential savior for Bears fans, the reason the team dealt away two draft picks and took on his $28.1 million contract?
Marshall and I keep talking. A few minutes later, his tone changes. He abruptly invites me to live with him at his home in Florida for a few days. "I'll even pick you up at the airport."
I pause. Is he serious?
"You want to understand me? Come and stay with me."
'House so big you gotta call on the cell'
COURT RECORDS, PENNSYLVANIA: On Nov. 17, 1987, Marshall was riding in the back seat of a car with his younger sister, London, on Larimer Avenue, the main strip in their neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Up front, an argument between his parents escalated.
According to court records, Freddie Marshall punched his wife, Diane, in the eye. Freddie stopped the car in traffic, then got out and walked around to the passenger side and punched Diane in her other eye. She kicked at him, but Freddie grabbed her feet and pulled off her skirt. Diane hustled to the driver's side and drove to a stop sign. Freddie caught up to her, got back in and hit her again, leaving bruises under her eyes.
In the back seat, the two children screamed and cried. Marshall was 3. His father would be ordered by the court to stay away from the family home for four months as part of an order of protection.
Nearly 25 years later, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Marshall is behind the wheel of his charcoal gray Mercedes-AMG sports utility vehicle as he picks me up at the airport. He had given a slightly aloof wave, as if I weren't sure who he was.
I ask why he had invited me to Florida less than 24 hours earlier, and he responds that he wants me to watch him live his normal life. He promises not to entertain me, not to do anything he normally wouldn't. But he isn't allowing any photos. And he says he isn't interested in answering personal questions.
He says if I'm going to be thorough and write a fair story, I need to see how he interacts with his wife — whom he hasn't told I'd be staying — his friends and his dogs.
"I want you to observe me for who I am," he says in the car. "There is a perception out there that is unfair, and there really is another side that I think will help your story."
Marshall drives directly to Grande Oaks Golf Club, a private club where he is not a member — "I just called up." He says he rarely plays golf. He is reminded in the pro shop to tuck his striped shirt into his beige linen pants.
Teeing up, he stands with his feet close together, suggesting an awkward swing will follow. But then he winds his arms around his body and lets loose a powerful and sweeping swing; it reminds me of his touchdown catches, arms outstretched.
He makes a bogey and breathes a sigh of relief. "Yeah, that was an awesome hole."
Is there an activity in America that better symbolizes success than golf? It's expensive to play and prides itself on exclusivity. The sport dates back centuries, and its tradition carries order and a dusty rule book. Few black athletes played for fun before Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley blew the stuffiness out of it.
Now here is Marshall's 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, famous for breaking tackles and eluding defenders, scooting around on a golf cart with his knees jutting to the sides, navigating lush fairways and skirting unexpected sand traps.
Between shots, he goofs around. When his friend and trainer, Matt Gates, hits over the green and then back into the fairway, Marshall shouts to Gates that he is playing "military golf" — "left, right, left."
After a couple of hours, he asks if I'm familiar with "ghetto golf."
Huh? He smiles. He defines the term as playing music during golf, breaking etiquette.
On the next hole, he says, "Let's listen to some Mike." He taps his iPhone, and Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" comes on. "Now we're ready to golf!"
Marshall does not keep score, and about halfway through our time he realizes he is playing the course out of order. He loses interest after 14 holes, and soon we're back in the Mercedes.
Marshall's mansion is tucked into a small, gated community in Southwest Ranches, near the Dolphins complex and among other athletes and celebrities. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson lives next door. To reach the elegant 17,064-square-foot fortress on 2.4 acres with a red stucco roof and sparkling marble floors, visitors must wait for another steel gate to open excruciatingly slowly, allowing an opportunity to absorb what a nearly $10 million annual paycheck can buy.
When Marshall enters, the barking of his three pit bulls echoes. Friends sometimes call Marshall's phone when they enter because they can't find him. "House so big you gotta call on the cell," he later jokes.
Marshall shows me to a guest room — my "quarters," he calls them. The bed is from his Broncos days. The pet tarantula in the closet is cared for by his wife; he says he last saw it a year ago.
The modern and bright decor features sleek furniture and shelves holding items such as a shiny, silver, plastic tree trunk and an oversized, white sculpture of a hand. The tree trunk still has a price tag from an affordable retail chain. No pictures of his parents are on display, but three poster-sized ones of Marshall and his wife adorn the walls.
He owns a painting of himself with Jay Cutler, back when both were on the Broncos. It depicts a shouting Cutler grabbing Marshall's face mask. Marshall says that before that game, they talked of breaking the record for tandem touchdowns, held by Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
"This was our rookie year, and we were like, 'Man we're going to beat that record!' So when we scored, he ran up to me and was like, 'We got 140 more left to go!' "
On his patio, eating a salad, Marshall leans back in his chair and gazes at his pool and the surrounding palm trees. His mother-in-law, visiting for Easter, scans an iPad.
This privileged life — luxury cars, golf, a gorgeous house — is barely imaginable for anyone growing up in Marshall's old neighborhood.
The Lincoln-Larimer neighborhood of Pittsburgh is defined by empty lots and boarded-up storefronts, gravestones of a vibrant community swallowed up by gangs and violence. When I was there, a man told me this neighborhood is where the first person in Pittsburgh was busted for crack.
Many of Marshall's relatives still live in the neighborhood. Marshall heard I was knocking on doors and speaking to family and old neighbors. He even tweeted about it. Now, a few feet from his hot tub and a rainbow-colored basketball court, he can't help but poke fun.
"Yeah, you must be pretty dumb if you're walking around Larimer Avenue."
'He should've been in the NFL'
By the time Marshall was 6 and playing organized football, his family's athletic prowess was legendary. One of his uncles played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Cousins, uncles, aunts in Pittsburgh — everyone seems to have been a high school star.
But no one was better than his father, Frederick "Freddie" Marshall. He starred at Westinghouse, a predominantly black football powerhouse. "To this day, his name around here is real big; it's proper," said Dwayne Crawley, 40, who lives next door to Marshall's childhood home.
Freddie was popular, captain of the football team. "As far as quarterbacks go, he was right at the front of the pack," said George Webb, who coached the Bulldogs for three decades.
As a senior Freddie threw for more than 1,000 yards, was named the city's top quarterback and led Westinghouse to the city title. Thirty years later, former teammates still speak in admiration. "Freddie was awesome," Robert Rose said. "He should've been in the NFL."
He never got there. He enrolled at West Virginia State University, didn't play a down of football and two years later returned to Pittsburgh, where he had a growing family with his high school sweetheart, Diane Bolden. Brandon, the second of three children, arrived in March 1984.
Out of college, Freddie tried a variety of businesses, opening a car-detailing shop and a clothing store. He moved his family into his dad's two-story house on Mayflower Street, installing a pool table upstairs and carefully tending the lawn. He and Diane would cheer on their two sons at games and practices.
"His father put a lot of emphasis on them being successful," said Robert Poston, who oversaw the football league in Marshall's neighborhood for almost three decades. "His father, he was on top of them every day. They were not late once; they always participated."
In midget football, Marshall played running back and soon showed he had inherited his father's gifts. One year he scored 26 touchdowns in 10 games. "Even at that age, he was the one guy who stood out," said Davon Allensworth, a childhood friend who remains close to Marshall.
While Marshall's parents were supportive — neighbors and friends recall the couple's house as the only one on the street with two parents — there was trouble at home. Marshall was not yet 2 when his dad went to jail for nine months in 1986 after he smashed a woman's face with a beer bottle in a nightclub, upset she declined to be "a whore for him," court and police reports state.
Freddie's conflicts with his wife led to a series of protection orders. Those records allege that the day after the car incident in 1987, Freddie tried to choke Diane after she swung a knife and cut him because he threatened to kill her.
At a convenience store in 1989, Freddie allegedly grabbed a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi and hit Diane in the face with it, causing her to fall. Freddie continued to assault her, according to court records. She was hospitalized for two days.
Four years later, she was granted another protection order after Freddie didn't let her inside their house without being hit. He allegedly told employees at her hair salon "they would find her body in a gutter."
Freddie's encounters with law enforcement also include arrests for allegedly selling drugs. Sometimes a lawyer got charges dismissed, such as when cops found bags of heroin, a notebook and a calculator in a car he was driving.
The most bizarre incident involving Freddie and detailed in court records took place in the early hours of Christmas Eve in 1989. Responding to a call, police arrived at the Marshalls' house and found Diane lying on the floor. Her sister said Diane had been beaten up. Paramedics took her to a hospital. Police began searching for Freddie.
Meanwhile, the phone rang at the house and Diane's mother answered. It was Freddie. He asked if police found a box. She told him they did and hung up. The box was on the second-floor landing. Inside were 11 bags of cocaine.
While the officers pieced together the evening, a large object — left unidentified in police reports — came crashing through the dining room window, hitting one officer in the head and Diane's sister in the back. Freddie was heard yelling, "I got you!" and scurried away into the darkness.
Police shut off the lights and 15 minutes later spotted Freddie running outside. Then he jumped through the dining room window, falling to the floor. One officer opened fire. There's no indication Freddie — or anyone else — was wounded. Freddie was arrested.
Diane also was arrested on drug charges after police returned with a warrant and found cocaine and cash stowed in a safe. Freddie, who pleaded guilty of drug possession and aggravated assault, got five years of probation. Diane, found guilty on drug charges, received a year of probation.
The couple eventually divorced. By the mid-1990s, Diane moved to Georgia with Marshall's sister. Freddie moved his boys to Florida.
"He was trying to get his kids in a better atmosphere," Crawley said, before ticking off some examples. "Where you don't have (one relative) showing you how to drink moonshine, you ain't got (another relative) showing you how to hustle beer and you ain't got (another) telling you how to carry razors in your mouth. That's the type of family we're talking about."
'Boundaries protect, walls isolate'
Marshall is driving to his barber when I ask about borderline personality disorder.
Research shows that childhood trauma — such as witnessing violence and unstable family relationships — is a common cause. To be diagnosed, the American Psychiatric Association requires individuals to exhibit at least five of nine behavior criteria related to emotional disorders. They include unstable relationships, mood swings, feeling empty and difficulty controlling anger.
Marshall isn't interested in disclosing which criteria he met, but he says his illness manifested itself in Denver during his third season. He began losing trust in the people closest to him, such as his father. Why? Marshall won't give details.
"That's not productive to the healing processes for my father and (my) relationship," he says. "And that's more important than a good story and people understanding me."
Marshall's success forced him into new, unexpected roles with his family. In just a few years he went from a lightly recruited high school player to the University of Central Florida to a multimillionaire. While in Denver, he took in his half-brother on his father's side and a cousin, putting them in school and setting curfews. He paid for heat and water for his sister and her three children. He fielded daily demands from family and friends. No one, he says, offered advice.
As he dealt with new pressures, he also was immersed in a chaotic relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Rasheedah Watley, which he believes also contributed to his illness.
The two met in junior high school, when Marshall lived in Georgia, and dated on and off through college. Once he was in the NFL, the relationship was marked by physical battles and arrests. During a 2009 trial when Marshall faced two misdemeanor battery charges — a jury found him not guilty — Watley testified that she bit and hit Marshall. Watley, whose civil suit against Marshall was dismissed in May, declined to comment.
Marshall came off as a barbarian filled with anger. But he also remembers depression, isolation — wearing a hoodie at gas stations to avoid being noticed. "I used to go a whole week without leaving my house. I used to think it was normal," he says.
According to Marshall and court records, he has seen therapists over the years. Last year, with the help of the NFL, Marshall entered McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. He was diagnosed and treated over three months. There are no medications solely for his illness, and he says he doesn't take any for it.
"Today I get angry at the same things, but it's how it affects me. It's how I deal with it, how I cope with it," he says one day while driving. "And it's not just anger. It's sadness. When I get sad, when I get lonely, when I get happy — it's all emotions."
Psychotherapy taught him skills to deal with his illness. He underwent dialectical behavioral therapy, including a process called radical acceptance — accepting situations without criticism and learning how to cope. Marshall listed the people in his life, how he knew them and why. He said he now shuts off relationships he believes are unhealthy for him.
"You want to create boundaries and not walls; boundaries protect, walls isolate," he says.
He didn't want to name anyone but did say he decided always to take care of his mother, no questions asked. He is not as explicit about his father. It's more complicated.
In 2007, Marshall told police in Florida that after he turned down Freddie's request for money, his dad broke his car window with a beer bottle, got into his own car and tried to run over his son. While police were on the scene, records show, his dad said several times he'd ruin his son's NFL career.
To this day, Marshall's family still pulls on him, still seeks favors. One day, Marshall is sprawled out in his home theater, digesting a Jimmy John's sandwich, when his phone rings.
"Watch this," he mouths as he puts the call on speaker and makes a sign for cash by rubbing his thumb against his fingers. Sure enough, his 52-year-old uncle, out of prison and living in a halfway house, asks Marshall to send clothes.
How does Marshall respond? Does he become angry?
Actually, it's a friendly conversation. Marshall is cleaning out closets to make room for spring clothes, so this is perfect timing. Hey, they share the same sneaker size. Sure, he'll send a box to Grandma's house in Pittsburgh.
His uncle challenges Marshall to a race. "This is the bet: If you don't beat me by 10 yards," — he pauses — "you take me shopping." They burst out laughing.
'We were doomed from the beginning'
It is a gusty, drizzly Thursday morning, and Marshall puts on his cleats at a public park. Today is a training day.
Marshall moves with ease in his cleats, like a boy who needs his special blanket to calm down. Wearing them means he is playing football. It means there are no family members asking for favors, no fans asking for autographs, no reporters clamoring for comment.
He rises, laces tightened, and shakes his ankles, ridding himself of any elements that might weigh him down. He spends more than an hour on the field, running resistance drills, working on endurance. He's soaked in sweat when he finishes. He is both smiles and determination.
"What makes me good is I don't really think on the football field. I just react," he says. "I'll make a play; I'll make four or five guys miss. Somebody asks me, 'OK, what just happened?' I couldn't even tell you. I black out."
Football always has been that way for him. When the workout ends, Marshall and his wife, Michi, attend couples counseling. The harder work is here.
POLICE RECORDS, FLORIDA: On the evening of April 22, 2011, a large, bloodied Cuisinart kitchen knife rested on the marble floor outside Marshall's master suite, and a loaded handgun was on a small end table. Near the front doors was a large pool of blood that trailed off to the bedroom and kitchen. Blood also was splattered on the walls.
Marshall stood in his bedroom with a cut on his abdomen. Both of his wrists showed clean cuts, three or four on each arm. Michi Nogami-Marshall had a large bruise on her left cheek. Her pinky finger was cut.
That night — documented in police reports — led to Michi's arrest and a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, which was later dismissed. It came 13 months after their wedding. Marshall's wife told police she stabbed Marshall in self-defense.
Marshall met Michi Nogami-Campbell in college, where she earned degrees in criminal justice and psychology. In 2009, just weeks after they got engaged, the two were seen hitting each other on a balcony, and Marshall was arrested by Atlanta police. Charges of disorderly conduct were dropped.
"Me and my wife, we were doomed from the beginning because of the relationship I got out of," he says, a reference to Watley. "I wasn't vulnerable to her."
During my visit, the couple's time together is tranquil. They lounge in his theater room, watching television. They stroll along the docks after dinner, arms interlocked.
The incident in 2011 came two months after they devoted their lives to Christianity at an elaborate retreat for pro athletes. Two photos in the kitchen chronicle the process. Now Marshall says grace before meals, listens to gospel music.
"I didn't read my Bible every day like I do now; pray every night, every morning, throughout the day; go to church every day — because I was in the world, just like a ton of people out in the world, chasing worldly things instead of godly things," he says one day while driving.
"You get caught up in all of this" — he waves out to the cars on the highway from his Mercedes — "which is nothing. That's what consumes you. That's your god. Money becomes your god. Girls become your god. Cars become your god. Houses become your god. Clothes become your god. You start caring about what other people say about you.
"It doesn't matter. There's only one person who can judge you. There's only one person that you have to answer to, and that's God. None of these people — not you, no media, no ESPN, no coaches, no Roger Goodell. I don't have to answer to them."
He says he never thought about why his parents weren't churchgoers in Pittsburgh. He pauses. "You go into some of these areas, man, at-risk areas, poverty-stricken areas, and there's not a lot of God there," he said. "On Sunday people are watching football instead of being in church."
'Right now I could be acting'
There is an uneasy and unpredictable energy around Marshall. He always has an opinion, always has something to say. But whether he wants to fully share his opinion depends on the topic.
He treats inquiries carefully and is gifted at ignoring them. If a question piques his interest, he might not answer but almost always asks why it was posed.
By Saturday morning — my last day — I had spent three full days with Marshall. I ate a late-night dinner of eggs and orange juice with him at a Waffle House. I learned how to play dominoes (poorly) and lost what seemed like a hundred games of pool. We talked for hours on topics ranging from the obscure (why he never tried cigarettes) to the generic, such as his favorite movie ("Life," starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence).
Marshall has been a gracious host. He loaned me the keys to his car. His wife cooked for me. I lost count of how many times I used his Keurig coffee maker.
But when I have asked about his family's past, he repeatedly has deflected those questions. I decide to try again.
It is past 11 a.m. when Marshall finally pushes through the doors to his bedroom. He traipses into his theater, flops down into a seat and yawns loudly. He says he and Michi were up late talking. If he didn't have a stranger in his house, he'd still be sleeping.
I ask why he got married. " 'Cause I'm in love. And I found my wife." When did you know marriage was the next step? He's not comfortable answering.
What did your dad teach you about marriage? "This isn't no Q-and-A."
I sigh. Marshall turns on the TV. He says he is still skeptical of my story. I try to explain that his family's past is just one piece, not the only one. He cuts me off midsentence, uninterested. "If you're going to go writing about John Kennedy right now, you're not going to look at his father's police reports. You're not going to talk to his ex-wife."
A few minutes later Marshall reads me a quote attributed to the poet Maya Angelou he found on Twitter: "People will forget what you say, people will forget what you do, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Why did he read that?
"I keep saying 'observe.' You're going to walk away here with a feeling of a positive experience or a negative experience. You're going to feel like something. ... I can sit here and tell you anything and you can forget it. Or I can tell you anything and it really doesn't matter. Right now I could be acting. I could be doing things I never do before, acting like I never act before. And you'd either forget it or it really means nothing because it's a show."
Is this another attempt by Marshall to dismiss a question about his past by focusing on the present?
Marshall criticizes me for interviewing relatives who don't know him well, such as Shelly Howard, who married an uncle and told me Marshall and his dad both have bad tempers. "She's not even relevant," he says, telling me I should speak to people like his Aunt Ronnie.
It goes like this for a while, lobbing words back and forth in the darkness as Marshall flips aimlessly through channels while dodging questions.
"My upbringing, it definitely contributes to who I am today," he concedes eventually. But answering questions about that topic, he says, lends credibility to the perception people have of him as a volatile person.
But I still have questions about his dad.
When I relay a description of his father from Pittsburgh that he was a strict man, Marshall unexpectedly bristles. He says his dad provided structure and passed along a strong work ethic. Marshall calls him a role model, his only role model.
"He's definitely made his mistakes. But he's always been a leader," he says.
"My dad is someone who came from the bottom — truly the bottom — and to me, he's a successful man 'cause he didn't have a lot of positive people around him."
I mention some incidents from documents I found about his childhood — the day his parents fought in the front seat and his father hit his mother.
"You're not going to get my opinion on it," Marshall says.
What do you recall? "You're not going to get my opinion on it."
How did it influence you? "You're not going to get my opinion on it."
He turns to look at me.
"What time's your flight leave, 4:30?"
'That rubbed me the wrong way'
I'm convinced our visit ended on an awkward, uncomfortable note. But two weeks later, Marshall surprises me with an invitation, via his assistant, to a Boys and Girls Club near Chicago. "How you been, bro?" he says, grinning and leaning in for a handshake.
Marshall swings through the gym doors, surprising dozens of squealing kids, then spends two hours playing games and making funny faces while posing for photos. This public forum is where his charisma comes alive, like when he works a room at a fundraiser or charms waitresses at the Waffle House.
In the parking lot afterward, he invites me to a steakhouse for dinner. During the meal, Marshall assures me certain members of his family will speak to me — people he says "know" him. People like Aunt Ronnie. He says he won't stand in the way.
But phone calls to these relatives aren't returned. And a few days later, he emails to say no one wants to talk. He begins to ignore my emails.
As I continue my research, his assistant contacts my editors with a proposal: publish a column Marshall wrote about mental illness in light of Junior Seau's suicide. The Tribune declines, citing our ongoing reporting. Three days later the column runs in the Chicago Sun-Times.
When Marshall finally calls again, it is to tell me he is finished participating; he won't agree to a final interview to go over everything I've found and ask more questions. "I think it's kind of a scumbag story, excuse my language."
A few minutes later my phone rings again. It's Marshall. He says another "thing that rubbed me the wrong way" was the interview request came after the Tribune decided not to publish his column. We haven't spoken since.
Perhaps at some point Marshall will open up to his new fans in Chicago, where an athlete's transgressions often are secondary to winning. Will he be like Dennis Rodman, an outrageous and troubled character who was embraced because he contributed to championships? Or might he be another Milton Bradley, talented yet unable to conquer his temper? A team quarterbacked by his buddy and managed by supportive coaches can provide only so much stability in a media-intense, sports-crazy town where Sunday scores set the mood for Monday.
I never expected a controversial celebrity-athlete such as Marshall would reveal himself entirely. And in Georgia, the family members he remains close to — ones still getting his financial support — offer limited insight.
"Brandon's a smart kid. ... I raised him from when he was 13," his stepmother, Geraldine "Deena" Marshall, says in the driveway to the secluded, gated home she shares with Freddie. She says Freddie is out of town on business. My attempts to reach him are unsuccessful.
Marshall's brother, Fred, is a rapper living in Marshall's downtown Atlanta condo. London and Diane, his sister and mother, live in a five-bedroom, five-bathroom house Marshall purchased in an upscale subdivision about 40 miles from Atlanta. They all say they need Marshall's approval to be interviewed.
"I don't want to go beyond that boundary, if you know what I'm saying," London says outside the home.
The expression is a fitting conclusion to the search for how Marshall's family and surroundings shaped his life.
Despite his arrests and all the controversy, Marshall has had success. He escaped Pittsburgh to achieve what many back home only can dream of. He has found peace on the football field.
At times he has created order in his life, keeping his family and his past — the chaos that produced him — behind a boundary. He wants to be seen as living in the moment — a family man, a follower of Christ, someone who gives back to the community, a man in transition.
But he cannot seem to escape trouble.
The same weekend Marshall addressed an audience of advocates and medical professionals about mental illness came the encounter outside a New York nightclub that overshadowed his arrival in Chicago. Charges are not expected; no charge of violence against Marshall has ever stuck in court.
When I visit Marshall in the doldrums of the offseason, there is no nightclubbing. At Marshall's house, grown men play billiards and dominoes into the early hours. No one has a drink or is even offered a beer. One night, Marshall sips a little wine with his steak at an oceanside restaurant.
At a weeknight church service before Easter, I watch Marshall next to his wife in the pew, singing quietly and moving his towering frame from side to side. I notice the cuffs of his dress shirt are embroidered with the word "Beast" — a nickname he earned thanks to his oversized talent but one that also hints at the violence that follows him.
When I bring this moniker up the next night, he corrects me. He's trying to distance himself from it.
"Nah, we don't use that," he says. "We're trying to phase that out."
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC