Talent evaluators recognized Iman Marshall as one of the nation’s top defensive backs when he came out of Long Beach Poly in 2015. He was a five-star recruit who made virtually every high school All-American team. His calling card was lining up against receivers, getting into their face and giving an immediate shove trying to knock them off balance.
At combines and camps, teenagers would gather on the sideline to study, learn and emulate his technique. He’d become a four-year starter at cornerback for USC. This past season, he was a second team all-Pac-12 selection. At 6 feet 1, 207 pounds, he always maintained his aggressiveness and work ethic, but had his ups and downs trying to fulfill expectations.
On his Twitter page, Marshall, whose nickname is Biggie, pinned this tweet from 2018: “I’ll always bet on myself to Win.”
The Baltimore Ravens apparently agree because they selected Marshall in the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday with the No. 127th pick. He was one of three USC players taken on the third day of the draft.
“USC was a humbling experience for him because of the ups and downs,” said Antonio Pierce, an assistant coach at Arizona State who coached Marshall in high school. “What I liked is he kept his mouth closed and kept working regardless what the critics said.
“We all have dreams of being a first-round draft pick but most important is playing in the NFL. He will have a chip on his shoulder. He’s reached his dreams. When we were at Poly, all we talked about was the NFL. His mind has been that way since he was a young kid, and I’m happy for him.”
The Ravens rely on press coverage, a technique Marshall excels in. He comes from a high school that has had nearly 60 former athletes who play pro football and includes current NFL players JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeSean Jackson, Jayon Brown, Jurrell Casey and Marcedes Lewis.
In the fifth round, another USC defensive back was chosen. Marvell Tell III, a safety who went to Encino Crespi, was taken by the Indianapolis Colts as the 144th pick. Tell’s athleticism and versatility should put him in position to be a contributor. He was the team captain at USC. He had a 42-inch vertical leap at the NFL combine.
Tell grew up in Pasadena and used to train with cornerback David Long Jr., a Los Angeles Loyola grad and Pasadena native who was drafted in the third round by the Rams out of Michigan.
Linebacker Cameron Smith became the fourth USC player taken in the draft, going in the fifth round at No. 162 to the Vikings.
UCLA tight end Caleb Wilson was the only Bruin drafted, and he was the final pick of the draft, No. 254, by the Arizona Cardinals, earning him a trip to Newport Beach to be the so-called “Mr. Irrelevant” in a week-long celebration in June. He used to be the favorite target of quarterback Josh Rosen at UCLA. Rosen was traded by the Cardinals to Miami and has a two-bedroom property available for Wilson if he’s interested.
The Rams made former La Habra and Washington defensive lineman Greg Gaines the 32nd selection of the fourth round. “I can’t tell you guys how excited I am to come back home to L.A. and get to work baby,” he said in a Twitter post.
Marcus Epps, a safety at Wyoming who played high school football at Huntington Beach Edison, was a sixth-round selection by the Minnesota Vikings.
Quinton Bell, a defensive end from Prairie View A&M who played football at Costa Mesa in 2013, was taken in the seventh round by the Raiders.