When Dwight Jones arrived at Harris County High prior to TaQuon Marshall’s senior season, the coach wanted to run some of the offense out of the Wing-T, a look not too dissimilar from Georgia Tech’s spread-option offense.
Marshall hesitated. Having played strictly out of the shotgun until that point, he wasn’t sure he could take snaps from under center. But Marshall figured it out and became an all-state selection. And now, after two games as Tech’s starting quarterback, it looks like he has a handle on taking direct snaps from center.
“We laughed about it on Tuesday after the Tennessee game,” Jones said Monday, two days after Marshall led Tech to its first win of the season.
This past Saturday, with Tech’s run game stuck against Jacksonville State, Marshall threw three touchdowns in just seven attempts to contribute to the Yellow Jackets’ first win of the season. That followed his stunning performance against Tennessee, when he ran for 249 rushing yards and five touchdowns in his first career start.
“I’m just tickled to death for him,” Jones said. “I’m proud to say I know him, proud to say I had the opportunity to coach him.”
Though Jones and Marshall had only one season together, the quarterback made a lasting impression. In the fall of 2014, he passed for 1,376 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 1,436 with 12 rushing touchdowns. The Tigers stopped Carver High’s 53-game winning streak in region games as Marshall passed for a touchdown, ran for another and scored on a reception on a gadget play. Among his teammates was Tae Crowder, not a linebacker for Georgia.
“(Marshall) was a natural, athletically, but he’s also a leader and he’s also a competitor, and when you have an athlete that’s a competitor and a leader and then a quality young man, there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for as a coach,” Jones said.
What Marshall did after the Carver game may stay with Jones longer than his performance on the field. When the Tigers returned to school, Marshall was the last one off the bus.
“He was picking up trash,” Jones said. “TaQuon Marshall is going to be successful no matter what he does.”
At Harris County, Marshall also dabbled on defense on special teams, playing defensive back in critical situations and returning punts and kickoffs. As a quarterback, he showed the same talent that Tech fans have seen in two games, making plays with his feet and throwing with enough accuracy to make defenses honor his arm. He showed, too, the willingness to take contact and keep going. In the first two games this season, Marshall was knocked out of both after taking hits but came back quickly.
“TaQuon’s a tough kid,” Jones said. “He’s a tough young man. He’s always been that way since I’ve known him, but again, to me, it’s his character. He’s got a lot of character and I think he tries to make people around him better. He always seemed to have a positive attitude.”
He remembered Marshall, too, as a player who put in extra work throwing passes after practice, running sprints in the summer and devoting himself in the weight room. He uses a phrase similar to one that Tech fans likely have heard from coach Paul Johnson, that little things become big things.
The way that Marshall’s efforts at Harris County have translated into success at Tech, Jones said, is “a prime example.”
Jones has moved on from Harris County, which is just north of Columbus, though he continues to live there. He now coaches at Russell County High just over the Alabama state line. Since leaving for Tech, Marshall has come back to visit with his old coach several times. The next time he comes around, they’ll have plenty to talk about.