Defensive Skills Ignite Marshall’s Pro Career
By Jeff Navin // April 7, 2012
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
BREVARD COUNTY • TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA – Wilber Marshall probably still gives former University of Southern California quarterback Sean Salisbury nightmares.
The former Astronaut High standout had 14 tackles and sacked Salisbury four times as the University of Florida defeated Southern Cal 17-9 on Sept. 11, 1982 in Gainesville.
Just three years earlier, the Gators had gone 0-10-1 during the 1979 season. After the victory, the Gators racked up a 34-8-3 record during the next four seasons.
Since then, the Gators have moved among the elite of college football.
Marshall, who graduated from Astronaut High in 1980, was named the Defensive Player of the Week by the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated.
Initially, Marshall played tight end for the Gators. As a sophomore, he was switched to linebacker. He set a school record for sacks with 11 and added another school record with 27 tackles for a loss in a season.
He was named an honorable mention in All-America voting.
The upset victory against USC established the foundation for Marshall’s first-team All-America season as a junior.
He repeated that feat as a senior, when he a finalist for the Lombardi Award. ABC Television also named him its National Defensive Player of the Year.
Marshall also was a member of the first senior class at Florida to play in four bowl games. He also became the third Gator to be a three-time All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection.
Marshall had 343 tackles, 58 tackles for a loss and 23 quarterback sacks with the Gators. He was named to the University of Florida’s Ring of Honor in 2007.
The College Football Hall of Fame inducted him in 2008.
At Astronaut, Marshall played linebacker, running back, tight end, quarterback, returned punts and even kicked field goals and extra points for Coach Jay Donnelly.
On two occasions, he kicked three field goals in 9-6 victories. He also kicked a game-winning field goal in a 9-7 playoff victory against Lake Wales during his senior year. He was successful on 13 of 17 field-goal attempts.
Marshall was named a Parade magazine All-American high school football player.
In 2007, Marshall was named to the All-Century Team by the Florida High School Athletic Association. He was honored as one of the 33 greatest Florida high school football players.
As good as he was at the University of Florida, he got even better in the NFL. The Chicago Bears picked Marshall with the 11th overall selection of the 1984 NFL Draft.
In his second season with the Bears, Marshall starred for one of the top defensive units in NFL history.
That Bears team defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. Marshall had one sack and recovered one fumble in the Super Bowl victory.
During the NFC Conference Championship Game, Marshall picked up a fumble and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown in a 24-0 victory against the Los Angeles Rams.
In his third NFL season, Marshall had five interceptions and 5.5 sacks to earn First-team All-Pro honors for the first time.
Marshall angered the Bears and the NFL during the spring of 1988 when he became the first NFL free agent in 11 years to sign with another team.
He joined the Washington Redskins, who had lost to the Bears the previous two seasons in the playoffs.
In the 1992 Super Bowl, Marshall had a solid game as the Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24. Earlier in the playoffs, Marshall sacked Detroit Lions quarterback Erik Kramer three times in a 41-10 victory.
Marshall was named second-team All-Pro in 1991 and first-team All-Pro for the second time in 1992.
In 1993, Marshall joined his former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan with the Houston Oilers.
Marshall played his final two NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (1994) and the New York Jets (1995).
The 6-foot-1, 231-pound Marshall had 1,043 tackles, 45 sacks and intercepted 23 passes during his NFL career.
After litigation that went on for 11 years, Marshall won a dispute for total disability benefits from the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Player Retirement Plan in 2008.
He suffers from spinal, shoulder and knee ailments. Marshall, who now lives in Virginia, struggles to walk without severe pain.
He was born on April 18, 1962 in Titusville and was the eighth of Wilber Marshall Sr. and Lillie Marshall’s nine children.