SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME SPOTLIGHT: Astronaut High’s Wilber Marshall Was All-American and Super Bowl Champ
By Space Coast Daily // August 7, 2023
2012 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
WATCH: Wilber Marshall’s performance on the high school football fields of the Space Coast was a harbinger of things to come in the Hall of Fame career of the man who is clearly one of, if not the Space Coast’s greatest football player ever.
WILBER MARSHALL – 2012 INDUCTEE
• Prep Football All-American, Gators Team of the Century and Pro Bowl Selectee and Super Bowl Champion
BORN, AND RAISED IN TITUSVILLE
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Wilber Marshall’s performance on the high school football fields of Central Florida was a harbinger of things to come in the Hall of Fame career of the man who is clearly one of, if not the Space Coast’s greatest football player ever.
Born in Titusville in 1962 to Wilbur Sr. and Lillie Marshall, he attended Astronaut High School, where he played linebacker, running back, tight end, quarterback, returned punts and even kicked field goals and extra points for Coach Jay Donnelly.
His War Eagle heroics earned him national recognition as a Parade Magazine High School All-American, and in 2007 he was named to the state’s “All-Century Team” by the Florida High School Athletic Association, which places him in an elite group of the 33 greatest Florida high school players of the last 100 years.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Heavily recruited, Marshall committed to the then lowly Gators coached by Charley Pell.
Although he started his career at tight end, as a sophomore, Pell and his staff quickly recognized that Marshall’s speed, strength and intuitive nose for the ball was exactly what was needed to anchor their line-backing corp.
He became the core of a ferocious Florida defense in 1981, setting school records for sacks with 11 and tackles for loss with 27, and was named first-team All-SEC and honorable mention All-American.
The first team All-SEC fixture was a consensus first-team All-American and finalist for the Lombardi Award as a Junior in ’82 and a senior in ’83, when he was again a Lombardi Award finalist and also named National Defensive Player of the Year by ABC Television.
Statistically, he was off the chart, finishing his college career with 343 tackles-58 for a loss and 23 sacks.
The Gainesville Sun named him a first-team selection to the Gators “Team of the Century” in 1999, as well as the “Defensive Player of the Century.”
Marshall was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great,” was named to the University of Florida’s Ring of Honor in 2007, and elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
TWO-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMP
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, and his fearless, aggressive style of play was in perfect character for the famous “Monsters of the Midway” Bear defense.
In 1985, his second season with the Bears, he was a pillar of the famous line-backing corps of one of the most celebrated defenses in league history, which finished the regular season 15–1 and beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
In his third NFL season, Marshall had five interceptions and 5.5 sacks to earn first-team All-Pro honors.
He 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 – the Washington Redskins – who had eliminated the Bears in the playoffs in the previous two seasons.
A key leader and star performer on the NFC Champion Redskins, in the 1991 Super Bowl Marshall and the Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills. During the last two years that he anchored the Skins’ defense, Marshall was named All-Pro.
MEMBER OF ‘20-20’ CLUB
In 1993 Marshall signed with the Houston Oilers, reuniting with Buddy Ryan, who had been the Bears’ defensive coordinator during Marshall’s first two seasons.
When Ryan took the head-coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals in 1994, Marshall joined him there for one season and then finished his NFL career in 1995 as a member of the New York Jets.
In 12 NFL seasons, the 6-foot-1, 231-pound Marshall had 45 sacks, 23 interceptions, which he returned for 304 yards and three touchdowns, and 16 fumble recoveries, which he returned for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
He is one of only a few players who have recorded 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in their career.
His 12-year NFL career took a physical toll on Marshall, leaving him permanently disabled.
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.
Now living in Virginia, he struggles to walk without severe pain.
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