LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. never doubted the words coming from his father.
He just never envisioned the repeated pitfalls that would push him into a corner with only one way out.
The 6-3, 210-pound Marshall persevered each time, beginning with a broken shin injury that threatened to derail his freshman season at Parkway High School in Bossier City. That was followed by personal grief prior to the start of his sophomore and junior years with the loss of his beloved maternal grandparents.
Finally, six quarters into the start of what was expected to be a heralded senior season for the nation’s top-ranked high school wide receiver, Marshall sustained a dislocated ankle and fractured left bone.
“He’s had to endure a lot outside of football,” Marshall’s mother Meoshia Brazzle said. “He’s strong. He never gave up. He knows he has a goal he wants to reach and I’m proud of him.”
His high school career over, Marshall kept relying more than ever on his faith to provide solace and point him in the right direction of a future that was once so bright.
He also listened to his father.
Terrace Marshall Sr. introduced the motto: ‘Meant to Be’ or the condensed acronym ‘M2B’ – to both his wife and his oldest son as a pathway in a career that also incurred another setback during LSU’s 2019 national championship season when Terrace Jr. lost three weeks of his sophomore year with a foot injury at Vanderbilt.
He wound up fifth on the team in LSU’s record-setting offense with 43 catches, 625 yards and 12 touchdowns with the go-ahead TD grab in the Tigers’ 63-28 national semifinal victory over Oklahoma. He also capped his team’s 42-25 national championship game win over Clemson with a scoring reception early in the fourth quarter.
Four weeks before LSU’s scheduled 2020 opener Sept. 26 against Mississippi State, Ja’Marr Chase, the Tigers’ leading receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner, opted out of playing his junior season.
And just like that Marshall elevated to the top as the Tigers’ No. 1 receiver, a role he clearly embraces.
“That’s what I live by in everything that I do and everything that happens in my life is meant to be,” Terrace Jr. said of the ‘M2B’ mindset. “It means the world to me. It’s a family thing. It’s a legacy.”
That heritage is rooted in NFL royalty where Marshall’s great uncle – Joe Delaney – enjoyed a standout high school career as a running back at both Haughton High School and Northwestern State. He was a second-round selection of the Kansas City Chiefs, was selected the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1981 and wound up rushing for 1,501 yards in his two seasons.
Delaney’s career and life were cut short when the 24-year-old dove into a six-foot pond during a festival at Chennault Park in Monroe trying to save three young boys who were screaming for help.
Delaney, who could not swim, was able to save one of the boys. But he lost his own life during the heroic attempt.
“I always wondered first how he was as a person,” Marshall said of Delaney, his mother’s uncle. “I heard all these good things about him. I picture him almost every day in my mind how he was a person. I also watched video of him. He was going as hard as he could every play. If he has one last breath, he’s going to give his all for his team. That’s the type of player I see he was.”
Carrying on Delaney’s memory was the catalyst for the Terrace Sr. creation ‘M2B’, an opportunity for his son to keep his great uncle’s legacy burning, maintaining possession of Delaney’s literal torch and running with it during a football career that began in Shreveport’s youth leagues.
“I was told he was a good person and that’s what I am,” said Terrace Jr., who wore No. 37 in youth football in honor of Delaney’s Kansas City number that hasn’t been worn by any Chiefs player since his death. “I try to be a good person every day. I work hard. I just want to keep his legacy and build mine at the same time.”
‘MB2’ has literally taken on a life of its own since Terrace Sr. developed the concept. Meoshia Brazzle said the slogan has been copyrighted and is in the final stages of having the logo trademarked.
It’s not uncommon to find the Marshall family seated at LSU games in ‘M2B’ apparel. The acronym adorns the license plate of Terrace Jr.’s vehicle and is encrusted in the chain he wears under his LSU jersey.
“To be 20 and carry the weight on his shoulders that he has, it says a lot,” Brazzle said of her son. “I thank God for that.”
After a rather pedestrian freshman season in 2018 that included 12 catches for 192 yards and no touchdowns – in part because of the recovery from his missed senior season – Marshall took off in LSU’s new-look offense last year.
Through the first three games of the season Marshall was third on the team with 16 catches for 229 yards and a team-best six touchdowns until being grounded during the Vanderbilt game by a broken foot.
“Those couple of weeks were pretty miserable,” Marshall said of his rehabilitation process. “I had to do what I had to do to get back with the team and start playing again. It took until the SEC Championship game for me to totally get back in a rhythm.”
While Chase and Justin Jefferson took turns torturing opposing defensive backs, Marshall slowly worked his way back. He scored twice over a five-week stretch until LSU reached postseason play.
Marshall’s return to full health was evident in the Tigers’ three biggest games of the season. He had a combined 14 catches for 215 yards and five TDs as LSU dispatched No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship game, No. 4 Oklahoma the CFP semifinals and No. 3 Clemson in the CFP national title game.
He had five catches for 89 yards and two TDs in a 37-10 win over Georgia . He tied his career high for catches (six for 80 yards and two TDs) with an 8-yard first quarter TD reception sparking a 28-0 run of consecutive points in the 35-point semifinal rout of the Sooners.
Sandwiched between record-setting performances from Jefferson (4 TDs against Oklahoma) and Chase (9 catches, 221 yards, 2 TDs against Clemson) was a highwater moment for Marshall with LSU trying to distance itself from Clemson in the early stages of the fourth quarter.
LSU was clinging to a 35-28 lead and Marshall had experienced a rather nondescript game with two catches for 22 yards and no touchdowns.
The Tigers, facing a key second-and-nine from Clemson’s 24-yard line, lined up in a ‘token’ formation with Marshall in the right side slot against man coverage. He felt a sense of calm after the play call from the sideline.
“It was a play for me,” he said. “I just had to get it.”
Marshall sprinted toward the right side in the end zone when he picked up Joe Burrow’s pass sailing through air of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He contorted his body away from an unsuspecting defensive back to rise and high point the ball for a touchdown and score the game’s final points with 12:08 left.
“In the offseason when you’re going through the blood, sweat and tears that’s everything I grind for,” Marshall said. “It was an unreal feeling, knowing that I was able to do that in the national championship game and seal the deal. That’s what I do. That moment is who I am. It was just meant to be.”
(This story will appear in the Tiger Rag Magazine September issue available Sept 16 at the usual outlets)