Nice to see some ex-players actually giving back to the community instead of spending time in prison.
BOCA RATON, Fla. (June 7, 2006) -- It's all the same to Leonard Marshall -- whether it's 70,000 screaming fans in the Meadowlands or 70 kids running drills at his summer football camp. Marshall's not done with the game of football. He's just passing the torch.
The field was muddy and sloppy from a torrential downpour the previous day, and it was already over 80 degrees at 9:30 in the morning at West Boca High School in Boca Raton, Fla. But it didn't matter to Marshall. His camp was in full swing, led by the football coaches at West Boca High and his old buddy Ron Erhardt, the quarterbacks coach for the Giants from their championship teams. This is what it was all about. Teaching the kids what Marshall already knew about football, and about life.
Leonard Marshall huddles the kids up at his football academy in Boca Raton. "I've lived my dream," Marshall said. "I had a hell of a career in the NFL. I did a lot of great things with my life because of it. What I like about this camp is that the people are really committed to it. Whether it's the NFL or professional business or a professional organization, I think if you don't learn structure at an early age, or the concept of team and the ability to lean on other people for support, I think you're missing something in life. And that's what we're trying to teach here. If you don't stand for something, you'll end up falling for anything."
Marshall's football academy is a great getaway from his mortgage lending business and a way to see his friends at the same time. With a guest list showing up for the camp that is littered with former Giants, Marshall knows the bonds with his former teammates is what makes his camp so good. Everyone's on the same page and everyone knows what it takes to win.
Two Super Bowl championships and six playoff berths in his Giants tenure will attest to that.
"They come to help. They come in from out of state," Marshall noted. "Relationships like that and fellas like that, I really, really appreciate. It's speaks to the bond that you establish as professionals and as businessmen.
"I think about my Super Bowl runs all the time. I cherish it. Those moments, those friendships, those relationships -- nothing will ever surpass it. I am still in touch with a lot of those guys. That's kind of why I enjoy this camp so much, because I get a chance to see them. They love it. They miss me as much as I miss them. And they miss being around this part of it, which is working with kids in the summer and helping kids fulfill their dreams."
With a suburban city as large as Boca Raton, creating a niche in the market was important to Marshall. He needed to build relationships not only with the kids, but with their parents -- those same parents that watched Marshall and the Giants win Super Bowls XXI and XXV. And since Boca is a community with plenty of northern immigrants, which Marshall refers to as "Manhattan South," it's like these parents are getting to see their hero up close all over again.
"It started for me when I was a youngster," he remembered. "I come from a very small little town in rural Southwest Louisiana. The town was very wealthy in athletes and there was community involvement and support for guys who were trying to find an "out" to better themselves. Early on, I was touched by someone who had made it, a gentleman by the name of Wallace Francis, who ended up playing for the Buffalo Bills and the Atlanta Falcons for a number of years. He happened to run a camp like this back in my hometown. It was a free camp because the kids couldn't afford it. But he brought in a whole host of his friends, about seven or eight guys like Steve Bartkowski, Robert Pennywell, Claude Humphrey, Albert Richardson. I remember those guys. I can remember it vividly like it was yesterday. It inspired me to want to help a kid live his dream."
By transplanting into an area with so many northerners that remembered Marshall, that also created a market for him in the business world. After finishing his 13-year career, Marshall used his finance degree to help form an athletic apparel company that supplied many of the nation's top retailers before venturing further into the business realm. He garnered extensive experience in the financial markets, particularly with mergers and acquisitions, while he served on the board of directors of a major NASDAQ-listed financial services company. And then it was into the world of mortgages. He morphed his company with two others to become Capital Source Mortgage, L.L.C., a licensed correspondent mortgage lender. Not stopping there, Marshall is now teaming with Liberty Home Lending just a few blocks away from his old office in Boca Raton to run the firm's retail division.
"I'm very excited about it; it's a new opportunity for me," he said. "But it's also another opportunity to brand myself within the community on a bigger level."
Hits like this in Super Bowl XXI earned Marshall the 1985 Def. Lineman of the Year award. But nothing was bigger than the Giants' defensive persona from the 1980s. The championship year of 1986 was the one with Lawrence Taylor and his then-record 20½ sacks -- Marshall was second on the squad with 12. There were stars like Carl Banks, George Martin, Pepper Johnson and Harry Carson. That's the same Harry Carson who was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of course, that means a road trip for Marshall and his buddies later this summer. Not only do they plan on going to Canton, Ohio for the induction this August, but they also plan on having a little reunion for the 1986 team.
And when these monsters of the gridiron get back together to celebrate Carson's achievement and the championships of yesteryear, it certainly won't be the first time everyone will be in the same room at the same time. One of Marshall's favorite things to do is simply call up one of his old teammates and reminisce about the good old days and to see what's on the horizon.
"I miss the relationships. I miss the friendships. I miss the locker room stuff. I miss it a lot," Marshall said. "I talk to these guys all the time because it's extremely important to me. I think about all that. And I miss that. But that part of my life is over. Now Leonard just does his thing, takes care of his friends and family, and keeps things moving."
Keep moving further and further into the business world. Keep moving forward to making sure his camp gets bigger and better. Keep moving to get the people of Boca Raton into the houses of their fantasies. But nothing moves Marshall like his family. Staying in rural Southwestern Louisiana wouldn't have allowed Marshall to provide for his family like he can now.
The relocation to Florida happened after the 1989 season. When the Rams' Flipper Anderson caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime of the divisional playoff game, knocking the Giants out, Marshall packed up everything and flew south. It's hard to believe that something as devastating as that loss eventually turned into the dream of a lifetime -- his life in Boca Raton.
So Marshall doesn't look back at his ups and downs in the fishbowl that is New York, he looks forward to being a part of the Boca community for years to come. And the children of Boca can look forward to something too: Marshall's presence as a football player and as a person.