The year was 2011 and it held an NFL draft which would set the stage for events that would change the face of the Philadelphia Eagles. The previous year 2010, the Eagles selected thirteen prospects, and struggled to find starting calibre talent in that draft (only three remain). The 2011 class hardly fared any better, of the eleven selected a mere five remain. Granted, one of those players in Jason Kelce, whose play has been nothing short of good for the Eagles. But with draft selections in the first two rounds already gone, cornerback Curtis Marsh remains as the highest drafted member of the class of 2011 with the team. It has been a fight to remain on the roster each year.
Selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, the Eagles selected the two year cornerback from Utah State. While light on experience, Curtis Marsh is extremely athletic and plays close to virtually any wide receiver he faced. In an associate press interview following the draft, Marsh had this to share:
“It’s such an amazing feeling, I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little boy,” Marsh said. “I could not be going to a better team and a better organization. Philadelphia is one of the teams that brought me in and I had a really good visit with head coach Andy Reid. With him being a BYU graduate, we talked a lot about Utah and he was very familiar with Cache Valley. I just got a really good vibe from Coach Reid and the entire organization. To be drafted in the first three rounds just feels so amazing.”
And Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, usually pretty laid back, was also excited:
“What you’re getting is a big, strong, physical, fast and a very, very intelligent cornerback who doesn’t quite have as much experience as other corners in the draft, but we feel with our coaching and his athletic ability will develop into a fine starter,” Reid via an Associated Press interview.
And so it began, the NFL career of Curtis Marsh. But as happens sometimes, the hope does not show up as playing time immediately. In the Eagles defensive backfield, crowded with such household names as cornerbacks Asante Samuel, Dominic Rogers-Cromartie, and Nnamdi Asomugha, and in the chaos of a defense that was big on individual, not so much was on display as a team. Marsh did not see the field not the quality minutes of play he’d hoped for. Without time on the field, his progress was hindered.
When you look at the stats page, you see, or rather don’t see, much to get excited about. Relegated to spot relief duty at the cornerback position and special teams appearances, Marsh simply doesn’t appear to have made much of an impact in his NFL time. By the time 2013 roster cuts arrived, it came as little surprise to most that he was waived. With an injury and a tight roster, he was given the opportunity to sign with another team. That other team was the Cincinnati Bengals, whose offensive coach Jay Gruden is now the head coach of a rival team, the Washington Redskins. The Bengals signed him on September 19, 2013, but subsequently cut him on October 1. The Eagles resigned him and he became a depth and special teams player once more. He became that player who waits for the chance to show up on film, to make good plays, but not getting many chances to do so.
Fast forward to 2014, and you find a similar story. Curtis Marsh is once more facing an off-season where the Eagles loaded up on new talent: this year with the signing of Nolan Caroll II and drafting Jaylen Watkins. It’s do or die once more…
“I feel like every year is a make-or-break year. Every year I’m out here, I’m competing. I’m hungry to play. My first couple years, there were guys ahead of me, Pro Bowl guys. Then last year we had a new coaching staff, new free agents come in. Every year it’s been a battle, so I’m just focused on competing. Every year is a make-or-break year, but I’m confident. I’m confident in everything I do and I just know it’s only a matter of time before it surfaces.” He added “I’m familiar with the scheme and the defense and the primary concepts this year. It feels real good to have an understanding of the defense and it enables you to play without thinking and anticipate.”” – in an interview with Bo Wulf moments after making an athletic interception against Nick Foles at practice.
So that brings me to the million dollar question, why should an everyday Eagles fan care? Well, because as you know there is always more to the story than a simple box score. Curtis Marsh is 6′ 1″, a rather tall and per the consensus of scouting reports is also a rather athletic cornerback. So he’s BIG. He was drafted as a project – having converted from running back to cornerback in his last two years of college remaining. So he’s raw, and dare I say, VERSATILE, having gone quickly from offensive player to defensive player. To improve his balance and poise, he cross trains as a boxer, a trick taught to him by his former defensive backs coach who he credits as the most influential person to his NFL career. Curtis has been struggling to remain afloat in the NFL each year, despite the defensive scheme,coach turnstile employed by the Eagles since his arrival. But he has remained. He is willing to do whatever his coach asks of him, and he remains resilient enough to find himself on the roster for one more year. This year, he has something he’s never had before in his NFL career. He is already familiar with the coaching staff and the scheme. For the first time, he can turn it loose on the field instinctively.
Curtis Marsh, similar to many Eagles players, has a good background story as well – attributing much of his motivation to his mother:
“She was a single mom, working two to three jobs and struggled to keep it together for us. She sacrificed a lot…”
Oh and one final thing. About that familiarity thing, it didn’t hurt Marsh’s chances when he picked off Foles for the first interception of this off season training. After all is said and done, he has to show up on the field. In 2014, he may do just that.
August 6,2014 update: Curtis Marsh has been making plays all over the practice field. I can’t see the Eagles cutting a guy who is big AND makes plays.