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Tracking the College Gridiron Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, October 21, 2005

By Sammy Batten


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Once-slight Stallion grows into thoroughbred



Phil Padgett had barely noticed Dekota Marshall before he walked into the football office at Southwest Onslow in Jacksonville, NC, four years ago. A gangly 5-foot-10, 135-pounder at the time, Marshall had done little to distinguish himself as a ninth grader on the junior varsity.


Sammy  Batten talked about recruiting on Thursday night's Pirate Talk with Denny O'Brien. Replay the show and hear Sammy and other guests Skip Holtz, Brian Bailey and Brian Rimpf:

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“He really wasn’t anything special,’’ Padgett recalled. “I hate to say that. But we had projected him as being a good backup player in our program.’’

Marshall had much loftier aspirations for himself. He wanted to be a star for the Stallions’ varsity, and in the future he wanted to play college football. Both reasons led Marshall to Padgett’s office that day.

“He said, ‘Coach, tell me what to do,’’’ Padgett said. “I told him ‘run track, lift weights and keep up your grades.’ ’’

Marshall followed Padgett’s advice to the letter, growing into a 6-1 1/2, 190-pounder with the strength (he has a 360-pound bench press) and speed (4.4 seconds in 40-yard dash) that’s enabled him reach those ninth-grade goals.

Since being called up to the Southwest varsity as a 10th grader, Marshall has been pivotal force in back-to-back runs to the state 2-A championship. A two-year starter at tailback for the Stallions, he’s rushed for more than 1,500 yards the last season-and-a-half, including 850 and 15 touchdowns through the first half of this season.

On Monday, Marshall fulfilled his dream of playing college football by making a verbal commitment to play in 2006 for the East Carolina Pirates. He becomes the second member of the Pirates’ recruiting Class of 2006, joining offensive lineman D.J. Scott from Green Cove Springs, FL.

Marshall has been a prime target for ECU and head coach Skip Holtz since attending summer football camp in Greenville. The Pirates made an early scholarship offer at that point, but Marshall decided to wait before making a final decision.

“I really did like East Carolina all the way,’’ Marshall said on Wednesday. “I had gone to camp there and really liked the coaches and the way they taught and trained me there. I loved the stadium and the players. But I thought I’d just wait a little bit (before making decision).

“I went to the Duke and Southern Mississippi games. I had a feeling Mr. Holtz was going to come in and do a good job with the team. They had told me all along I was their No. 1 prospect, so I finally decided not to wait any longer.’’

Marshall was receiving increased interest from schools such as North Carolina, Wake Forest and N.C. State, but only NCAA Division I-AA Gardner-Webb had actually offered a scholarship besides ECU.

“I really think by the end of the season that he would have had other offers,’’ Padgett said. “But I told him, ‘East Carolina wants you right now. Go where someone loves you. Don’t go where someone likes you.’ ’’

East Carolina has recruited Marshall as a two-way athlete, according to Padgett.

“His first look is going to be at either safety or cornerback,’’ Padgett said. “But they’re not ruling out the possibility he could be a defensive back and also play something like split end. When you’ve got a great athlete like Dekota it’s hard not to think of him playing both sides of the ball.’’

Marshall’s main focus at Southwest Onslow has been running with the football. In the Stallions’ game last Friday against Swansboro, Marshall ran seven times for 234 yards and score three touchdowns. He had touchdown runs of 91, 61 and 64 yards.

Strength training, according to Marshall, has been the key to his prep success.

“I love lifting weights,’’ Marshall said. “I probably spend at least two hours every day in the weight room, Monday through Saturday. I think that strength helps me bounce off tackles and run over people. When I get hit I usually keep moving.’’

Padgett believes Marshall’s height and speed will make him a quick contributor on ECU’s defense.

“He has the height to match up with any receiver, and he’s got the speed to match up with any receiver,’’ Padgett said. “Usually, defensive backs are the fastest kids, and the fastest kids are shorter. But here’s a kid who is 6-1 1/2 and can run with anybody. Nowadays receivers are getting taller and taller, and you have to have a defensive back with height who can match up.’’

Marshall said he was encouraged by another unlikely source to accept East Carolina’s offer — teammate Kendric Burney who has given a verbal commitment to North Carolina.

“Kendric and I have played football together since fifth grade,’’ Marshall said. “I talked to him a lot about my college decision. He always told me, ‘Make the decision that’s right for you.’ We’ll still be close friends, even when we’re not playing for the same school.’’

Now that Marshall has made his college choice, he can concentrate on helping Southwest win another state title. The Stallions enter this Friday’s game against Richlands with a 7-1 overall record.

“That’s my main focus now,’’ Marshall said. “I want to finish my career in high school as a state champion.’’

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02/23/2007 02:36:52 PM

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