Understanding Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall opened his home to the Tribune to offer a genuine sense of the new Bears star. The picture that emerged was of a man striving for serenity in his life while keeping inquiries into his tumultuous family past at arm's length.
How does Marshall respond? Does he become angry?
Actually, it's a friendly conversation. Marshall is cleaning out closets to make room for spring clothes, so this is perfect timing. Hey, they share the same sneaker size. Sure, he'll send a box to Grandma's house in Pittsburgh.
His uncle challenges Marshall to a race. "This is the bet: If you don't beat me by 10 yards," — he pauses — "you take me shopping." They burst out laughing.
'We were doomed from the beginning'
It is a gusty, drizzly Thursday morning, and Marshall puts on his cleats at a public park. Today is a training day.
Marshall moves with ease in his cleats, like a boy who needs his special blanket to calm down. Wearing them means he is playing football. It means there are no family members asking for favors, no fans asking for autographs, no reporters clamoring for comment.
He rises, laces tightened, and shakes his ankles, ridding himself of any elements that might weigh him down. He spends more than an hour on the field, running resistance drills, working on endurance. He's soaked in sweat when he finishes. He is both smiles and determination.
"What makes me good is I don't really think on the football field. I just react," he says. "I'll make a play; I'll make four or five guys miss. Somebody asks me, 'OK, what just happened?' I couldn't even tell you. I black out."
Football always has been that way for him. When the workout ends, Marshall and his wife, Michi, attend couples counseling. The harder work is here.
POLICE RECORDS, FLORIDA: On the evening of April 22, 2011, a large, bloodied Cuisinart kitchen knife rested on the marble floor outside Marshall's master suite, and a loaded handgun was on a small end table. Near the front doors was a large pool of blood that trailed off to the bedroom and kitchen. Blood also was splattered on the walls.
Marshall stood in his bedroom with a cut on his abdomen. Both of his wrists showed clean cuts, three or four on each arm. Michi Nogami-Marshall had a large bruise on her left cheek. Her pinky finger was cut.
That night — documented in police reports — led to Michi's arrest and a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, which was later dismissed. It came 13 months after their wedding. Marshall's wife told police she stabbed Marshall in self-defense.
Marshall met Michi Nogami-Campbell in college, where she earned degrees in criminal justice and psychology. In 2009, just weeks after they got engaged, the two were seen hitting each other on a balcony, and Marshall was arrested by Atlanta police. Charges of disorderly conduct were dropped.
"Me and my wife, we were doomed from the beginning because of the relationship I got out of," he says, a reference to Watley. "I wasn't vulnerable to her."
During my visit, the couple's time together is tranquil. They lounge in his theater room, watching television. They stroll along the docks after dinner, arms interlocked.
The incident in 2011 came two months after they devoted their lives to Christianity at an elaborate retreat for pro athletes. Two photos in the kitchen chronicle the process. Now Marshall says grace before meals, listens to gospel music.
"I didn't read my Bible every day like I do now; pray every night, every morning, throughout the day; go to church every day — because I was in the world, just like a ton of people out in the world, chasing worldly things instead of godly things," he says one day while driving.
"You get caught up in all of this" — he waves out to the cars on the highway from his Mercedes — "which is nothing. That's what consumes you. That's your god. Money becomes your god. Girls become your god. Cars become your god. Houses become your god. Clothes become your god. You start caring about what other people say about you.
"It doesn't matter. There's only one person who can judge you. There's only one person that you have to answer to, and that's God. None of these people — not you, no media, no ESPN, no coaches, no Roger Goodell. I don't have to answer to them."