The sounds of the drumline warming up and the pregame chatter from both teams fill the air. A small town closes its shops to see their beloved high school battle again on the gridiron. For some this is just a game but for a small town in nestled under the base of the Appalachian Mountains, this is life. Little did the fans know, that their star quarterback would go on to bigger and better games.
Fast-forward three years and there stands the small-town quarterback. He warms up in front thousands at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, about to make his first career start at quarterback for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Time has flown for this former high school star and now he faces the pressures that come with being a big-time starting quarterback.
TaQuon Marshall had no idea he would one day suit up for a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game as the starting quarterback for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Marshall grew up in a small town 30 minutes from Columbus, Ga, called Hamilton, Ga. This is where Marshall would start to make a name for himself. Starting in peewee all the way to high school, he was one of the most dynamic playmakers on the field.
Marshall grew up playing little league football in the area, playing for the middle school, and finally at the high school.
In middle school, fans around the area received their first glimpse of just how special TaQuon might be Suiting up for the Waverly Hall Yellow Jackets as an elementary schooler, Marshall took his teams to the city championship multiple times. He had a grip on the quarterback position from an early age. Former coaches recall one game where Marshall threw for two touchdowns and ran for three. He was a superb athlete even then, miles ahead of anyone at that age.
Former teammate Jeremy Schaffer, spoke to how he and Marshall share a special bond.
“It was great playing with such and awesome athlete and knowing that he would go big places” Schaffer said. “He was always a friend, teammate and family”,
At the high school level, he excelled as a three-sport athlete playing football along with baseball and track. Marshall was named award an award winner multiple times while in high school. The awards included: first-team Class 5A all-state as an athlete by the Georgia Sports Writers Association, 2014 all-Bi-City Offensive Player of the Year, first-team all-region in 2013 and 2014, Two-time recipient of Ironman Award (2013, 2014) and first-team all-city in 2013.
He lead the Harris County Tigers to back-to-back Region 1-AAAAA titles. In 2014, all that stood between Harris County and its second straight region championship was rival Thomas-County Central. Marshall dazzled in that game, capturing the second straight region championship, with two touchdowns on the ground and one through the air. This became a massive win for Harris County, whom had previously been unsuccessful in their attempts to defeat their rival.
The farthest the Tigers advanced was Marshall’s junior year. They lost to the eventual state champion Gainesville High School, 64-13. Gainsville had a quarterback by the name Deshaun Watson that was on his way to bigger games and a bigger stage.
A stellar senior campaign saw scholarship offers trickle in for Marshall. In his senior season Marshall passed for 1,376 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,436 yards and 12 touchdowns. Marshall might have been deemed undersized for the quarterback position, standing at only 5’10 and 180 pounds. However, his dual-threat capabilities led to his three-star ranking, courtesy of Rivals.com. Marshall faced a tough decision when deciding where to attend college with offers from Georgia Tech, Marshall, Duke, and Cincinnati. On decision day, Marshall decided to stay close to home and attend Georgia Tech.
Marshall still calls Hamilton home, and visits when gets the opportunity to. He loves the idea of representing his hometown in everything he does. Earlier this year during Georgia Tech’s bye week, Marshall traveled back home to visit his former coaches and the current Harris County Tigers. He embraces the community that supports him and strives to make them proud
“It’s awesome representing HC, especially being homegrown, all the support you have from the people you grew up with is amazing” Marshall said.
Due to the incumbent starter, Justin Thomas, Marshall started out as a wingback in Coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense. After two years of learning and playing this position, Marshall was afforded the opportunity to play. He was able to switch back to quarterback. Marshall quickly learned that the opportunity to know two positions in this complex offense put him a step ahead.
“I was able to learn quickly since I had already played another position in the offense.” Marshall said, “It gave me the opportunity to see the how all parts of the triple-option work.”
After waiting in the wings, Marshall broke through in a big way this year. Marshall made his hometown proud by exploding onto the college football scene with a huge performance against Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. Marshall threw for 120 yards and ran for a school-record 249 yards, while totaling five touchdowns. Fans around the nation finally saw what people back home had known for years.
He continues to impress this season, rushing for 727 yards and passing for 488 in the triple-option offense for the Yellow Jackets. He has accounted for 17 total touchdowns as well. Marshall was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award. This award is given to the best college football player of the year.
The Yellow Jackets have been enjoying success this year and place themselves among the ACC’s best. Georgia Tech currently holds a 4-3 record with clos losses to Tennessee, Miami and Clemson. Marshall was asked about the team’s early success and what it will take to achieve their goals.
“If we finish better as a team we will get to the level of play we want to reach and the results will be in our favor” Marshall said.
All Harris County fans seem to have a story on when they played or coached against Marshall. Seeing a player of his caliber grow up around you resonates with everyone he encountered. High school coach Danny Durham spoke highly of Marshall and credited his outstanding character to great guidance at home from his parents. Marshall lead on and off the field during his time at Harris County and he continues at Georgia Tech.
“TaQuon had a certain quality about him that you couldn’t teach.” Durham said. “He was able to read a defense quickly and give us the best possible chance to win.”
Having watched Marshall in person, this quote rings very true. Even at Georgia Tech, Marshall displays amazing instincts and shows a knack for getting the ball in the end zone.
Marshall has excelled at every level he has played. But his humbleness and hard-working mentality really stand out when you meet him. He is just like any other 21-year-old off the field. On the off chance Marshall does get to return home, it isn’t rare to see him hanging out with old high school buddies
“You would never know he is the star he is today,” Schaffer said. “He is such a down to earth guy and still a little kid at heart.”
Whether in Hamilton, Ga in that Tiger uniform or wearing the gold and white of Georgia Tech, Marshall plays with an entire community behind him. Fans around the nation see what those in the small town of Hamilton, Ga long ago.