Arizona State Sun Devils running back Cameron Marshall had a big year in 2011.
He finished the season with 1,050 yards and 18 touchdowns. The 2011 Sun Devils also finished the season with five straight losses. Coming into the 2012 season, ASU got a new head coach in Todd Graham. Marshall was expecting to be the main guy in the backfield again and was hoping to possibly elevate his game to the level where he could get some attention from pro scouts. That didn't happen.
Graham brought in two other running backs and asked Graham to share the backfield. That isn't something that has been easy for a player who was hoping to break the school's touchdown record in his senior year. However, Marshall didn't complain. He played hard and did what he was asked because in the end he knew that winning was more important than his personal statistics, per the San Jose Mercury News' Jeff Faraudo:
"There's not a selfish bone in his body," said Graham. "He really easily could have had a different approach to that, and I think most people would have. Not Cam Marshall. Special kid."
Along with bringing in new running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice, Graham also brought in a new set of rules, including the banning of earrings, hats and hoodies or headphones in any football facility and he expected his players to say "yes sir" or "no sir" when talking to a coach.
As most would imagine, these new rules weren't necessarily popular with most of the players at first, but Marshall knew that "if they could not buy into everything, they had no chance at winning."
Heading into his final game as a Sun Devil, Marshall is looked up to in the locker room. Senior linebacker Brandon Magee said that Marshall was on the cover of magazines before the season and then he was on the bench at times:
"You could tell he wanted to win more than he wanted personal stats. That's big-time. A lot of people look up to Cameron Marshall."
Marshall's father praised him for taking the high road and called him an old soul. Marshall believes it was just a matter of finding the right balance to keep his ego in check and know his role on the football team:
"It's a balance of keeping your ego in a place where you maintain your confidence, but at the same time you realize your role," Marshall said. "I think I was able to find that balance."
If the Sun Devils defeat Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday, they will have done something no ASU team has done since '78: win the last three games of the season. If they do, not only will the 2013 season begin on a high note, but Marshall's sacrifice will have made a difference for the entire team.