LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Brandon Marshall called the trade that brought him to the Chicago Bears from the Miami Dolphins in 2012 "life-saving and career-saving," but those words will ring hollow if the receiver doesn't remain on the path he's paved.
That's not to say Marshall can't or won't stay on the straight and narrow, because evidence over the past couple of years indicates a man changed by family, faith and football. The key for him now is to continue to lean on those attributes to accomplish his mission to make football merely a platform to reach larger, more important goals.
"A couple of months ago I said to my wife, 'We're going to sign a contract this offseason, and our motto is: Football is our platform, not our purpose.' And we want to do something special for the community that we feel we're supposed to be in," Marshall explained when asked why he signed his new contract on ABC's "The View."
It would likely be just as impressive to the Chicago community if Marshall stays on this newfound course he's established in his work as an advocate for mental health awareness. What makes Marshall's story appealing is his willingness to show vulnerability and expose his own flaws just to let everyone else know he's human. His story lets people know he's not just the 6-foot-5, 230-pound superhuman receiver who puts up 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the NFL every year seemingly with ease.
In explaining why the environment in Chicago is a better match for him than Miami, Marshall told a story about a recent outburst he had on the field.
"Last year, I was having problems a little bit in practice, and I just threw my helmet and my gloves down and I started pacing up and down the sidelines," Marshall said. "Some people can look at me and judge me and jump down my throat. But everyone gave me my space, and in a couple of plays I was back out there. So that's why [this is] a safe environment for me because they understand I love this game. They know my approach. I don't mean anything, any harm."
It's not that teammates and coaches excused yet another Marshall tantrum during this incident. But they understand Marshall's passion for the game and knew that, ultimately, he'd come to his senses and realize he'd lost his cool.
In November 2011, when the Dolphins were trudging through a winless start after seven games, Marshall got in a fight with former teammate Vontae Davis. He reportedly threw a football in the cornerback's face after criticizing Davis for acting unprofessionally.
But shortly after Marshall's trade to Miami, sources explaining that situation said that Marshall took Davis under his wing shortly after the two met, and the receiver was trying to help the cornerback become a better professional. Did Marshall handle that incident the right way? Probably not, but he has experienced growth in Chicago, and it needs to continue.
"So yeah, it feels like a retirement thing right now," Marshall said Thursday as he wiped away tears with an orange handkerchief. "But it means a lot to me. I just wanted to thank everybody because it's not really about me, it's about the people around me. Anybody that's in a successful position or who has been successful, it's about the team. It's about having the right people on the bus, and the right people in the right seats, and I think I figured it out and I'm thankful for them."