- Corey Long, Reporter, RecruitingNation
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When Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore saw his then-sophomore running back return from an injury and take off for a long touchdown run, he had a feeling Keith Marshall was going to be a special player.
"A guy had the angle on him and dives at his knees, so Keith hurdles him," Inscore said. "And then he spins off of a second guy that came in to make the hit. From there he ran another 50, 55 yards for the touchdown. It was definitely a play that's hard to forget."
Now heading into his senior year, the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder is the top-rated running back in the nation.
"He's just got that drive, that desire to be the best at everything in life," Inscore said. "Whether it's football, the classroom or his personal life, he isn't just trying to be good at anything. He wants to be the best."
It's a work ethic that starts at home. His father, Warren, was a standout performer at James Madison and was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1987. The younger Marshall just watched his old man and learned.
"My dad works real hard at whatever he does, and as I was growing up I saw how his hard work turned into positive results," Marshall said. "And I learned that if you want good things to happen, you have to work hard."
As one of only eight five-star prospects in the nation, the No. 6-rated player isn't taking anything for granted and said he believes he still has plenty of room for improvement.
"I was happy when I saw the [ESPNU 150]," Marshall said. "I wanted to be No. 1, but I wasn't disappointed. It lets me know that I have to continue working to get there."
Not surprisingly, Marshall has no shortage of potential college suitors, as North Carolina, Georgia, Clemson, Florida, Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan, among others, are hoping to get Marshall on campus.
As a sophomore Marshall rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. He improved to 1,550 yards and 17 touchdowns in his junior season. Sporting a 4.25 GPA, Marshall puts as much of his work ethic into his school work as he does his football talents.
"He is a role model for his peers," Inscore said. "He is admired and respected by his classmates and his teammates. And even though he's grown up in a spotlight, he doesn't let everything get to his head. It motivates him, and in some ways I think he thrives off of it."
Off the field, the elder Marshall says his son reminds him much of him at that age.
"Keith is a very focused kid, he's not much of a jokester or anything," Marshall's father said. "Obviously he likes to have fun but he's doesn't let many things from the outside get in the way of what he wants to accomplish.
"From a young age he's seen himself as someone that could play college ball and possibly play in the NFL. And that's half of the battle, believing that you can do it. Me and my wife have instilled that into all of our kids and he bought into it at an early age and it's becoming a reality."
The younger Marshall says he isn't much of a partier and doesn't play a lot of video games. He does, however, enjoy computers and deals with many media requests through email. He also has a Twitter account with over 1,500 followers.
"I think Twitter is pretty fun, a lot of people have comments for me," Marshall said. "Sometimes I'm tweeting things that aren't even football related and people reply. Sometimes my tweets end up on message boards and people try to discuss them or figure out if there is some hidden meaning. It can get a little crazy."
He admits his status as a role model and a team leader can also be a little crazy at times, but it's a role he's embraced and enjoys.
"It's cool to see the younger teammates look up to you and try to emulate some of the things you do," he said. "I try to stay humble about it all and do the right things."
Inscore says that Marshall's team-first attitude is something that sets him apart from many players with similar attributes.
"I think when you have a kid that works the way he does everyone looks up to him," Inscore said. "He has a lot of natural talent but he's pushed himself beyond that and he works harder than anyone on the field. The other players see that, they respect that, and it pushes them to do better not only for themselves but for him as well. They don't want to let him down."
Although much of Marshall's time is consumed by track right now, he has managed to take visits to North Carolina and Georgia. He says the most important things he's looking for in a college are the people and the academics.
"I want a place where the direction of the program is sound and the people are genuine," he said. "You want to have a great relationship with the coaches but I'm aware that coaches can move on. So the overall direction and focus on the program has to be sound."
Inscore estimates over 50 schools have stopped by spring practice to check Marshall out. And when they had the opportunity to speak with Marshall, they would usually hear more about his teammates.
"He's always going to praise his teammates for anything he gets," Inscore said. "We've had a ton of coaches come in to talk to him, and he makes an effort to point out his teammates to those coaches and give them credit. That speaks volume to what kind of kid he is."
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.