Interview with Leonard Marshall

Interview with Leonard Marshall
12 Dec
2014
Not in Hall of Fame
Owning this website allows me not only to interview athletes but debunk the myth that all athletes are just “dumb jocks”.  Rules may be made to broken, but stereotypes are made to be shattered, and after speaking to multiple athletes from the NHL, MLB, NBA, and the WWE, I can say that unequivocally that some of the most intelligent and well rounded people I have ever talked to in the last year have had an athletic past.

Granted, there have been many publicized instances where we see athletes who have gone through millions of dollars and have declared bankruptcy within a few years after retirement.  Those are the stories that are sexy to the media, though when a former player excels in multiple careers outside of athletics, it rarely gets coverage; it just isn’t a sexy story.

This is one of those reasons that we need to talk about Leonard Marshall, a three time Pro Bowl selection and two time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants, who not only excelled on the gridiron but mastered every endeavour off of it. 

Leonard Marshall has succeeded at becoming a financial wizard, a broadcaster, a writer, an entrepreneur, an educator, a mentor and a philanthropist. 

Let’s put it this way.  If Leonard told me that he was going to walk on the moon one day, I wouldn’t put it past him, and it was a joy to speak to someone so dedicated to giving back to those willing to help themselves. 

I had the opportunity to chat with Leonard Marshall about his post NFL career, his path to success, and some moments he had with the New York Giants.



         The first thing I wanted to do is commend you on all of your post NFL endeavours.  So many times the media talks about former NFL athletes who have fallen under hard times after they retire, but you clearly had a game plan in place long before you hung up the cleats. 

         I am curious how early in your career that you decided that when you were done playing football that you were going to do execute all of those plans?

         “In my second year in the NFL, I took a more proactive approach to what I wanted my legacy to be and how I would go about building that legacy.  Like most kids when they come in the game I had the goal to play ten years, but I also had the goal to graduate from college, which is something I did not complete during my athletic career at Louisiana State University.  I actually left school early to turn professional.[i] 

         So the challenge was to get myself hooked up with the right people in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area that would enable me to go back to school and help set myself apart from others who didn’t think like I did.”

         You did that with Seton Hall right?

         “No, my undergrad education was with Fairleigh Dickinson University, which is based in Teaneck, New Jersey near Hackensack.  My studies were in Edwin Williams College, and there was a dean there, Kenneth Vehrkens.

         At the time, my teammate, George Martin was helping Dr. Joel Goldberg and the New York Giants implement a program for continued education for players, in particular young players that had just joined the New York Giants.[ii]

         Obviously the mindset was that you still wanted to play a lot longer in the NFL, but that was when you developed your exit strategy; especially if heaven forbid, you get injured and can’t play any more.  As a Football player, you had seen that multiple times, and when we’re young, we think we are immortal, but reality sets in sooner or later.

         “Absolutely correct.  My thing was one, if I were to get injured before I get vested, I wanted to make sure that I had my education in place because I’m going to need it to go out and get a job.[iii]  However my goal (on the field) was to become vested, would happen when I made my fourth NFL season.”

         Was there something specific that you had in mind following football?  You are one of the early NFL entrepreneurs and you had your hand in so many activities following football.  You had a clothing company, you were in the financial field, you were a broadcaster; was there one of those fields that you were looking at first?

         “My interest was always in the area of finance and that began at my days at LSU.  I’ve always had these entrepreneurial aspirations and trying to understand money, the power of money, what money can do for you and how money can work against you.  I’ve always had that as part of DNA.  So I ventured down that path and got deeper into it while attending Fairleigh Dickinson University. 

         Thereafter in 1991 after the second Super Bowl I was able to graduate and I graduated after taking a class every season while playing all the way up until 1991.  I didn’t take any class in the off season, I only did it during the season because I found that it made me focus a little bit better.  I really don’t know why, but I found my focus was just there during the season.  It kept the intensity level up, and I looked at it as a challenge.  But being young, you can do those types of things, you know? (laughs).”

         Oh, I know! 

         “With some of the leadership provided to me and the encouragement provided to me by my teammate, George Martin and Dr. Joel Goldberg I wanted to best I could every day and every week and I was able to advantage of those opportunities to continue to grow.”[iv] 

         I notice too that you have also been very big in philanthropy.  Is that something that extends to try to give back to the current Giants?  Unfortunately, we have seen so many who have spent so much money, this despite many of them making considerably more money than you did, and you did very well during your playing days. 

         “Yes.  The thing with that is with the philanthropic piece is that someone helped Leonard Marshall along the way to achieve the goals, the dreams and the aspirations along the way both as a player and as a human being.  I always took that to heart and told myself that if I could ever get into a situation where I could help somebody or give advice, and give somebody a hand up and not a hand out and enable someone to help their situation and become successful that I would do it without hesitation.  Since my playing days and beyond I’ve always given to people who were in dire need.” 

         Have you been mentoring any current football players?

         “Yes I am.  It’s funny you say that.  I am mentoring a young man named Wesley McKoy.  He’s African-American. He’s a Quarterback.[v]  He goes to Don Bosco Prep, a high-end parochial school in New Jersey.  Don Bosco Prep is probably the number one sports program for football in the country.[vi]  He’s on the verge of accomplishing some amazing goals and he’s being entertained by Boston College and Yale University in terms of a scholarship.”

         That’s incredible!

         “This young man is unbelievable.”

         You also coached high school football for a brief spell did you not? 

         “I sure did.  I was the head football coach at Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City, New Jersey.  I coached there for one season and I coached there because I thought I could make a difference.  The school had some problems, and I didn’t think that the President of the school understood what I was trying to do with the football program.

         I felt like he was more in tune with competition (with me) versus what was good for the kids and the football program.  I took a program that wasn’t winning and taught a lot of young kids how to play football and made them believe that they could win again.  I felt like I did something good, but for some reason they just didn’t see it the way I saw it and it created a problem for me.  I’m always about solutions and doing good so I decided that I would resign and just leave the school.”

         Another thing that you were successful doing, and it seems like every football player, and not just football in terms of athletics, looks to become a broadcaster of some sort.  You were able to accomplish that.”

         “Yes I did.”

         I think also you were a natural for it.  You have a funny and outgoing personality and you’re not shy to give your opinion but are not looking to do so in a malicious way.  Was that a hard transition for you to go to athlete to broadcaster and put in a position where you may be forced to criticize friends of yours?  I can’t imagine that this is an easy thing to do. 

         “It’s not an easy transition but as long as you keep it professional and don’t make it personal.  You talk about the basics of the game, the basics of the position and how it should be played and the integrity in which it’s played with, and never make it personal.  As long as you keep it that way, you’re good.  It’s when you take it to another level and make it personal and act bitter or have an axe to grind that you can have problems.” 

         I believe you never had that issue once during your career.

         “Not even once.  I’ve never had that happen.  I have had people take pot shots at me in terms of my ability to play the game at a high level.  I’ve had people question if I still have a love for the game.  Those people that took the personal route, those were people that I felt were jealous and wished they could have been doing what I did and wished that they could do it as well as I did for a long period of time.”

         Is broadcasting something that you would think about going back to?

         “Well I actually work with the New York Giants now doing post game work on WFAN which is on CBS Radio.  I have done three games this season.  I would love to continue to do broadcasting work.  Prior to working with the New York Giants I worked in Florida with a sports radio program covering the Miami Dolphins in South Florida and prior to that I worked with Howard Stern for six years on the radio.”

         Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that!  You are one of the few athletes that he is aware of.  He openly talks about how he doesn’t really follow sports.  I certainly remember the old WPIX days.[vii]

         “Howard and I were very good friends, we are still very good friends.  It’s funny because today I was on the phone with his (Stern’s) Don Buchwald and my agent, James DeFalco in regards to doing something about concussions and I would love some participation from Howard.[viii]  Yeah, I really enjoyed doing the broadcasting stuff.”

         That had to be so much fun working with Howard and witnessing all the interesting stuff that went on there!

         “Yes, Oh yes!”

         Are their any great stories you could share?

         “A good Howard Stern story?”

         Yeah!

         “Ahh, let’s see a good Howard Stern story.  In 1991 Howard Stern and I made a bet and you can find this on line, the Giants were playing the San Francisco 49ers in California and we were a team of destiny that year.  We lost to San Francisco (earlier in the year) on a Monday Night Game in a score that was 7 to 3.  Howard and I made a bet on the air that if we met again that we would win and if we won the game, he would have to kiss my butt, and shine my shoes, like Sambo the shoeshine boy outside of the studio of WXRK radio in Manhattan.  If we lost the game to San Francisco, I would have to do the same for him I would have to kiss his butt and shine his shoes on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.[ix] 

         Well I want you to know, Mr. Stern lost the bet!  I actually made Mr. Stern pay off the bet.  It was funny as hell as there was some 10,000 people out in the streets hanging from the rafters on Madison Avenue to see it.  It was totally hilarious!”

         Now that you bring this up, I remember seeing this in the WPIX show!

         “Yes, it was the funniest thing!”

         You mentioned something before, and I wanted to ask you about, which is the work that you are doing with concussions.  The last football player that I interviewed, Kyle Turley, was open about how he felt that the NFL had not done a good job in dealing with the issue.  I know that you have been open about concussion symptoms that you feel that you are having now.  I am curious if you feel the same way that Kyle does in that the NFL has not done enough, or have they addressed it to a certain level, and if so, where do they go from here? 

         “Well at least the NFL is trying to do the right thing.  They’re trying to do the right thing to bring awareness to the situation and they are trying to treat families that have players that have been severely injured as a result of dealing with traumatic brain injury or guys that have certain illnesses as a result of brain injury while playing in the National Football League.

         There are cases like Kevin Turner and the likes of others that the NFL are addressing on a daily basis.[x]  This work has been done quietly.  There are some players that think that the NFL should publically make statements and publically address this and address the disconnect that they’ve had.

         I say that the NFL and the fact that they have admitted that they would pay 700 plus million dollars, which now the number is up over a billion dollars and sixty-five years of health care for players that have debilitating illnesses associated with traumatic brain injury.  That in itself answers a bunch of that in terms of the NFL’s commitment. 

         I think players need to come to the reality of that this is far as its going to go and that we should be happy that we were able to substantiate that there was something wrong and have them admit that there was something wrong by making payments to players and their families that have been injured and maimed from playing the game of professional football.”

         Do you think that will happen? 

         “I think it will happen.  The long term settlement was agreed upon and the judge just ruled in favor of the players and they are just fine tuning the deal right now.  I think we will see a disbursement of funds as early as January of 2015.”

         Do you think that will all benefit former players?  I know that when I have talked with some of the former NFL players, and I am specifically referring to the generation before you, that they have felt that they have not been taken care of and that current players have ignored their plight.

         “There are some guys that, and I am going to say pre-1960, some of those guys I feel bad for.  Some of those guys were pre union.  I don’t think that the union was formed until 1968, which I think my former college coach, Jerry Stovall had a hand in helping form the union that we live by now in the National Football League.[xi]  The way he told the story when he and I sat down a few months ago, and I always talk to him about this is that back during those times those guys couldn’t wait until the season was over because most of them made just as much money working in the off season that they did while playing the game.  A bunch of them needed that job in the off-season.  They had children, wives, mortgages, needs, private school, you know they had things they needed to take care of and those things required a commitment. 

         In most cases, those that had those children and I’m talking two or three kids, and this was their wives could not work.  So the reason for forming a union was to make sure that they had a pension, though he (Stovall) said a pension wasn’t even a top priority.  The top priority was to make sure that they had health insurance or some form of insurance that would take care of them if they were injured and be able to take care of their family. 

         The other piece was trying to help them transition into another phase of their lives, which they were never able to firmly accomplish.  Now when he (Stovall) look back at the union now and the players that he helped put in the National Football League and mentored into the National Football League, he says now that ‘I am so honoured that I had my hand in putting that whole process together’.  He continued that this NFL, which he knew as the old AFL or AFC or whatever you want to call it, that this thing now has become a real institution.  He said that he didn’t know what would happen with this thing those many years ago when there was only sixteen teams, and you only played so many games and only got paid so much money.”

         Going back to what we were discussing, the rules in the NFL have changed somewhat, and you being on the defensive side of the football would not be able to do some of the things today that you were able to do before.  Is this something that you think is good for the game and protecting the offensive players?

         “I think some of the new rules do protect the players, specifically hitting with the head, which protects the player and the integrity of the game.  I think it will limit a lot of the sever head injuries that we see.  I think that some of the hits that were back in the day when I played would be considered totally outlandish in today’s game, especially my hit against Joe Montana or a couple of Quarterbacks that I hit directly with my helmet.  I think those hits would have been deemed huge fines if I were playing today based in the rules then.” 

         That hit you did on Joe Montana; I don’t know if you have ever Googled your name but that is the first thing that comes up.[xii] 

         “I would probably figure that it would be the case.  It was a violent football play but you know people have to understand that all I was doing was my job; what I was taught and trained to do, which is play the game at a high level and make a football play when given the opportunity. 

         I didn’t go out of my way to personally or physically to hurt Mr. Montana, I just went out to make a football play and help my team win.  It just so happened that it ended up being an ugly football play in the eyes of the fan.”

         Now you were able to retire on a one day contract with the New York Giants, which obviously is the team that you are mostly associated with.  How important was it for you to go back and retire as a Giant? 

         “It was extremely important for me because it was where my career began and I always wanted to say that I played for one team in my career, and if I had a chance to do it all over again, and though I had a great time with the New York Jets and a great time with the Washington Redskins in the one year I spent at both of those places, but I really wish I would have spent my entire career with the New York Giants.  I would have been able to go out playing in the 3-4 Defence with Lawrence Taylor and shaking his hand after twelve or thirteen seasons as a player and letting him know how much fun it was and an honor to work with him.  It was an honor to win championships and to just try to win championships with him in New York.” 

         You grew up in Louisiana and you currently live in Florida, but despite that is your heart still in New York City?

         “I will never get New York out of my system.  I am back and forth to New York now.  I used to teach at Seton Hall University and I am always back and forth between Florida and New York.”

         I wanted to ask you about your relationship with Seton Hall.  Can you tell me how that all came to be?

         “Well, its funny because I have a very dear friend who happens to be an attorney named Deborah Gabry and Ms. Gabry and I maintained such a strong friendship that she asked me to play golf in an event for Seton Hall and in the foursome was one of the deans of the Stillman School of Business.  The Dean actually won the right to play golf with me and I didn’t get a chance to play golf with the Dean. 

         So what I agreed to do is instead of play golf is to golf with the Dean and the children of the charity.  We went to dinner one night and started talking and discussing my aspirations after football and how I could help people and young students that are looking to graduate from Seton Hall and get into their professional career as they leave and graduate from Seton Hall. 

         So I talked about one, being a mentor, and serving as a capacity as an executive in residence as well as doing some professing in the Stillman School of Business.  One thing led to another and the next thing you know I’m serving as an executive in residence at Seton Hall.  This was around 2004.”

         That’s amazing.

         “Yeah, it is.”

         I know we talked about your love of philanthropy.  Does it feel better to help a youngster than to make a crushing hit on the football field?

         “I get a lot out of that because you know the phrase “as long as you are green you will continue to grow’?  It’s when you think you’re ripe that you will begin to rotten. 

         I try to tell young people all the time to always be willing to learn and continue to grow.  I think when you do that it gives you the best opportunity to win at the game at life. 

         My nineteen year old daughter, and this is the one thing that I always preach to her; ‘continue to grow, Arianna!’  Always ask questions, always be enamoured by what you can grow from the knowledge that someone can give you.  That content is worth it’s weight in gold.  If someone wants to give you that time and effort and energy, take the knowledge, just take it and let it become the driving force behind your success.”

         I also wanted to congratulate you on being a successful author.  Will we see a second book?

         “Believe it or not I wrote one in 1986.”

         Oh!  I didn’t know that!

         “Yes I did.  It was entitled ‘The End of the Line’ and then I helped participate in a book called “What it means to be a Tiger” and it is about the greatest players at Louisiana State University.  I am thinking about writing a fourth book right now.”

         What would that be about?

         “This one’s going to be more about a true story about a friend I had in New Jersey who was murdered in 1994.”

         This would be something close to your heart and topical with what is going on today. 

         “Yes, very close to my heart.  I will be collaborating with friends of mine who were close enough to us to make sure I can make this story to light.”

         I can’t help but ask a few football related questions; can I do that?

         “Oh yeah!”

         The two Super Bowl Rings you won, where do you keep them?

         “I keep them in a safe!”

         When do you break them out?  Is there an occasion where you say that you are putting on one of the rings?

         “Every now and then, when I go to a charity event, or something to do with kids, and I’ll bring one of the rings out.”

         I think it also worth noting that you had twelve post season sacks, there are so many defensive stars that can’t even say that one post season sack, let alone twelve.  Were you one of those players that amped up even more for the big game, or were you already that dialled in?  Was there a secret to your post season success?

         “I think Bill Parcells challenging me as a player, and he would always put up challenges to guys.  He always tried to bring out the best in me.  My thing was the big time players will make the big plays in the game.  They leave it all on the football field. 

         I always wanted to be a guy who was known as a playmaker, that something I did in a game made a difference.  I wanted to be a guy where something that I did changed the outcome of the game.  I can look back at every big time championship game that we played and see that somewhere in there I made a big time football play to help my team get into a better position to win.”

         So who do you fell worse for?  Hitting Joe Montana or watching Scott Norwood go wide right?[xiii]

         “I think I felt worse for Scott Norwood for kicking that ball wide right.  (laughs) No doubt.  The Montana play was just a natural football play.  That guy (Norwood) kicked field goals every day, and this day he just didn’t hit it right or something just went wrong.”

         Growing up in Toronto and being in close proximity to Buffalo, it is just one of those cities, and I don’t want to dump on a city, but if there is any city that it’s going to happen to, it would be either Buffalo or Cleveland.[xiv] 

         “Yeah, true!”

         When you still go back to New York, and with the dedicated Giants fans I am sure you are still recognized often.  Are the fans as great as they seem?

         “I love Giants fans, I tell you.  I love them, I fool around with them a bit on twitter, I laugh and joke with them about the games as opposed to back in the day when we played.  I have a little fun with them on game day.  I find them all very humorous.”

         One of our other projects that we have here is the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame, and we just announced our first class I have to ask what your favorite sports film is.

         “Wow, that’s a good question.  That’s a really good question.  One of my favorite movies to watch, and I get a laugh out of it only because my teammate is in it is the Waterboy.  The movie with Adam Sandler.”

         Which teammate was in that?

         Lawrence Taylor.

         Oh, that’s right, I forgot![xv]

         “He’s in that movie and he tells the kids “Boys, don’t smoke crack!”[xvi]  (laughs)  I just have to laugh.”

         He’s certainly one of the greatest defensive players of all time, if not the greatest.

“No doubt!  And it was an honor to play along side of him!  It was an honor to play with Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, George Martin, Gary Reason and that great cast of characters that made up our great defense in 1986 and 1990.

We had Bill Belichick and we trusted Bill more than any other coach on the field, because he was such a general every Sunday.  I fee so strongly about Belichick and what he has accomplished that one day they will no longer call the Super Bowl Trophy, the Lombardi Award and that it will be called the Belichick Award.  That is how I feel in my heart of hearts.”

         What were your thoughts when he (Taylor) went into professional wrestling for a brief period?[xvii]

         “I thought he was bananas.  That’s Lawrence.  That’s just the guy that he is.  He’s such a gifted guy.  He has more talent than anyone I ever met in my life.  He had more tenaciousness than any guy I ever met in my life and it was an honor to work with the guy.”

         I do have to say when I saw your website, Notinhalloffame.com, and what you do, I think that it’s such a farce that I’m not in it, although I was nominated in 2000.  I’m the last of the 3-4 Defensive Lineman that almost one hundred quarterback sacks, I had two championship rings, three times all NFL, three Pro Bowls and not even considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when my career matches Lee Roy Selmon and Howie Long, who both played the 3-4 Defense and is in the Hall of Fame.[xviii]  I think it’s a farce that I’ve not been considered.”

         Why do you think that is?

         “I don’t know.  I wish I had an answer for that.”

         I will throw this out as a theory.  Sometimes I think that the Hall of Fame puts too much premium on the amount of Pro Bowl selections.

         “I think if you ask any Defensive Lineman who played in my era, Bruce Smith included will tell you that I deserve to be in Canton.  The things I did, I not only rushed the Quarterback, but I played the runs as well as I rushed the Quarterback.”

         It’s funny, I can’t hear your name without imagining it coming from Pat Summerall.  You and that great Giants team seemed to be on every week. 

         “Yes, we were on a lot.” 

         Is there anything I can promote on your behalf?

         “Yes there is.  My company is Playbook Solutions Group, the website is psgfif.com, my personal website, leonardmarshall.com and my Facebook page which is www.facebook.com/leonardmarshall.”  

         Thank you so much for your time!

         


[i]Marshall was drafted in the second round (37th overall) by the New York Giants in 1983.  He was the second Defensive End chosen behind Jim Jeffcoat, who went to the Cowboys in the first round.

[ii]Dr. Goldberg has initiated this program with many other professional teams and currently serves on the Board of Directors of seven companies.

[iii]Being vested meant that he would qualify for a full NFL pension. 

[iv]Martin played for the Giants from 1975 to 1988, also at Defensive End.  Martin was known for his ferocious pass rush and had 90 Quarterback Sacks in the NFL.  

[v]This is a YouTube Highlight real of McKoys:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p0X42Ihg-o

[vi] Current Minnesota Vikings Defensive Ends, Corey Wootton and Justin Trattou went there.  So did former Green Bay Packers Running Back, Ryan Grant and Matt Simms, the backup Quarterback for the New York Jets and the son of Giants legend, and former teammate of Marshall’s Phil Simms.

[vii]Stern had a late night show on the New York station WPIX, which thanks to a satellite dish, allowed me to watch Stern.  He was not available on the radio in Canada at the time where I lived. 

[viii]In other interviews, Marshall expressed that he suffers from CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and is openly speaking on the issue.

[ix]That game would incidentally be the NFC Championship Game.

[x]Turner was a Fullback who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.  In 2010 he was diagnosed with ALS and has been involved in research that links ALS with CTE.

[xi]Stovall was a three time Pro Bowl selection with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

[xii]This was the hit in question:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv7-25q39hc 

[xiii]Scott Norwood missed a 47 Yard Field Goal attempt that would have won the game for the Buffalo Bills, who lost Super Bowl XXX to Marshall’s Giants, 20 to 19. 

[xiv]That Bills loss would trigger three more consecutive defeats in the Super Bowl.  At the end of the decade, the Sabres would lose in the Stanley Cup Finals.  To this day there has never been a title in the four major North American sports leagues.

[xv]How could I forget that considering what I do for a living!

[xvi]Here is that clip: http://youtu.be/nfHOQAT0-Mk

[xvii]Taylor headlined Wretlemania XI against Bam Bam Bigelow.

[xviii]Selmon entered the Hall of Fame in 1995, while Long entered in 2000. 



Last modified on Thursday, 22 March 2018 15:47
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