Can we talk about the moment?
It’s Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, and we’re inside Brandon Marshall’s closet, not long before the man will take the field in front of 70,000 people.
It’s been three months since Marshall announced he’d been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, three months that the Pro Bowl receiver spent in the outpatient program at McLean Hospital, breaking himself, finding himself. He knew he’d be vulnerable, that instead of one or two cameras on him there’d be five or six. He knew they’d test him. They wanted to see how he’d respond, how he’d act. He sensed their eyes. It changed him. Changed his personality. Changed his style.
“I felt so uncomfortable,” says Marshall. “It was one of the most miserable times in my life.”
And now here he is, mere hours away from one of the biggest games of his season…and No. 19 can’t decide what to wear.
Marshall had been living a lie. Suits and ties. Loafers. They wanted him to play the thug? The bad guy? Well, he wasn’t going to give them what they wanted. So he’d been dressing himself up, shielding his problems with button-downs and bow ties.
But now? Nothing fits him right. Nothing feels comfortable. Marshall’s spent nearly an hour in his closet when he starts hearing voices. Bad attitude. Too loud. Too disruptive. Too many expectations. Too much pressure. The tears are coming. He’s ready to break down. It isn’t until he hears a calming voice does he relax. It’s his wife, Michi Nogami.
“Just be yourself,” she says.
Marshall throws on a fitted hat, a white T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He jumps in his 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass and drives off.
Marshall ends up having one of his best games of the season: eight catches, 106 yards, and a touchdown. Miami beats the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-3.
“If someone does everything right you expect them to make it to what they are,” says the rapper T.I., a friend of Marshall’s. “But if someone makes it to where they are in spite of the wrong they've done or the missteps they may have had you know that took extra energy, dedication, extra perseverance. That is a different application of skill and you have to respect that.”
Maybe without that moment, Marshall never rebounds. Maybe the pressure finally gets to him. Maybe he cracks. Maybe he spirals out of the league altogether. Maybe, by 2016, he becomes someone unrecognizable to the man we see today.
“It comes down to one or two moments,” Marshall says. “That’s the difference between winning and losing.”
As part of his ongoing fight to support those with BPD, Marshall came together with Champs Sports and Under Armour to create “The Moment,” a commercial that takes him right back to that moment in his closet on that early November morning nearly five years ago. The spot also includes the premiere of “Baller Alert,” a song featuring T.I. and Quavo of Migos, with production by Lex Luger.
Marshall is in a different place now—a 32-year-old veteran for the New York Jets. But that was still a point that sticks out. If he’d ignored his wife, Marshall says, it would’ve changed the entire direction of his life.
“That’s the awesome thing about life,” Marshall says, “is that you never know when. You just have to be present. You have to be mindful of that moment.”
Since then, Marshall has excelled on the field. Last season he set a career-high with 14 touchdowns, along with 109 receptions, and 1,502 yards. After an injury-riddled finish to the 2014 season, it was a reminder of what the 6’4”, 230-pound receiver is capable of.
“The more pain and suffering you can endure the more you can withstand pressure, the more you can overcome your obstacles, then the further you will go,” T.I. says. “Your talent, some of it is learned. Some of it is God-given. However, that's going to be there regardless. Just because you have talent doesn't mean that the world stops happening around you. Just because you have opportunities, just because you have a dream, doesn't mean that the world stops and moves around that dream or around that opportunity. You must perform within these moments in life.”
Most commercials don’t feel personal. They’re an obligation for the athlete. But this moment was different for Marshall. It was organic because it was his story.
“It takes time to figure out who you are,” Marshall says. “It takes time to figure out your purpose and why you’re here.
“It’s never about that destination. It’s about that process. It’s about that journey.”
And all journeys, no matter what, always start with a single moment.