Stadium lights shining. Giant TVs stacked up and down the walls. Confetti lining the floor. A Lombardi Trophy teasingly displayed in an acrylic memorabilia box.
“This, winning a Super Bowl, is what’s left for me,” says Giants’ wideout Brandon Marshall, as we chat at the brand-new NFL Experience venue in Times Square. “To be on the field when that confetti hits, I can’t imagine that experience.”
Marshall's physical ability, tremendous hands, and high football IQ have allowed him to (quietly) put together an impressive career. But despite his individual success, the six-time Pro Bowler and single-game receptions record holder cannot call himself a Super Bowl champion. Bizarrely enough, he hasn’t even played in a single postseason game, which seems impossible.
That thirst to lose his postseason virginity is a big reason why he inked a two-year deal with the Giants over the summer. Just as he was hitting his stride, Marshall suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5 against the Chargers—the very same game the G-Men lost Odell Beckham Jr. for the year.
Despite the Giants' disastrous 2017 campaign, Marshall’s spirits are high. His broadcasting gig on Showtime and work with Project 375 (his mental health advocacy organization) are keeping him busy. Meanwhile, the interactive NFL Experience, which houses a 4-D theater, stat-tracking QB game, vertical leap-combine challenge, and more, is “adding fuel” to his fire to get back onto the field.
We caught up with Marshall to chat about the difference between playing for the Giants and Jets, OBJ becoming a global icon, and why a certain subset of NFL receivers deserve more respect.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
We’re at this brand new facility that the NFL has created in Times Square called NFL Experience. Have you gotten the chance to explore?
Yeah, my favorite part right now is the [4-D] theater. I think this is the only thing in the world that gets you that real, on-the-field experience. It’s better than VR. There’s a lot of companies out there that take you through an experience, but as a player, I’ve done it so many times? Ran out the tunnel, taken a hit, dove for a ball, caught a ball. This was the first thing that made me want to run out of the tunnel. It’s the first thing that gave me goosebumps. It’s great for fans of all ages and experiences.
Players and coaches should also experience it as well. It’s inspirational. Being in that theater was great, and sitting in this Super Bowl celebration room—which is a no-no because you have to earn the confetti, you have to earn the Lombardi—but it is an experience. And even this adds fuel for me. When I’m working out tomorrow and the rest of the week, I’m sure I’ll picture this to get me through those tough sets and those tough exercises. So it’s been great for me, as well.
[ODELL] IS REALLY THE FIRST [NFL Player] TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE A GLOBAL ICON.
I wanted to ask about your mindset right now. Unfortunately, you’re out for the rest of the year. The Giants are having a down season. Are you looking ahead to next year at this point?
My head is in the now. It’s really trying to win today. Trying to be a great teammate. There’s guys that reach out and ask for advice. There’s some guys that have never been through this type of adversity, a losing season. So as a teammate, you try to pick up the guys who may be down or lacking or falling behind. Push the guys and continue to encourage the guys that are doing an amazing job. But for me, as an individual, I’m just trying to heal up everyday. I’m just going to focus on that. When the offseason comes, I’ll deal with that. And when next year comes, I’ll deal with that.
As far as the players who have reached out to you, is it some of the younger wide receivers?
It’s everyone. Even some staff, you know what I mean? And when I say staff, I mean chefs and grounds crew. We’re all in it together. We all lean on each other. And that’s the amazing thing about our game. We’re all interconnected. What I do affects the next guy, good and bad. When you’re winning, it’s contagious, and it’s awesome. When you’re losing, it sucks, and it affects all of us. So we gotta lean on each other in this time just to get through it the best way we can. And try to win a game.
You’re in a league where there are a lot of young, up-and-coming wide receivers. If you had to pick a guy that really stands out to you or who impresses you the most, who would it be?
Obviously the top dogs now are Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., AJ Green. I love Stefon Diggs. I’m glad to see Josh Gordon back. Before he was suspended, I thought he was playing the best at the position. So I’m excited to see him back. Not only for football but also for him as a person. Adam Thielen is also playing well. Sometimes we got that reverse racism going at the wide receiver position. We don’t really show respect for the white receivers. You got Eric Decker when he was ballin, everybody wanted to talk about all the other guys. We gotta show love.
Let’s talk about Odell for a minute. You played against him, now you’re playing and practicing with him. What do you think his ceiling is?
Epic. He’s really the first guy to have the opportunity to be a global icon. In football, that’s unheard of. Our sport isn’t everywhere. It’s not oversees. Anywhere he goes, people know him, and they love him. He has the ability to be one of the greatest ever. If he continues to do what he’s doing and make the right decisions, he’ll be fine.
Both The giants and Jets are great organizations with great people. one's a public school and one's a private school.
Who’s the greatest wide receiver you’ve ever seen or played with?
I’ve been in the league 12 years, so I’ve seen them all. You got the GOAT, Jerry Rice. You can’t deny what he was able to accomplish over so many years. But to be honest with you, the best athlete I’ve ever been around is Odell Beckham. He’s just phenomenal. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s an unbelievable talent, and his body control and work ethic and mentality are off the charts. He’s tenacious. And that’s what I respect and look at when I see guys because I pride myself on my approach and work ethic. When I see a guy that can push me and maybe last longer than me, that’s special. His football IQ is off the charts too, which people don’t always give him credit for. He’s a special kid.
You’re on the Giants this year. You were on the Jets the last couple of seasons. What’s the difference between playing for the two ball clubs?
Both the Giants and Jets are great organizations with great people. One’s a public school and one’s a private school.
Oh yeah? Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Nah, I’ll get in trouble. [Laughs]. Next question.
You’ve praised Tony Romo for his broadcast work on CBS. When your playing career is over, is that something you’d want to do a lot of?
People always ask what I’m going to do when I’m done playing football. Well, I’m kind of already doing that. I’ve been doing full-time broadcasting for the past few years on Showtime, Inside The NFL. I’ll continue doing non-profit work, my philanthropy efforts with Project 375. That’s something that’s always going to be a priority.
Speaking of Project 375, you’re such a prominent voice and advocate for mental health and trying to change that stigma behind having a mental health disorder. I recently heard that 1 in 5 people have a diagnosable mental health disorder, which is a bigger number than I had imagined it would be. Do you think a lot more players in the NFL and sports in general have mental health disorders than we know of?
Nah. I think our world is a production-based society. You look at social media, and we’re all chasing something. We’re all in this rat race, right? So there’s this unhealthy culture that we have in sports when you look at being able to perform every single day. In sports, we have to perform well. That’s how we’re judged. But then that makes you self-conscious, and you look at yourself every single day with this judgmental lens. We’re seeing that with this explosion of social media, and I think that we just have an unhealthy world in that way. The topic of mental health is taboo. I’ve said this for some time now, but where we’re at today is where the cancer and HIV communities were 20-25 years ago. So we need to continue to bring this topic to the forefront and deal with some of these things. You mentioned that number, 1 in 5. This is something that affects all of us. If you’re not personally affected or diagnosed with something, then your loved one is. Or maybe it’s a friend or a neighbor. So it’s important to continue to march forward and try to change the narrative, and get people the resources they need, so they can live a healthy, effective life.
Absolutely. Shifting gears a bit, I was hoping we could play a quick word association game. I’ll give you a name, you tell me the first think that comes to mind. Cool?
Does that have anything to do with a certain meme or Insta…
Hey, you can’t ask follow-up questions! [Laughs]. That wasn’t part of the deal!
Alright, alright. Fair enough. Eli Manning.
Prankster? Really? How?
My phone still to this day is locked in like Japanese.
Oh no, he’s one of those guys.
You name it, he does it. What everyone sees outside is this guy who has one face and one emotion. But I mean, he’s awesome to be around. He makes it fun.
Scott Frost [UCF’s head coach].
Legendary isn’t big enough. Something bigger than legendary.
You’ve accomplished so much in your football career. Is there anything else you want to get out of it before hanging up the cleats?
I mean, we’re in the perfect room right here. This, winning a Super Bowl, is what’s left for me. To be on the field when that confetti hits, I can’t imagine that experience.
If only I was Roger Goodell with a trophy, right?
Correct! I gotta get that Lombardi.