TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The play seemed innocent enough. In the first quarter of Florida State’s game against Louisville last season, defensive back Trey Marshall, while engaged with a blocker, reached out his left arm in an attempt to slow down Cardinals quarterback Reggie Bonnafon. Bonnafon clipped Marshall’s arm as he turned upfield, and, although the impact didn’t appear especially violent, Marshall immediately could tell something was wrong.
He sat on the field, pointing out his left arm to team trainers, and immediately left for the locker room.
“I knew I was hurt,” Marshall said. “But I didn’t know how serious it was.”
Two days later, Marshall learned that he had a torn bicep muscle. And it was serious enough to need surgery and sideline him for the rest of the season.
The news devastated Marshall, who had already come back from a frightening stomach injury during his senior year of high school.
A sophomore at the time of his injury, Marshall had emerged as one of FSU’s breakout stars, starting five games at the “star” and one at strong safety.
He earned ACC defensive back of the week honors after an 11-tackle performance against Wake Forest, and was one of FSU’s steadiest performers heading into the Louisville game.
Then, in one play, all of Marshall’s positive momentum came to a halt.
“I was hurt, really,” Marshall said, and he wasn’t referring only to physical pain. “I had put in a lot of work to perform and help my team in any way I can. It hurt me when I got hurt.”
FSU felt Marshall’s absence almost immediately. Just two plays after he left the game, Louisville struck for a 48-yard pass over the middle of the field. On the next play, the Cardinals gouged the secondary for 18 more yards and a touchdown.
Although senior Javien Elliott went on to admirably fill Marshall’s shoes for the rest of the season, FSU’s defense missed the spark that Marshall provided.
“He was being a very dominant player at that nickel (“star”) position,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It was significant when he went down.”
And just as significant now that he is back.
Five months removed from surgery, Marshall has been a full participant in spring practice and, save for a brace on his left arm, shows no lingering effects from his injury.
That’s welcome news for a secondary that must replace four seniors from last year’s group, as well as star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
While some degree of rust might be expected after so much time off, early reviews suggest that Marshall has picked up right where he left off.
“He looks really good, as far as his physicality, being healthy,” Fisher said. “He looks really good.”
Now a junior, Marshall says he expects to help fill the leadership void left by the likes of Ramsey and safety Lamarcus Brutus.
Replacing that group will be a tall order. But, given its combination of experience and youth, Marshall said he believes FSU’s secondary can be the best in the nation.
“(I’m) providing leadership to the younger guys,” he said. “And whoever else needs it.”
While Marshall appears to mostly be working at the “star” position, he said he still gets reps at safety and that he’s happy to play at either position.
After what he went through last year, he’s happy to play anywhere.
“It feels good to get back out there with my teammates,” Marshall said. “I love being out there with them.”