Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 15 Days with Brandon Marshall

Chicago Bears, Brandon Marshall
Chicago Bears, Brandon Marshall / Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
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Today, the Chicago Bears will take on the Buffalo Bills in their final preseason outing, but we are just a little over two weeks until the team's regular season opener versus the Green Bay Packers. To celebrate the season's rapid approach, today's installment of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff brings us to the life and career of the best player in franchise history to don the number 15, Brandon Marshall.

Brandon Marshall's path from UCF to the Chicago Bears

Hailing originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Brandon Marshall spent most of his childhood in the south, specifically Georgia and Florida, leading him to attend Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Florida. There, Marshall was a standout athlete in football, basketball, and track. While Marshall had serious talent in every sport, his best play came as a quarterback on the gridiron.

Despite leading his team's offense as a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback, Marshall received little attention as a recruit and was awarded just two stars by many recruiting platforms. However, he had a couple of offers from local/smaller programs and eventually elected to attend the University of Central Florida over the likes of Georgia Southern and UConn.

Upon entering the college ranks, Marshall transitioned to the wide receiver position, a role better suited to his size and speed at the next level. In his first season with the Knights, Marshall played sparingly on offense and finished with two receptions for 18 yards. However, by his sophomore season, Marshall became a legitimate threat in the team's offense and finished with nearly 400 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on 29 total touches. Unfortunately, the team managed just three wins during Marshall's second year, their lowest total since becoming a Division-1 program in 1996.

The following year, many changes came to the UCF football team, including a new coach George O'Leary. However, the team struggled mightily in his first season in command and finished with a winless record. Not all of this can be put on coaching, but, rather a dosage of bad luck. The team faced several injuries, specifically on defense and more specifically, in the defensive backfield.

The secondary became so thin throughout 2004, so much so that Marshall switched to starting safety early in the season. In his newfound position, Marshall was extremely effective, even leading the team throughout the year with 51 total tackles.

As a senior, Marshall was able to return to his true place on offense and had his best season as a receiver to the tune of 1,195 yards and 11 touchdowns on 74 receptions. Amongst Conference USA, which UCF joined before the start of the 2005 season, Marshall finished with the second-most receiving yards and first-most receiving touchdowns en route to being named an All-Conference player. From a winless season a year ago, Marshall helped the Knights post an 8-5 record, taking the team to the Hawaii Bowl, their first bowl game in team history.

Following his standout college career, Marshall entered the 2005 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Denver Broncos with the 119th pick during the fourth round. He was the third pick in a strong Broncos draft class including Jay Cutler, Tony Scheffler, and Elvis Dumervil.

In his first year as a pro, Marshall was used as a rotational player in the Broncos wide receiver room and finished the season with 20 receptions for just over 300 yards and two touchdowns. However, by the following year, the receiver became a starter in Denver's offense, where he remained for three seasons.

In those three seasons, from 2007 to 2009, Marshall's production exploded, and was quickly considered one of the best patch catchers in the league. In each season, Marshall posted over 100 receptions, over 1,100 yards, and at worst, six touchdowns. In the latter two years, Marshall was voted to consecutive Pro Bowls, but during the 2010 offseason, the receiver was traded to the Miami Dolphins after just four seasons.