ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Brandon Marshall has read through all the mail. He has seen his name on social media and read the comments.
For some, Marshall will always be the Denver Broncos player who took a knee, in support of his former college teammate Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem in 2016. Marshall went to one knee before eight games in 2016 and in Week 3 in the 2017 season when many players around the league took a knee before the NFL’s games that weekend.
Some of what he read and heard back then was supportive. Some of it shockingly hateful. But all, Marshall says, was necessary.
“I came through it in a good way, and I just realized it just recently,” Marshall said. “I might see some criticism somewhere, online or whatever, and it doesn’t affect me now. I think I’m better at looking at what’s said, or what the forum is, how it’s said, instead of this person or that person is just being critical and they don’t know me, whereas before it was kind of like pressure. That they’re saying this about me, I wonder what the organization is thinking or I thought maybe the organization thought that too.”
After a season in Jacksonville, Marshall was signed to the Broncos’ practice squad. When Wade Phillips became Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2015, Marshall’s career took off. Marshall played in 16 games that year, finishing with 102 tackles for a defense that finished the season ranked at, or the near, the top of every major defensive category and won Super Bowl 50.
Since he first knelt, he is one of two Broncos -- with receiver Demaryius Thomas -- who have remained in the tunnel during the anthem during this preseason. Moreover, Marshall has tried to do more than kneel to affect change. He has met with the officials of the Denver Police Department about use-of-force policies, donated money to local charities, and continued to try to build his foundation and help students learn leadership skills.
And all the while Marshall said: “I found myself still trying to be the best football player I could be and I didn’t like how last year went. I want to be better and it’s all together I think. Reach to do better in everything, you know?”
Marshall struggled with injuries in 2016 -- he played in 11 games -- and had 102 tackles in the Broncos’ 5-11 2017 season. That only further stoked his desire for growth and change.
More recently, a photo caught Marshall’s eye.
“It was Bill Gates,” said the Denver Broncos linebacker. “I saw Bill Gates, just real quick, and it made me stop. I took a look.”
The photo referred to some of the lessons in Randall Bell’s book “Me We Do Be.” Bell, a socio-economist who researched 5,000 professionals, including the likes of Gates and Buffett, tries to discern specific daily rituals and routines that most had in common.
One of Bell’s statements says “If you make your bed in the morning, you’re 206 percent more likely to become a millionaire.”
“It just spoke to me,” Marshall said. “I can’t really say why, but at this point in my life, with everything that’s happened, it spoke to me.”
Marshall took the words that surrounded the photo to heart and it changed everything. And then Marshall “went and made my bed. Right then.”
Some of Bell’s lessons are common senses and some personal discipline: exercise, read more, wake up early, write things down. For Marshall, it’s part of the changes he has tried to make in his life and with his teammates since first taking that knee in 2016.
“I’m still working on writing things down, I haven’t really gotten that one all the way, but I am putting those things into my phone,” Marshall said with a laugh. “So, that’s kind of typing it … I really believe there is a crossover in things, how you might do things in your personal life can affect how you do things on the field, just in terms of consistency as a person, things like that. I wanted to improve my consistency in my personal life and on the field.’’