Opinion: Marvelous Marshall
There are 64 schools in Kansas that fall in the Class 4A category, which is made up of schools with an enrollment between 205 and 526 students.
Figuring that most of those schools field football teams with an average of 45 players on their varsity rosters, that puts the total number of Class 4A high school football players in Kansas somewhere around 2,880.
Last week, the Kansas Football Coaches Association labeled one Basehor-Linwood High School football player as one of the best of those 2,800 athletes.
Kevin Marshall, a three-year starter and all-league performer for the Bobcats this season, was named to the Class 4A all-state team as a defensive lineman.
Marshall, who led Basehor-Linwood in tackles, sacks and enthusiasm, became the fourth player from BLHS to earn all-state honors during coach Steve Hopkins' time with the program.
Marshall, a second-team selection in 2006, joins linemen Tim Brownlee and Kyle Speichinger, who were picked in 2004, and quarterback Michael Armstrong, who was named to the team as an offensive specialist in 2004.
According to Hopkins, Marshall's inclusion on the all-state squad was no accident.
During his days with the BLHS football program Marshall worked tirelessly to shape himself into one of the most dominant defenders in the Kaw Valley League and throughout the area.
"Kevin's greatest strength is how hard he played," Hopkins said. "He was relentless. He never gave up on a play."
That much is obvious from looking at his stats.
During his senior season, in which he spent several games playing both offense and defense, Marshall led the Bobcats with 63 tackles. Of those tackles, 25 were for a loss and 14 were quarterback sacks.
Marshall's best moments weren't limited to game nights. He was a force in practice, who demanded that his teammates get better by working hard and practicing with enthusiasm.
He was a warrior in practice. He was passionate and entertaining during the games.
"Kevin is an enthusiastic player who gets the others around him excited to play," Hopkins said. "He goes so hard on every rep. He made us so much better in practice by forcing our offense to block him and account for him. He enjoyed practice, but really elevated his emotions on game day and played with total abandon."
But it wasn't just his opponents on the field who were forced to recognize him.
Marshall was often the focal point for opposing coaches' game plans prior to the game. And he was almost always acknowledged by other coaches after the game -- win or lose.
It was his heart and fire, along with his statistics, that earned him a spot on this year's all-state squad. And now he's hoping the same things will give him a shot on a college roster.
At 5-foot-11, 191 pounds, Marshall lacks the size to step right in as a defensive end at the college level. And Hopkins said Marshall's average speed is the only thing keeping him from becoming a big-time collegiate linebacker.
But because of his passion for the game and the intensity with which he plays it, Marshall will undoubtedly get a chance.
I know I wouldn't pass on a chance to suit him up.