INDIANAPOLIS — Jalin Marshall knows the hurdles that lie in front of him as a football player. He also is fully aware of what is behind him as a football player since he left Ohio State after just three seasons with the program.
"I think I surprised a lot of people, but I know that was expected," Marshall said Thursday at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. "Me and my family, we sat down and talked about it and that really means the most to me, that's what is important to me."
For Marshall, that is enough. He played for two seasons at Ohio State, redshirting his first year on campus with a knee injury. As a wide receiver and H-back, the former Middletown, Ohio, star blossomed late in his team's 2014 national championship run.
Marshall tallied five receptions in both the Alabama and Oregon victories during the College Football Playoff, hauling in passes from Cardale Jones in tight windows often for key third down conversions. He finished the season with 38 grabs for 499 yards and six touchdowns.
His receiving numbers from 2015 are similar (36 catches, 477 yards, five touchdowns), but there are questions about why he elected to leave two years of eligibility on the table in Columbus with so much talent leaving Urban Meyer's program.
"I have in my notes that I’m stunned that that kid came out,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call Tuesday. “With Michael Thomas and Braxton Miller gone, he had the chance to be the No. 1 wide receiver next year for the Ohio State Buckeyes, with all that attention on him and the chance to have a great season and enhance his draft status.
“I can't really run from the past. All I can do is control my future and that's what I'm anxious to be able to do.”– Jalin Marshall
"From a football standpoint, I think he made a mistake."
Miller and Thomas are also at the NFL Combine, and likely will be selected in the early come draft time.
But this isn't about them. It's about Marshall, who wants to prove his versatility in the run and pass game in addition to his work as a returner that he did not error in turning pro.
"I just want to prove that I belong here, belong to be able to play in the NFL with the best of the best," Marshall said. "I have the opportunity to prove that through this whole weekend."
Projections have Marshall coming off the draft board as a mid to late-round selection, so he certainly could have stayed and boosted his stock with J.T. Barrett back at quarterback for the Buckeyes.
But Marshall felt he'd done enough in college. He won a national title, a Big Ten Championship and was a key part in 26 wins against just two losses the last two seasons. Plus, he didn't want to risk playing another year in college when his heart wasn't there.
"I don't know if it would have been any different for me, but I know in the past, the players that I've talked to that wanted to leave and had the opportunity to leave but came back, it was miserable," Marshall said. "Not wanting to go to class, not doing the stuff that you have to do but you don't want to do because you think you already made it."
Marshall said Meyer and wide receivers coach Zach Smith tried to get him to return for his redshirt junior season, but ultimately it came down to a decision he made with his family. In his mind, it was the right move to leave and embark on a new challenge, even if he isn't as highly regarded as his 13 teammates also at the Combine.
"I felt like I could have been the top receiver the last couple years I was there, but it didn't really work out like that," Marshall said. "I can't really run from the past. All I can do is control my future and that's what I'm anxious to be able to do."