Isaiah “Zeke” Marshall is a phenom at the quarterback position. Anybody who is into little league football in the Detroit area and around the country knows his name. He has been picking apart defenses ever since he started with the Southfield Falcons, then with the West Seven Rams, and now back with the Falcons. The University of Michigan wants Marshall to do the same for them, offering him a scholarship Tuesday morning.
Marshall is only a seventh-grader at MacArthur Middle School in Southfield, becoming the youngest player ever in the state of Michigan to earn a high-major offer. A few years ago, a handful of 8th-graders received offers, but Marshall is in a league of his own.
“My dad called me on my way to my workout and he said he had some big news for me,” said the 5-foot-8, 150-pounder, Marshall. “He told me that Jim Harbaugh came to his high school, saw my highlight tape, and called my dad back to offer me.”
“At first, I was confused. I thought my dad wasn’t telling the truth. But I was excited, and it means a lot.”
Marshall is your average 13-year-old off the field. He plays baseball and basketball, and plays video games on his PS4. His favorite quarterbacks are Anthony Romphf of Southfield A&T High School, former Ohio State Buckeye Dwyane Haskins, and Kansas City Chiefs signal-caller Patrick Mahomes. Those three are not only good on their respective levels, but they are team players, and Marshall has that trait as well.
“The offer means a lot because now this will open doors for my teammates to get some looks,” he said.
Marshall said he likes Michigan a lot and has been on the campus before. His cousin Lawrence Marshall played at Southfield High in 2014 and defensive end for Michigan. He plans to visit Ann Arbor next month for the program’s Junior Day.
His father, Brian Marshall, played for legendary coach Al Fracassa at Birmingham Brother Rice, then in college at Northwestern. Marshall is an assistant coach for the Southfield A&T Warriors and the Southfield Falcons. His uncle, Aaron Marshall, is the offensive coordinator at the high school and his position trainer, so when it is time for Marshall to enter high school in a couple of years, he will remain playing for his father and uncle.
Brian Marshall rushed for 560 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats from 1997-1998. He also caught one touchdown. Aaron Marshall played for Youngstown State in the early 2000s and played arena football for a few years. He also won two state championships at Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago.
But the best of them all may be older brother Willis Marshall, who also coaches at Southfield A&T. He won a state championship at Brother Rice in 1990, three national championships at Youngstown State in 1993, 1994, and 1997 under Jim Tressel, a Grey Cup title in the Canadian Football League with quarterback Jeff Garcia in 1998, and was ArenaBowl MVP in 2005 with the Colorado Crush. Isaiah’s mother, Yolanda “Yogi” Lewis-Marshall, also played Division I basketball at DePaul in the 2000s. Sports at a high level runs in the Marshall family and Isaiah is up next off the bench.
“A lot of people and coaches have put work into him over the years; not just me and my brothers,” Brian Marshall said of his son. “Reggie Wynns of Rising Stars has been very instrumental in getting him around the right type of guys and athletes, preaching the right messages. Reg is like an uncle to him and he’s seen what it’s like to play at a high level going to his camps.”
Offering middle-schoolers has become a growing trend over the years, with some supporting it and others shaming it. The elder Marshall said he knew his son would be a wanted football prospect, it was just a matter of when and how. He has seen and coached a number of players who have gotten scholarship offers early in the process and said his views on it will not change because his own son has joined the trend.
“It’s definitely different once it happens to you, versus when you see it. And I see the good and the bad,” said Marshall. “Honestly, the positive is, you get to shine the light on some kids that have put the work in and other coaches get some recognition. Also, with that comes a lot of scrutiny and negativity. You have to have a strong foundation and it takes a village to raise these boys. We’ve all been there and done that, and the main thing is to protect him from the bad that’s out there.”
The recruiting process can be a dirty game. Especially when it comes to easily impressionable teenagers. But Marshall has dealt with it all as a player and coach and knows the ins and out of it all. His son is not on social media and he runs his Twitter page. He is already grooming Isaiah for interviews and looking into colleges, something that was not happening when he was coming up.
“It can be overwhelming at times, especially with the social media age,” Marshall added. “It’s so competitive with the schools but you have to embrace it and enjoy the ride. I always say that you have to find the school that’s best for you. I tell the kids to fall in love with the school. You may love that coach, but coaches come and go, so you have to love that school because that is something you can fall back on.”