October 24, 2013

The catalyst

AUBURN | Nick Marshall was a risk when he signed with the Tigers in February.

He had some baggage after being kicked off the team at Georgia. He was a maverick on the field during his lone season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, where Marshall excelled as a play-maker and struggled as a game manager. He fumbled often. He was intercepted far too frequently. Yet he almost always found ways to redeem himself following every misstep -- on the field or off it.

And that's what intrigued Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee so much. Marshall understood his weaknesses and was driven to fix them. He wanted to be great and had the ability to be great.

The moment of truth arrived in Baton Rouge. That's when Marshall, who was flummoxed throughout the first half, played at a much higher level during the second half. He guided Auburn to a renaissance of sorts, managing three touchdown drives and, in the process, galvanized his head coach's opinion.

"There are certain players when the moment presents itself, they play their best," Malzahn said a few days after the game. "I think he may be one of those players."

The past month has alleviated any lingering doubts.

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