During his football playing days, Ray Marshall was a downright stud, even though he was a little late coming to the dance.
You see, when Marshall was first at Lincoln High School in the 1990s, he was primarily a basketball player.
“I didn’t play football until my senior year,” Marshall said.
But Marshall earned a scholarship to play football at St. Peter’s College and he flourished there under fellow Jersey City native Roy Miller, the head coach at SPC at the time. In fact, Marshall led the entire nation in NCAA Division I-AA in punt returns as a junior, earning Division I AA All-America honors. As a senior with the Peacocks, Marshall had an astounding 98 receptions.
The college success enabled Marshall to play professionally in the Canadian Football League for one season. He tried his hand at Arena football, but didn’t like it.
“So I came home to Jersey City,” Marshall said. “I decided to get into coaching.”
Marshall was an assistant coach at his alma mater, Lincoln, for 13 years, first under Tom Ferriero and then under current head coach Robert Hampton.
“I liked coaching,” Marshall said. “I learned the ropes from Coach Hampton. He showed me what it takes to be a head coach. He gave me the blueprint of how to be a successful head coach.”
However, after 13 years of being an assistant, Marshall wanted to branch out and explore other horizons. When the Snyder head coaching position opened up, Marshall threw his hat into the ring.
“After 13 years, I figured I was ready,” Marshall said. “I had the job offered to me a few years ago, but I turned it down. I wasn’t ready. I still needed to get my feet a little wet. But now is the time.”
Marshall knows that he’s not walking into a football factory at Snyder. The program hasn’t had a winning season in more than 20 years. The Tigers are currently in the middle of a 29-game losing streak, dating back to Nov. 5, 2011. They have won just six games in the last six seasons.
“I know it’s a challenge, but I love challenges,” Marshall said. “When I first went to Snyder, I fell in love with the kids. I communed with them. I just like teaching football. It doesn’t matter where I am.”
Marshall has quickly shed his Lincoln past and taken on the orange and black of the Snyder Tigers.
“This is my family now,” Marshall said. “When I left Lincoln to come to Snyder, I was coming so that these kids could have some success. We’re going to take some lumps at first, but we’re establishing discipline.”
Marshall said that he’s familiar with most of the Snyder players because of his association for the past 14 years with the Jersey City Recreation football program.
“These kids know who I am and I know them,” Marshall said. “I’m a familiar face. I’m willing to go the extra mile for them. They know what they’re going to get from me.”
The Tigers have already begun preseason workouts every day, including Sunday.
“I let them go to church, then they’re here by 2 p.m.,” Marshall said. “I have 51 kids here, not including freshmen. They’re here most of the time. I think they want to play and they want to win.”
Marshall said that he had the players fill out index cards of what their initial goals were.
“Most of them wrote that they wanted to score a touchdown and they wanted to win,” Marshall said. “They scored only two touchdowns all season last year.”
The 40-year-old Marshall truly believes that there are talented football players at Snyder.
“I really do believe that the most talented football players in Jersey City come from the Greenville area, our area,” Marshall said. “We have to do a better job of keeping those talented kids in our district.”
Marshall said that he’s seen promising things from sophomores Charles Ransom and Dakim Lyons thus far.
“They are really doing well,” Marshall said. “They went to Temple’s football camp [in Philadelphia] and were really big surprises.”
Marshall said that he has reached out to the Jersey City charter schools that don’t have football programs.
“We want all the charter schools to know that we intend to keep the kids in this area and we’re going to even things out a bit,” Marshall said. “We’re not Lincoln yet. In fact, we’re not even close. We’re not established. We have to change the culture of the kids.”
Marshall feels like he’s doing the right thing already.
“A lot of these kids are just starting out playing football,” Marshall said. “This first year will be all about teaching. We need to get stuff ready in time for our first game. It’s not going to happen magically and it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Marshall has instilled the pistol offense in with the Snyder quarterbacks.
“I’m really excited, because I feel that I can put a team on the field that can win,” Marshall said. “I can’t wait. We’re going to learn as we go. We can call upon each other and learn. It’s not going to be about wins and losses. It’s getting the chance to compete. I hope we can compete early and throughout the season. I want people to say that it’s a different Snyder they’re playing, not like playing the same old Snyder.”
Marshall appears well on his way…
A week after we wrote that former St. Anthony and DePaul standout guard Rashon Burno was headed to Nebraska University, we’ve learned that Burno has changed course and is headed to Arizona State to be united with fellow St. Anthony alum and new ASU head coach Bobby Hurley. We’ll have more on the Tempe-Jersey City connection before the summer is through…
Former St. Peter’s Prep standout football and baseball player Michael Lang is still performing well in minor league baseball.
The former Hudson Reporter Player of the Year, who had a fine career at Rutgers, was named the American Association Player of the Week for the week ending July 5. Lang, now playing for the Sioux City Explorers, went 14-for-30 last week, including a double, three triples and seven RBI. For the season, Lang is hitting a robust .350 with 10 doubles, five triples, two homers and 31 RBI. It’s Lang’s third season with Sioux City after gaining a release from the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.