After seeing limited touches a season ago spelling workhorse-back Sean Doherty, Mansfield's Jamel Marshall is the biggest reason for the Hornets' hot start. After sitting out their season-opening loss at Aquinas Institute of Rochester, N.Y., Marshall has been on a tear, with 622 yards on 78 carries for 10 touchdowns as they've reeled off five straight wins and climbed to No. 6 in ESPNBoston's MIAA Top 25 statewide poll.
Not a lot of people are talking about it, but at this current pace the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Marshall has a chance at rewriting the single-season records for rushing touchdowns (24, set by former BC standout Omari Walker back in 1992) and rushing yards (1,239, set by Doherty last season). Marshall sat down with ESPNBoston for a few minutes before Tuesday night's practice to discuss his breakout senior season, what it means to be a Hornet, and the importance of tradition in a league chock-full of nothing but.
Q: You had limited touches last season playing behind Sean Doherty. What kinds of goals did you set for yourself headed into this season?
A: "Well, first I set team goals. My first team goal was to win the Hock, obviously, get our team into the playoffs. Then I started focusing on myself, I really wanted to get alot of yards obviously. Not until recently did I want to break the record for rushing yards. That's been one of my goals recently."
Q: What have you been told about your chances of breaking that?
A: "They haven't mentioned anything about it, actually. But I think I have a chance of breaking it. I know I have a chance, I've just got to play hard every game, just get yards after the collision."
Q: Generally speaking, you've been described as a physical runner. In a league like the Hockomock, where in most years the competition from top to bottom is consistently competitve, what kind of a toll does that take on your body, week in and week out?
A: "I take alot of bruises. I take a beating. After every game, I'm sore. But, it's not too bad, not to the point where I can't play. You've just got to be well-conditioned, and our conditioning coach does a good job of getting us prepared for the beating we're going to take every Friday night."
Q: Is there a particular thing you really have to take care of to stay in good condition, for someone like you?
A: "Not really, not anything in particular. I'd say your legs, I do alot of squats to keep my legs strengthened (he squats 450). We do alot of running, obviously, so we can be well-conditioned, ready for whatever happens out there."
Q: What's your favorite play to run?
A: "I like running up the middle, so I like iso's, powers...toss too, I like to run the toss, hit the sideline and use my speed."
Q: Carrying the ball or playing defense, what's the best hit you've made so far in your high school career?
A: "I think I trucked someone against KP. And that was a big game for us, so I just wanted to give them a beating. I like giving the defense a hard time tackling me instead of receiving the hit. I like to hit them first."
Q: People talk alot about tradition when they mention the Hockomock League. What does the tradition mean to you? What defines it?
A: "Well, I'm glad I get to play in the Hock, because it's such a competitive league, you have to play the best if you want to be the champion of your league. Just the tradition itself, it's just a great place to play football, especially in Mansfield where the tradition is really high."
Q: Within Mansfield itself, you see how much attention is paid to the program, not just from the media but the town itself. When you put that uniform on, what are you representing?
A: "You're representing history, first of all. There's alot of history here, lot of players that came through this door and did alot of things before you. I guess when you're putting on the jersey, you're representing the people that put on the jersey before you. The same people that wore that number, or have just put on the green and white period."
Q: What's been the biggest win so far this season?
A: "Probably KP (Mansfield shut out King Philip, 28-0, two weeks ago), they've been our biggest competition so far. We expected to win, but we knew we had to practice hard every day, and we knew we had to bring our best against a team like that, and leave it all on the field, so that's what we did."
Q: Tell us about your pregame routine.
A: "Sometimes, I sit to myself, sit and think about what I need to do. Then I start to get my team ready, pumping them up. I like to listen to music, we listen to music in the locker room over the loudspeakers."
Q: Whose iPod?
A: "Dan Hirschman's iPod, or Chris Walker's. (We listen to) different kinds of music, rock, rap, a mix of the two, some 'Collision Course'-type music like the Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaboration. Waka Flocka, he's a rapper, oh he's crazy. His style of music is just different, he's more of like, amped, just jump around. He's like a Southern rapper, he's very country, I don't even know how to explain it, it's just different, totally its own category...he's yelling on the beat, it just gets you amped...like Lil' Jon, maybe."
Q: Do you ever get jitters before that first play of the game?
A: "Yeah, definitely. But after that first carry, I just feel good. But even before that carry, I still have the mentality like I'm going to hit someone before they hit me. I'm not really scared, you can't be scared coming out on the field."
Q: What kind of emotions are released after that first contact?
A: "Nervousness, I guess."
Q: Biggest key for you guys these last five games?
A: Beating North (North Attleborough), that's going to be a big game. North is the only team that stands in the way of a Hockomock title. If we beat them, we have chance of making the playoffs, even further possibly."