OSCEOLA — Korliss Marshall will tell you there were many times he worried that Wednesday’s celebration would never materialize. Yet here he was on National Signing Day, standing in front of the entire student body and calling the Hogs with his high school head coach, Russell Leggett.
A week ago he was meeting with University of Arkansas football coaches, hoping that their trip to see him would include an offer. Now the Osceola star running back is one of seven in-state players who will head to Fayetteville this summer on a football scholarship.
“I actually didn’t think it was going to happen,” Marshall said. “When I was talking to them and when they told me they were going to fly in, I knew they weren’t going to come down here for just any reason, so that’s when I really got my hopes up.
“I wasn’t sure they were going to offer me because there are so many outstanding players out there that they could be getting besides me. I never doubt any players, because I know there’s some talent out there… There are a lot of high school football players in this state, and for me to be one of seven picked, that’s amazing. That’s God’s work, if you ask me.”
Wednesday’s 9 a.m. signing ceremony was the fulfillment of a dream and the end of an arduous journey. A year ago nobody could have envisioned this ending. But in September, Marshall learned he had earned a qualifying ACT score. He also spent his senior season becoming a team leader and consummate teammate while rushing for 1,711 yards and 24 touchdowns — despite missing three games to injury. Marshall had been receiving interest from several schools, but the 11th-hour offer from the Razorbacks turned his recruitment into a one-horse race.
Leggett, who has coached Marshall every year since seventh grade, seemed almost as thrilled with the development as Marshall was.
“It’s an unbelievable experience, a lot of emotions — and I’m kind of an emotional guy anyway — when you work so hard and you see a dream out there,” Leggett said. “When I saw Korliss play in the seventh grade, I could see big things for this kid if he stayed healthy and stayed intact… You see it develop over years and years and finally to get the opportunity, it’s unbelievable.”
While Marshall made a name for himself as a running back in high school, he’ll actually join the Razorbacks as a defensive back. The 6-0, 185-pound senior said it doesn’t matter where he plays.
“I have no problem with the defensive back at all. I’m really familiar with the safety and corner positions, it’s just a fact that I’ve basically been a running back my whole life,” Marshall said. “It’s a blessing to be able to beat up on somebody else for a change. Once you’ve been beat up for eight years maybe, it’s an honor.”
Regardless of his eventual position, Arkansas coaches can be confident that they have signed a supreme athlete. He’s been timed in the 4.3-second range in the 40-yard dash, and even his slowest recorded 40 time is around 4.45. He also has a 39-inch vertical leap, a long jump of more than 23 feet and a triple jump of more than 45 feet. He was the Class 4A state champion in the triple jump as a sophomore.
Marshall had to wait for the offer he desired, but the delay didn’t change how much it meant to him.
“That was a big honor for me to be a recruit going to Arkansas,” Marshall said. “It’s an honor and it’s going to be something I’ll value for the rest of my life.”
Added Leggett: “Even though the offer came late, it doesn’t take any luster off it.”
That was evident on Wednesday morning. Half an hour after most the students had been dismissed to class, Marshall was still surrounded by family, well-wishers and his Osceola football teammates. He allowed students to sign his Arkansas T-shirt with a Sharpie and patiently posed for enough photos to put a wedding party to shame.
A full hour after he entered, Marshall finally left the auditorium with Leggett. And nobody could blame him for the prolonged celebration.