‘Play for Jay’

Published 9:28 pm Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Senior members of the Charles Henderson football team, along with head coach Brad McCoy, plan to honor Jacquerean Marshall by giving their all during the 2014 football season. Marshall wore jersey No. 59. (Photo/April Garon)

Senior members of the Charles Henderson football team, along with head coach Brad McCoy, plan to honor Jacquerean Marshall by giving their all during the 2014 football season. Marshall wore jersey No. 59. (Photo/April Garon)

Teammates to honor Marshall with hard work, winning

Christian London is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs close to 300 pounds. But the big offensive lineman readily admits he “cried like a little baby” upon hearing the news that teammate Jacquerean Marshall had been shot.

London wasn’t the only Charles Henderson player brought to tears. Nearly every player of the Trojan roster said they were shocked and saddened to learn of Marshall’s incident.

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Late Friday evening, Marshall was shot once in the head. He was transported to Troy Regional Medical Center and then to Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan. As his condition worsened, Marshall was later sent to UAB Hospital in Birmingham.

Multiple surgeries, and lot of praying later, Marshall’s condition improved to stable, but his football career is over.

“It hurt a lot to hear that he would never play or see again,” London said. “He was, and still is, the heart of the O-line. He will be with us every game, and maybe he when he gets healed up he can be on the sideline with us. We love him and he will always be a Trojan.”

Marshall’s incident isn’t the first tragedy endured by the Class of 2015. As freshmen, the group experienced the loss of teammate Ronnell Moore in a car accident in the summer before the season began and the sudden death of defensive coordinator Tyrone Black midway through the 2011 campaign. In 2012, Trojan offensive lineman Noah Allison was killed in an automobile wreck.

The loss of teammates, and the near-constant change of head coaches, has brought the senior group closer together.

“This group of guys are my brothers,” quarterback Austin Ingram said. “We have been through a lot of things that high school football players shouldn’t have to deal with. But it has brought us closer together and made us stronger. We are all praying every day for Jacquerean. We know we have to be strong, because he has to be strong.”

Marshall was set to be the leader of the offensive line in 2014. He was one of the lone returning linemen with significant playing time. In 2013, Charles Henderson big men paved the way for two different 1,000-yard rushers. The unit looks to do the same this year, and London said Marshall’s injury only fuels his desire to meet the goal.

“Jay was the leader of our group,” London said. “He pushed me to work harder and be better. Now it is my job to push the other guys to work harder. Every second of every game and every sprint we do is going to be for him. We are going to keep playing, because that is what he would want us to do. Keep playing and keep winning.”

During Charles Henderson’s picture day Wednesday, the seniors, as well as the offensive line, insisted on having Marshall’s No. 59 jersey in their group picture. Head coach Brad McCoy was more than happy to oblige their request.

McCoy has only been a part of the CHHS family for a few months, but said he and his team are ready, willing and able to help Marshall’s family in anyway possible.

“I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting Jacquerean’s mother, but I have spoken to her and his grandmother and let them know that are praying for him,” McCoy said. “We as a team are ready and willing to do whatever we can to help the family.”

Demario Harris, a stellar defensive back for the Trojans, is one of Marshall’s closest friends. They call each other “bruh,” a term of endearment.

Harris, known as Squirrel by his teammates, expressed his feelings through Twitter in the hours and days after the shooting. His emotions went from fear, to anger, to acceptance and most recently relief.

Now he says there is only one thing left to do.

“We have been together since we were 4 or 5 years old,” Harris said. “This team is a family. We have prayed for Jay since it happened, and we will keep doing that. But now, we have to play for Jay. We will play for him, and will win for him.”

Charles Henderson will meet rival Pike County in Brundidge Aug. 22 in the annual preseason Pike County Classic.