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Brandon Marshall is a new kind of role model in the NFL

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Just a scroll through Brandon Marshall's Wikipedia page and you'll quickly see that you're not dealing with your regular NFL Pro-Bowler - but then again, Brandon Marshall isn't just your regular guy.

The Bad Guy, The Angry One, The Wasted Talent, The Thug

You can read the stories, the incidents, the crimes, the achievements, the breakdowns and the criticisms and you can find your mind painting portraits of a sportsman that we've seen over and over and will continue to see; the Bad Guy, the Angry One, the Wasted Talent, the Thug - not one of them reflecting well on the new New York Jets wide receiver, despite his remarkable on-field talent and success.

Like many who have gone before him and many who still go on, Marshall could be remembered for his moments of darkness rather than the times of elation he has brought to the NFL. He could also be remembered for something far bigger.


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The Run-Ins

With the ever-judgmental and hypocritical eyes of the world peering on, how can a man being paid $10 million annually justify his numerous run-ins with the law? As a professional sportsman, how can he even justify slipping on a McDonald's bag and falling through a TV set in the off-season, severely injuring his arm and numbing his hand for the entirety of the following season to the fans who pay his astronomical wages?

If you view him as a professional sportsman with a background similar to yours, it is difficult. However, before Marshall is a professional sportsman, he is a human being and he should be treated as such. His background may have gifted him with the desire and ability to be one of the best wide receivers to grace the gridiron but it also tainted him with a destructive touch which even today is still proving unforgivable by some.

And if it wasn't his off-the-field antics that was raising eyebrows of the people around him, it was his child-like exploits on the field that would over-shadow his record-breaking statistics. There was something not quite right with him and we all took it that that's the way it was always going to be, maybe even Brandon himself thought that too.

A Huge Disparity

Sportsmen lead a unique lifestyle as it is and this is magnified detrimentally where there is a huge disparity between their education of the world prior to their rise in fame and fortune and our expectations of them. This is most evident with Marshall. With a volatile environment both in his home and on the streets where he grew up (Brandon would often see his father strike his mother), an escape was found in sport and a clear path soon emerged for him.

Despite this, the aggression of those around him was shaping his understanding of the world. This isn't something simply signing a professional contract would free him from. Brandon's trouble with the law began before he was drafted, being arrested in college for assaulting a police officer and continued throughout his first six years in the league, rarely out of the headlines, mostly regarding (you guessed it) domestic violence.

This all came to a halt when Brandon had reached rock bottom. He was realising the extent to which he was hurting his loved ones, particularly his wife Michi. The couple got into an altercation which left Brandon with a stab wound after his wife had acted in self-defense. The final straw.

He has admitted that he sought help ever since coming into the League but no one could give him answers - a clear insight into the awareness of mental health even within the medical sphere. He knew for sure something was not quite right with him and he was driven to getting to the bottom of it.

A New Beginning

Realising something is wrong is the first step to recovery - and often it can take an unfortunate event for people to see the light. But what was Brandon to recover from? He was just another rich, abusive sport star husband, wasn't he?

He checked himself into a clinic and got tested. Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental health disorder which is linked to severe depression, mood swings, substance abuse and reckless behaviour was the diagnosis.

Although it may have explained his actions in the past, it definitely did not excuse them and Brandon was more than aware as he set out on a new beginning to make better of his life - something money, fame and success was unable to do prior.

On July 31, 2011, Brandon, then with the Miami Dolphins, held a press conference to reveal his illness to the world. The then 27 year-old was on a self-proclaimed journey to end the stigma surrounding his disorder and others alike and to raise awareness of mental health issues, treating himself in the process.

"That is my mission moving forward. I love the game, but it’s not my priority anymore. Today my journey begins."

An intense three-month program in the off-season saw Brandon Marshall conquer his demons and even open up his own foundation, which he and his wife continue to actively contribute to, helping sufferers of mental health of all ages across America, particularly children.

The off-season simply came at a convenient time. If he wasn't able to get better in that three-month period before the season started, he was fully committed to writing to his team and the NFL to say that he will walk away from the sport until he was ready. Not quite the Marshall of old. Not quite the attitude of a money-hungry, self-absorbed, care-free sportsman.

Since being diagnosed with BPD, Brandon Marshall has only been charged once by the NFL for improper conduct. He wore a pair of bright green boots in support of Mental Illness Awareness Week and donated his fine to charity. Personal issues can often affect professional performance as Tiger Woods and Mike Tyson will attest. Not Brandon.

On the field, his stats haven't suffered. You could argue they've slightly improved. Though he continues to set the NFL alight, his heart is set on helping the lives of others; proving that you're capable of more than you can imagine.

Brandon Marshall's story is one difficult to fathom. It is the ultimate and most unlikely of turnarounds and a tale that despite all of the bad, should be celebrated and used as education for people of all ages. It's proof that anything is possible and that sometimes the thing that is holding you back is all in your head.

"If we are celebrating the past, I don't think that's a good thing. If we are celebrating now, I don't think that's a good thing either. If we are celebrating the future, I think it can be a good thing but it starts with you" - Brandon Marshall

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