Not a desire, an obsession–Iman Marshall wants to be the best

The numbers speak for themselves, but for Iman Marshall they're simply not enough.

LOS ANGELES–It’s 10:43 a.m. at USC’s annual Pro Day and Iman Marshall gets set to take his next set of reps in front of an array of scouts from the NFL’s 32 teams. Marshall runs backward, his legs gliding on the grass of Cromwell Field, he quickly turns and shifts his body around to catch a pass. He repeats the drill several times over, not once missing a beat. His routine is like clockwork.

For Marshall, the drill is another step in the lead up to the 2019 NFL Draft. Drills like these coupled with the standard 40-yard dash help give draft evaluators a better understanding of the several hundred players who hope to break into the NFL, but for Marshall, the game stats speak for themselves.

Per Pro Football Focus, an evaluating service, Marshall:

  • Only allowed a reception every 20 snaps in coverage for USC, leading the Pac-12.
  • Allowed the fewest yards after catch among the 74 FBS cornerbacks who spent at least 400 snaps in coverage.
  • Allowed just 0.60 yards per snap, the best in the Pac-12 among draft-eligible corners.

Nearly every week, Marshall was recognized for his physical play, limiting top receivers such as Arizona State's N'Keal Harry to under 100 yards. And while the numbers don't lie, Marshall wants to become even better, hoping to join the NFL to compete with the nation's top players.

"I'm not [ever] going to be satisfied," Marshall told reporters. "I'm going to continue to work hard, even when I have the opportunity wherever I go."

Marshall's desire to always improve his skills has been showcased during his time at USC.

He models his game after Champ Bailey and Darrelle Revis, two of the best cornerbacks of the modern era as well as Jalen Ramsey, one of the league's premier corners perhaps known more for his boisterous personality.

"You gotta have that swag when you [play] at that position," Marshall said. "I like to play with that swag."

While Marshall is hopeful to bring his large personality to his next locker room, he is even more focused on being able to compete with the best, however that may be.

"At the end of the day, I just want to play football," Marshall said. "Wherever I can get on the field, play where I can play at, that's what I want to do and continue to do."

Scouts have lauded Marshall's physical play and aggressive tackling, and believe that his frame and play push him more towards the safety role, a potential necessity come draft day. Despite playing almost exclusively at corner, Marshall agrees, citing his football IQ as a part of that transition.

"I feel like I bring a lot of tangibles that can make me play safety," Marshall said.

His IQ shows when discussing the change in the landscape of the NFL, from a run-based league to a more pass-happy medium.

"This game is becoming a more pass-oriented game," Marshall said. "You need a lot of safeties and corners that can play in the box, that can play upfield because you [have] a lot of quick tight ends and stuff like that."

Throughout his four years at USC, Marshall amassed 218 total tackles, six interceptions, 42 passes defended and a forced fumble. He was honored in year-end awards and was named to the 2019 Senior Bowl, where he had a strong week.

However, it is USC's season finale loss to Notre Dame that Marshall best believes showcases his true ability as a player. The stats from the game aren't particularly noteworthy, just six tackles and three pass breakups, but Marshall believes there is more to deduce then just numbers alone.

"I had the ability to show my versatility, my ability to go against bigger dudes," Marshall said. "I got attacked more in that game, I had the ability to show what I can do."

Per, a football analysis website, Marshall is seen as the No. 12-ranked cornerback in his class. In mock drafts, Marshall has been pegged as a middle-round player, going as early as the third round and has been linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers.

Still, with the draft a little over a month away and having done everything that he could, Marshall doesn't plan on letting up, not now, not ever.

“You can’t [ever] stop this grind,” Marshall said. “This is only the first part, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

With the competition as high as it has ever been in the league, it isn't necessarily the team that has Marshall excited, but rather the ability to match up and play against the league's top receivers.

"You play this game to be a competitor. If you're not a competitor, why are you playing it? I want to compete against everybody."

Marshall will get his opportunity when the NFL Draft kicks off on April 25.