Pick your poison. Linebacker. Quarterback. Running back. Defensive end. Safety.
Pick any number of positions on a football field and, chances are, Izzy does it.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 181 pounds, Mountain Pointe junior Israel “Izzy” Marshall has proven this season, in helping the 12-0 Pride reach the Class 5A-I state semfinals, that he has the ability to play much bigger than the roster listings make him out to be. Case in point: when he pinches up next to the already-sizable Pride defensive line, ready to exploit an opponent and blow through the quarterback for a sack, or snuff out a run practically before the tailback even gets the ball in his hand. Izzy’s done it.
And yet, even when he’s doing just that -- looking more imposing than the lineup card would indicate -- there are the points when this heady gamebreaker can slip back into coverage and hang with even the most slippery of lanky wide receivers.
“At the beginning of the year he played free safety, and we moved him from there to strong safety,” coach Norris Vaughan said. “And, really, he’s now at a hybrid position. He’s a linebacker now, but can drop back as a safety, move up on the line, whatever.”
Marshall said he relishes the opportunity to be a master of many traits this season.
“I think it’s really important. Maybe someone gets hurt, or is too tired to go in for a play. I’m always there to step up. Always,” He said. “Coach has me rotating at different positions during practice, so I’m ready.”
Entering Friday’s state semifinal matchup with Mesa, Marshall is second on the Pride in tackles with 59, trailing only senior linebacker Joey Leal. Vaughan likened Leal and Marshall as the Pride’s defensive quarterbacks -- a fitting classification for Marshall, who in fact is a quarterback for the Pride, too.
Time has been scarce under center for Marshall this season, but he will jump out there on occasion in relief of starter Austin Blom, intent on offering a chance of pace and catching opposing defenses off guard. And with the Pride blowing out teams many times this year arleady, just as the coaching staff gets ready to send in the second unit on defense early in most fourth quarters, Marshall hasn’t had too much time to rest. He’s almost immediately thrown back in at quarterback to help give the first string offense a break too.
“Being a backup quarterback helps me on defense. It helps me understand what the other team might do,” he said, adding that he loves playing quarterback, but assuring that his allegiance truly lies with getting to lay out an opponent. “I’m a physical guy. I love defense. Hitting is what I like to do.”
Marshall is a certain college prospect on defense according to MP coaches. That’s why Vaughan notes that looking ahead, he doesn’t know if Marshall will be the Pride’s quarterback next season. In essence, that’s for the same reason that Marshall’s position has been hard to define this year.
“He’s going to play where we need him at,” Vaughan said. “Of course we don’t know where that is yet ... but he’s good enough he can play anywhere so we’re going to try and take advantage of that.”
Marshall even lined up at running back for the first time during the Pride’s playoff opener as star back Davon Jones briefly nursed a tender hip on the sideline.
As for the rest of this season -- where every remaining game is the biggest game any Pride player has ever been involved in -- Marshall said he does everything he can to stay even keel, not getting too high or too low in any situation.
Despite missing a good chunk of last year’s football and basketball season -- he’s a key cog for the Pride boys hoops team as well -- thanks to a torn meniscus in the left knee, Marshall still knows what going 2-8 last year felt like when he was just a sophomore. That’s why, he said, he refuses to take anything for granted.
“Last year kind of broke those seniors down. But it made me stronger watching it. It made me realize I would need to become a leader as a junior this year,” he said. “I’m think of it like I’m a senior ... Every one of these games is my last game because who knows, maybe it could be.”