An interview is a river of words. It changes direction, speed and volume. Vistas change. Moods fluctuate. A surprise is always possible. Sometimes you never see it coming, the moment when the interview, that river, takes your breath away.
And so it was Monday when I felt the need to cheer up Nick Marsh.
Don’t misunderstand. Marsh wasn’t morose, didn’t ask to be cheered up. Pain didn’t color his words. It was more like a bewilderment, a confusion actually, why he isn’t in a NFL training camp right now. Why someone in the NFL couldn’t see what he saw.
If the NFL only knew what Marsh has done to put himself in this time and place. That’s what I was thinking. Sweat equity, Marsh may have it over anyone who has kicked or will ever kick a football. Remarkable, the road he has traveled.
Marsh began kicking field goals at age 6. When he was an All-Empire kicker at Petaluma High School, Marsh would spend his lunch period kicking to his father, Scott, at the Trojans’ football field. Scott, a software salesman, would take time off from his work to shag balls.
“I wouldn’t hang out with my friends,” said Marsh, 22. “I would kick.”
Marsh kicked year-round. When he played baseball for the Trojans, he’d still kicked three times a week.
He went to his first kicking camp at 13, at Berkeley. By the time he graduated from high school in 2008, Marsh had gone to 17 Chris Sailor kicking camps, Sailor the former UCLA star being the guru who supplied colleges with recommendations.
By his estimate Marsh had 30 paid sessions his junior and senior years at Petaluma, all of them conducted by kicking experts. Marsh went to kicking camps at Cal, Stanford, Louisiana State, Utah and Washington.
“To be the best at something,” Marsh said, “always intrigued me.”
Marsh got a full ride to Utah, was a redshirt freshman, and spent his last year of eligibility kicking for Rutgers last fall. This January he moved to the Phoenix area to work with Gary Zauner, a former special teams coach with the Vikings and Ravens who, among others, counted Gary Anderson as one of his success stories.
For four months, for five days every week, Marsh devoted his life to Zauner and his improvement of his craft. Zauner would charge $300 an hour, that’s the kind of clout he has. Retrieve kicks, whatever Zauner asked, Marsh complied.
Pre-draft, Marsh went to the New York Jets and a punting tryout.
He went to the Seattle Seahawks facility to placekick and punt. He went to sub-regional combines which earned him a spot at the Super Regional Combine in Detroit April 12 and 13.
The Jaguars, Colts, Dolphins and Bucs called for detailed information.
A prominent sports agent who specializes in handling kickers, Sean Stellato, called Marsh to represent him.
The NFL Draft from May 8-10 came and went. No calls.
“I was freaking out,” Marsh said. “I didn’t think I would get drafted but I was sure I’d be invited to a camp.”
Four days after the draft Marsh thought his luck had changed. He went to the New England Patriots’ facility to kick in the team’s rookie mini-camp.