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’Wrong way Marshall’

Jim Marshall was born in Kentucky in 1937. He went to Ohio State University and excelled in both football and track. An all-American in both high school and college, he played on the winning side in Ohio State’s 1957 Rose Bowl win over the Oregon Ducks.

In 1960, he played for the Cleveland Browns. Then in 1961, he went to the expansion Minnesota Vikings. For his career, he was truly an ironman; he played in every one of his team’s games until he retired in 1979. A member of the famed “Purple People Eaters” on the Vikings’ defensive line with Alan Page, Carl Eller and Gary Larsen, he started 270 consecutive games, an NFL record for a defensive player.

Overall he played in 282 consecutive games, plus 19 playoff games and four Super Bowls, and he was Vikings team captain for 17 years. In his career, he recovered 30 fumbles, and collected 130.5 sacks.

But then there was Oct. 25, 1964, and a game in Kezar Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers. With the 49ers driving Billy Kilmer fumbled, Marshall scooped up the ball and ran 66 yards — the wrong way — into the Vikings end zone. Then he tossed the ball out of bounds resulting in a safety for the 49ers.

When he realized what he had done, he was very embarrassed, but did he let it ruin him? No, he held his head up high and went right on playing. He even forced a fumble in that very same game, that Carl Eller took in for a touchdown and a Vikings 27-22 win. Later he got a letter from Roy Riegels welcoming him to “the club” that Riegels belonged to. Riegels, in the 1929 Rose Bowl, also picked up a fumble and ran to the wrong end zone with the ball.

Marshall was a dedicated athlete who had a stellar career worthy of the NFL Hall of Fame, but as yet he has not received his ticket to Canton, Ohio.

Jeff Hatton, Greentown

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