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11 Great Takeaways from Leonard Marshall’s Letter To His Younger Self


Former New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Marshall wrote a letter to his younger self for The Players Tribune, which was published back in October 2015. In the letter, Leonard calls his younger self, “Lenny”, advising himself to follow the path to success carved out for him, but to be weary of certain behaviors and attitudes that will work against Marshall in a debilitating way.

Leonard believes he was diagnosed with CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy due to the damage done to the brain during full contact drills in practices. He regrets not speaking up or toning it down to reduce the long-term injury. Marshall worked as a consultant on the film “Concussion” starring Will Smith. Despite his health concerns, Marshall runs “the Soup Man” along with Larry Thomas aka “The Soup Nazi” on Seinfield. I haven’t been denied his soup – Yes, Soup For Me! – and I can attest it’s delicious.

After reading the letter, I thought I’d pull out and highlight the best and most revealing quotes:

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  • 1. Leonard’s father thought professional sports was a “farfetched dream”

    "“You’ll try to convince your dad that you’ll be dunking on guys on TV one day, but he understands the reality that right now you’re in tiny Franklin, Louisiana, living nine miles from the Gulf of Mexico. As it is, you couldn’t be much further from the bright lights of New York City (but more on that later). In Dad’s view, this is a farfetched dream. But once you convince him to come watch you play in a championship game for your basketball league, his opinion will change. When the trophies start piling up, he’ll be as convinced as you are that you’re going to make it one day.”"

    2. Basketball was Leonard’s sport until age 14…

    "“Early on, basketball will be your sport. The only problem is that you won’t be able to make it through a full game without fouling out. It isn’t that the refs are being too hard on you (although that’s an easy excuse), but rather that you’re playing the wrong sport.”"

    3. I needed to Google his idols…and I’m glad I did…

    "“You look up to guys like Clinton Burrell and Lyman White, who are among those special few athletes who played football at Franklin High School and went on to get drafted by the NFL.”"

    Burrell was the 6th round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns and played in 67 games with 35 starts over six seasons for the franchise. He also led the league in fumble recoveries in 1982. White was drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1981 NFL Draft, playing 18 games and starting 2 of them.

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    4. Lenny almost played for the Crimson Tide…

    "“Bear Bryant is going to do all he can to try to make you a member of the Crimson Tide.”"

    5. Marshall’s nickname was “Bootsy” because of another Clinton…

    "“Your friends there are going to call you Bootsy, after a member of a band you’re going to really dig called the Parliament Funkadelic. As far as nicknames go, it’s not so bad.”"

    6. Leonard’s got great quotes, gave me new words to live by…

    "“As long as you’re green, you’ll continue to grow, and when you think you’re ripe, you’ll start to rot. Never feel ripe.”"

    7. Marshall was just a little vain his rookie season with the Giants…

    "“…when you do finally make it to the NFL, don’t put your jersey number and name on the license plate of your car. Your teammates are going to tear into you for that one!”"

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    8. Leonard and this “crazy guy” named Lawrence were more than teammates…

    "“While you’re with the Giants, you’re going to meet this guy from Williamsburg, Virginia. His name is Lawrence, but most people will know him by LT. He’s a little crazy now, but the two of you have a lot in common. He also came up from a two-parent household, a strong African-American family…when he comes into your life — and this is important — just try to compete with him on the same level. Don’t try to outplay him, outperform him, or outdo him at anything. Just compete with him.”"

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    9. Marshall watched game film and was well-prepared on crucial downs…

    "“In 1984, you’re going to toss Dwayne Crutchfield of the Rams backwards for a 3-yard loss to help seal a playoff win for the Giants. Trust your mind on that play. The whole stadium will think the ball is going to Eric Dickerson, but your film preparation will tip you off on the fact that Crutchfield is getting the carry. This is what’s possible when you combine your talents with preparation.”"

    10. Like I said, Marshall is a man of wise words…

    "“Your reputation is an easy thing to seal, and a near impossible thing to change.”"

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    11. Even with CTE, Leonard Marshall wouldn’t trade his experience for the world…

    "“When you weigh the consequences versus the opportunities, you’ll conclude it was worth it.  Not only did football provide you with the experiences I’ve listed above, but it will help you take care of your family and put your siblings through college.”"

    When I see or hear the name Leonard Marshall, two memories will forever stick out for me: 1) Leonard in the bare minimum of a shredded tanktop, arm extended, celebrating his first Super Bowl win and 2) Ending Joe Montana’s career with the 49ers in the NFC Championship game that sent the Giants to their second Super Bowl under Bill Parcells. I hope Leonard can find happiness in knowing that fans like me will never forget his contributions and sacrifices. Thank you, Lenny!