Fans know Brandon Marshall for his hard-hitting action on the field, his no-fear attitude against any opponent, and his way of making a statement about social injustice by being the first Bronco to take a knee during the national anthem.
But how much do fans really know about number 54, the linebacker for the Denver Broncos?
Denver7's Anne Trujillo spoke in-depth with the woman who raised him, the one he calls his inspiration.
I sat down for a cup of coffee and conversation at Carino Coffee in Centennial, not far from Barbara Marshall’s new home. She just moved here in September.
“Brandon decided he wanted to buy me a house. He asked me where I wanted to live. I got excited and said, 'I think I’ll move to Denver.' That way I’ll be closer to him,” said Barbara.
She lives about 20 minutes away from Brandon. She's not “too close,” because she wanted her bachelor son to have his space and come visit whenever he wants.
Yes, Barbara helps out with errands for Brandon: dog sits her grand-dog named Lola and cooks Brandon’s favorite foods.
“His favorite fattening food is fried catfish, homemade mac and cheese and cornbread,” she said.
She also makes a lemon cheese pie that Brandon really likes. Now, before you start adding up the calories, she tells me she tries to make that only on special occasions. Mom knows Brandon watches what he eats, sticking primarily to vegetables, grilled chicken and fish.
As we sip on our coffee, Barbara pulls out pictures from when Brandon was a baby.
“He was always a little chunky something, and then he grew up and just got really tall,” she said.
We reminisced about their upbringing. Barbara always had her boys busy in sports from the time they were small, and since Marcus is two years older, he was first to start football when Brandon was too young to play.
Barbara loves telling the story of how Brandon took his brother’s equipment that first day, put it on and wouldn’t give it back. He ended up sleeping in it. That was the start of his love for football.
“We’ve always been close, he and I and his brother Marcus, just the three of us, the three musketeers,” said Barbara.
That statement might make you think she was a single parent. That didn’t happen until the boys were ten and twelve. She was married to their father for ten years.
“Dad had some substance abuse issues, and you know, it was getting to be tougher and tougher to be at home with him," said Barbara. "I got a little fearful for my life and my boys, and I didn’t want them to be around anything like that, so we left. We were hiding.”
The three went to a family member’s home to get away, but her husband found them. Barbara didn’t go into detail but said he kicked in the door and they tussled.
“I came out of it alive,” she said.
She said she didn’t want her boys growing up thinking that’s the way you are supposed to live or treat women.
"It was just too much. He never laid a hand on my boys, but I didn’t want them growing up in that environment at all,” she said.
That’s when Barbara, Marcus and Brandon went to a shelter to hide out. They lived for 26 days. She says it was something she needed to do and never looked back.
Barbara’s eyes light up when I asked her what she thinks when she looks her boys now.
"Amazing! They have grown into such wonderful men,” she replied.
Marcus lives in Las Vegas, where he has a family and a music career that is taking off.
“Brandon, he’s living his dream. He’s always wanted to play in the NFL. He’s even playing for his favorite football team from when he was young," said Barbara.
I asked her what’s it like seeing her son playing professional football, pulling in an average annual salary of $8 million.
“To see my son run out of that tunnel every week it's still is exciting. It’s the best feeling ever to know he’s in a good place. He’s with a good team in a good city, and he’s happy and just living his dream,” she said.
Brandon Marshall made news Sep. 8, when he was the first Broncos player to take a knee during the singing of the national anthem after his former teammate Colin Kaepernick did the same.
Barbara was at that game and didn’t know he was going to kneel. She was surprised and then proud.
“I'm proud of him for being a man, standing up and deciding to use his platform for good. We have military in our family; my father was a World War II veteran. We have police in our family, so it’s nothing against them. It’s just the injustices that's going on," she explains. "He feels that someone in a situation he is blessed to be in should use that platform to try and help in some small way."
How did she handle all the backlash and nasty comments? No parent wants to hear negative comments about their child, but she heard them, and she read them. She was sad to hear the hurtful, negative comments.
“If people would just stop and listen to his message then they could understand," she said.
Barbara says her son has always wanted to do what’s right. He started a foundation in his hometown of Las Vegas to help at-risk youth stay in school. He visits Denver schools, talking to young people about the value of education.
His mom credits his upbringing for his passion of sharing his message with young people about staying in school, obeying their parents, the law, and just doing what’s right.
“It comes from seeing our family living right and doing what’s right. I’ve always tried to instill in my boys that there’s a right way and wrong way to live, and they needed to be the best men they could be,” said Barbara.
Barbara Marshall is now retired and content. She’s happy to help her son wherever she can.
She also volunteers her time at a Denver shelter that provides help for families caught in abusive situations like her family dealt with. She is at every Broncos home game, wearing orange and blue and cheering just as any proud mom would be. She knows her family is now in a good place.