Marshall Long recalls the season opener in 2014 with the smile. With 2 minutes remaining in the game South Rowan trailed by three and was forced to punt, "They sent me in," recalled Marshall. Standing on his own 45-yard line Long could see the return staring at him back at the 20. The snap came, Long took his normal two steps before booming a punt which forced the returner to run backwards in an effort to return the ball. Then, amazingly, the ball bounced of the returner's hands and South Rowan recovered at the three. Rowan went on to score and win the game.
Long, who says his biggest strength as a punter is his hang time, says he is a straight on punter like NFL great Ray Guy was. His punts normally stay in the air for 4.7 to 5.0 seconds. Long averaged 44.7 yards per punt last season. He had 22 of those that went out of bounds inside the 20. His longest punt went a whopping 70 yards.
Following the 2014 season Long earned All-Conference and All-County honors. He also received his school's Tommy Barnhardt Award. Named for a former NFL player who attended South Rowan, the award goes to the top special team’s player.
Chris Sailer, who runs a well-known circuit of kicking and punting camps, ranks Long No. 7 of 86 top punters nationally. Sailer commented on Long:
"Marshall is an extremely talented punter. A great looking athlete, that is naturally gifted that has the perfect punting frame. Already hits a big ball at times. As he continues to work on his technique and consistency, the sky is the limit. I expect Marshall to be a dominating college punter. Marshall is a fine young man with a great attitude and work ethic. Has the tools to challenge for an 'Event Elite' spot this May in Las Vegas. Should also impress all summer long. Big time prospect."
Because of his punting ability Long is already getting plenty of attention from college coaches. Army has offered. Clemson is a school that Long says is recruiting him the hardest. UConn, Penn State and Appalachian State along with Cornell, Yale, and other Ivies have also been in contact.
The 6-foot-3, 220 pound Long spoke about his contact with West Point.
"They sent me a letter in the mail probably a month ago," said Long. "I didn't think too much about it because I had been receiving letters from all kinds of schools, big or small. Then I was sitting in class and they got me out of class and told me to come to the front office and there was coach Bateman, the defensive coordinator. Sat me down, told me what Army had to offer; so much history, just a good conversation. Then he offered me a scholarship."
Long, who says his father is more excited than anyone about his offer, says he was honored to get an offer from Army West Point.
"It was an honor first of all, just a school with that kind of history," said Long. "It was crazy. I had so many things running through my head. It was my first offer. It meant a lot, it really did, that he came down just to talk with me."
What's next for Long? He wants to visit Army and find out more about the school. He also plans on camping at Georgia, Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Appalachian State.
Long wants to make his decision by August or September, however, that time frame is not set in stone. He wants to take his time and make the right choice. He says he doesn't want to be one of those players who commits to a school and then flips to a different school.
As Sailer said, Long has a very good attitude and he's a bright young man. Some college team is going to get a solid football player and a great person on their team.