It's Marshall Law in Frisco

It's only fitting that Leonard Marshall is the leadoff hitter in The Giant Insider's 15th-anniversary tribute to the Giants' Super Bowl XXV championship team.

Marshall only produced the biggest hit of the ‘90 season, and arguably the most famous hit of the '90s in the NFL, when he blindsided Joe Montana, knocking the Niners legend out of the NFC Championship Game and forcing a fumble that went a long way toward sending the Giants to their title destiny in Tampa.

"I came to play and played well in the big games," Marshall, who will turn 44 next month, said from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. "I was one of the guys Bill Parcells could count on to put a chip on his shoulder and wear it well. I did it with honor and with pride."

In 1990, Marshall didn't have just one chip on his shoulder, but a whole bag.

He held out all of training camp, trying to score the big contract other top sackers were getting. Marshall had hoped Lawrence Taylor's camp-long absence would help his own cause because, "We had 90 percent of the pass rush holding out. But it didn't work out that way."

Whereas Taylor walked right in and registered three sacks in the Giants' 27-20 victory over the Eagles in the Sunday night opener, Marshall was forced into spot duty off the bench for the first 10 games.

"LT always had a different deal with Bill," Marshall said. "Bill was punishing me for my holdout. I was trying to get my money like Richard Dent and I'll never forget that. He told me, "I'm gonna make your [butt] ride the bench." He started John Washington [one sack in 100 Giant games], and broke my consecutive-starts streak [at 71 games]."

Marshall finally cracked the starting lineup for the Monday Nighter with the Niners at Candlestick Park, a battle between two 10-1 teams. With the Giants up 3-0 in the second quarter and the Niners driving at the Giants' 23, Marshall bore down on Montana, only to let him get away. Montana hit John Taylor for a TD pass just over the fingertips of Mark Collins for the final points of a 7-3 San Francisco win.

"I knew we would get the chance to see them again," Marshall said. And the Giants did. Though they lost Phil Simms to a severely sprained foot in the 14th game vs. Buffalo, they finished 13-3 with Jeff Hostetler at QB and crushed the Bears 31-3 in the divisional playoff.

Some 3,000 miles away, the Niners waited, happy to rattle on about their impending three-peat as the team's staff began moving into their Super Bowl hotel in Tampa.

"With all the [bleep] they talked, it gave me the motivation to have one of the biggest games I ever had," Marshall said. "They were unbelievable. I just let 'em talk because I knew I had a chance to do my thing. I knew I would make Montana's world a living hell."

Former Giants teammate Jim Burt got Marshall's blood boiling when he hit Hostetler low and with seemingly bad intentions. (Ironically, it was a hit by Burt that KO'd Montana from the Giants' 49-3 playoff win on the way to Super Bowl XXI.)

"Jim dove at [Hostetler's] knees and tried to take out his patella because he knew we didn't have Simms," Marshall said. "I told the guys on the sidelines that if I had a chance to get their guy, I was gonna get him but get him clean."

Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Giants down 13-9, Marshall had his chance. The Niners ran a play similar to the one that burned Marshall and the Giants on that Monday Night. But on this Sunday afternoon, Marshall would not miss. He would produce "The Hit."

You can find a color print of The Hit on the Internet, a Montana-autographed version for $200 that shows all of the 6-3 Giant defensive end's 285 pounds on Montana's back, driving him into the ground so hard it might have caused a minor earthquake.

The carnage to Montana, who called it the hardest hit he'd ever taken, was stunning: a bruised sternum, fractured rib and broken bone in his hand.

The benefit to the Giants was overwhelming. Mark Collins recovered the fumble, which led to three points after Gary Reasons' famous 30-yard run on a fake punt. Then Erik Howard popped Roger Craig, LT recovered and Matt Bahr hit his fifth field goal of the game to send the Giants to the Super Bowl.

Marshall, who today owns a mortgage company in Boca Raton, has one lingering regret about his 10 years with the Giants, in which he made the Pro Bowl in 1985 and '86 and collected 79.5 sacks:

"That team should have won at least four championships," he insists. "We won in '86, should have won in 1987 [a strike year], damn sure should have won in '89 and in '90 we did win. In '89, when we got beat by the Rams on that Flipper Anderson play, we were the best team in football and we all knew it."

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