Snapshot: Kevin Marion

As we do every year at this time, presents its Snapshot series of features on the Steelers' rookies. Today: return specialist Kevin Marion.

Kevin Marion was the last player on the roster but one of the first in the end zone this spring. He got there by slipping between veteran defensive backs Bryant McFadden and Tyrone Carter to catch a fade pass from Dennis Dixon. That happened the first week of the Steelers' spring OTAs, and Marion played well the rest of the spring.

"Just trying to make plays," he said.

And he knows he wasn't perfect.

"I kind of hit myself in the head sometimes when I make simple mistakes, especially when the coaches tell you to do something and you do it opposite," he said. "I guess I'm thinking too much, but I just want to make plays. I know there's a learning curve."

Marion made plays and mistakes, but he did both quickly. The 5-8½, 164-pounder has run the 40 in 4.3 seconds. He's also run 100 yards in 10.21 and long-jumped 25-5 to break a Florida state high school record that stood for 16 years. Marion was a track star growing up in St. Petersburg. He once won the national indoor championship in the long jump, but gave up the sport when he went to Wake Forest to play football.

"Football's always been my goal," he said. "A lot of people said, ‘Why didn't you pick track? You're so fast.' But I love this. I love football. Hopefully I'll stay here."

Marion wasn't much of a receiver at Wake. In four seasons he caught 45 passes for 548 yards (12.2) and 2 touchdowns. He was more effective as a runner. He carried 68 times for 492 yards (7.2) and 3 touchdowns. One of those carries was an 81-yard reverse that broke open the Boston College game in 2006. He also scored on a 67-yard end around against Florida State in 2005.

"Early on I was inconsistent receiving the ball," he said. "But then I was a full-time returner and I started scoring touchdowns that way. Coach kind of gave me back my confidence returning the ball and then he put me at receiver." Marion returned a school-record 88 kickoffs at Wake with an average of 24.5 yards. He returned four kickoffs for 80 or more yards, and last year led the ACC with an average of 31.3. Marion didn't return punts at Wake, but he did this spring along with Willie Reid, Jeremy Bloom and Travis Williams. The group was joined at times by veterans Santonio Holmes and Mewelde Moore.

Marion was raised by his grandparents in St. Petersburg. He said "it could've been easy to fall through the cracks," but he made it out. He was named to the all-county Academic Team before leaving for Wake Forest. He redshirted in 2003 and was suspended in 2005, with three teammates, for breaking team rules and missed the final three games. But Marion came back to become an important part of Wake's 22-7 record the last two seasons under Jim Grobe.

"Coach Grobe tells us he really don't like individuals," Marion said. "He sets the tone that way, and last year we were one of the better teams in the nation."

Marion realizes he's a longshot to make the Steelers. He wouldn't bet his front two gold teeth on it. But …

"I'm a contender," he said. "I just feel like I'm always going to be in the mix. I want to get a grasp of the offense; I don't know how that's going to come, especially when we get into camp. But special teams, I want to get on every special team I can. If it's not receiver – and I know we've got some depth at receiver -- but if it's just special teams, I'm there."

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