When Brandon Marshall was 10 years old, his father was arrested for domestic violence. Brandon and his older brother, Marcus, were then left with only one parent, their mother, Barbara.
"She wanted us to have the best life and she wanted to create opportunities for us regardless of her not having a lot of resources," Brandon said. "Regardless of what she didn't have, she just made the best of it."
Barbara worked two jobs to support the boys, putting Brandon in sports at a young age.
"I had family support," she said. "My dad played a big role in helping me with my boys. I did the best I could, and prayed a lot. I wasn’t a strict parent, but I didn’t let them run wild. That’s why I put them in sports, because I knew that they needed something to keep them occupied after school.
"I did the best I could to keep them happy with food on the table and a roof over our heads. I was able to do that. I tried to go back to school, but I stopped doing that because it was taking time away from being with the kids. I just focused my attention on raising them. Kept them in church and things like that."
Barbara sacrificed to raise the two boys, and they're grateful for it.
"My grandfather told me that when I was a baby, he asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday and she said she just wanted a full tank of gas to get to work with," Brandon said.
"She worked hard, and I think that’s where I got my work ethic from."
Brandon grew up in Las Vegas and his mother quickly realized his athletic potential.
"I put Brandon in sports when he was three, playing soccer. Because he was so active — he liked to play with balls and things like that — I started him early in sports, and he was really good. He played baseball, basketball, soccer, and then when he turned eight, football."
"I’ve watched him grow into this great young man," his mother said. "He has a very good head on his shoulders. He loves his family, he loves God, and he’s a hard worker. He’s always been very good to me. I’m not going to say he’s a Mama’s Boy, but he looks out for mom. He takes care of me.
He struggled to get on the field early in his career, bouncing back and forth from Jacksonville's practice squad to active roster. Denver added him to their own practice squad in 2013. Injuries forced Marshall into Denver's starting lineup in 2014, and he never looked back.
Marshall led the team with 113 tackles and ranked high in fan voting for the Pro Bowl last season after starting in 13 games. Entering the 2015 season, Marshall is projected to be one of the team's starting inside linebackers.
Last year I was just hoping to make the team and start on the punt team. This year…..… Way Different.. Man What a difference a year makes— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshh54) April 9, 2015
Marshall's big season caught the NFL by surprise, but it's nothing new to his mother.
"My favorite memory of him was when he was five years old and Marcus was seven. I had signed Marcus up for football, and Marcus brought home his helmet and shoulder pads and Brandon took the helmet and shoulder pads and wore them for the rest of the day and didn’t want to give them up. And he was like, ‘Why can’t I play?’ That really showed me that he had a passion for sports.
"He was great in baseball, but whenever it was football season, there was this joy, and passion. He was an all-around great athlete, but he especially excelled in football."
My 10,000th tweet goes out to my mom and my bro.. Thanks for always holdin me down, and havin my back— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshh54) September 18, 2013
Brandon is playing on an exclusive rights free agent contract this season that will pay him $585,000. If he has another Pro Bowl-caliber season, he'll be due a big extension from Denver.
His brother, Marcus, is now a songwriter, and they remain close.
Brandon has come a long way from when he wore his older brother's pads around the house. He credits his mother for his success, and he's now giving back to those who have gone through similar situations.
Can not congratulate #54 w/o sending love his family that grounds him. I have become a fan of them as well! pic.twitter.com/QojByB1Tbr— Michelle Coronel (@MichelleCoronel) April 29, 2015
"He is able to use his platform to help the coming generation," Barbara said. "He decided that he wants to take what he went through, and use that to show others that through hard work, prayer, dedication, and belief, that you can excel and your dreams can come true.
Broncos Off Field (@BroncosOffField) April 29, 2015
"I love that he mentors young people — that’s one of his passions. I want him to continue to do that, because I always told him you never know who’s watching you. Nobody knows your story, but the things that you’ve gone through can help somebody else. So if you ever get an opportunity, pay it forward because he’s been blessed."
In addition to serving the community, Brandon has looked out for his mom.
For Mother's Day, Brandon surprised her with a new car.
Happy early Mother's Day mom.. pic.twitter.com/hSZ5jumIOY— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshh54) May 5, 2015
"I was shocked, especially because I know Brandon can keep secrets, and Marcus, but he told a couple of other family members. And I’m shocked that nobody slipped up and said anything to me," Barbara said.
"When I got it and called everybody, they were like, ‘Finally, he’s been trying to hold this in!’ It was a blessing. It was the most amazing gift, and I’m so grateful."
It's one of Brandon's ways of saying thank you for all she's done for him.
"She deserves it. She was always there and took care of me; now I’m taking care of her."