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Brandon Marshall

The Jets receiver and mental health advocate on his ‘Power’ obsession, Instagram, Jay Z — and the sunflowers in his yard

The New York Jets’ Brandon Marshall is not a big texter, he loves music — and currently he’s into single-fang grills. Now in his 10th year, the six-time Pro Bowler recently broke the Jets single-season franchise record for receptions. In 2011, though, Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Since then, he’s been an advocate for mental illness and wants to bring others along on his introspective and empowering journey. To get his message to the masses, Marshall has partnered with Champs and Under Armour, part of a new We Know Game campaign that also features music from T.I. and Migos’ Quavo. “I’m just another kid, with a bad attitude,” is what the wide receiver says as the clip begins. In it Marshall is about self-awareness and living without shame. How does he stay so consistent? “My love for the game, and the process,” he said. “It’s tough, dealing with … pressure from your coaches … your teammates … your fans … pressure from brands. The pressure you put on your own self. What’s healthy is getting up every single day, just trying to be the best you. Whether that’s winning or losing. Just be happy in that.” In New York, Marshall speaks about Fall Out Boy and Jay Z, his ’71 Cutlass, his hometown of Pittsburgh, and about being comfortable with who he is, and who he’s going to be.

Apple or Android?


Have you ever had an Android? Did you have a Sidekick?

I did! Oh, my God, the Sidekick was awesome.

Are you a big texter?

I’m not a big texter or phone guy. You may text me like two or three paragraphs — really deep. And I may send back ‘thank you.’ Or ‘OK.’ My friends and family members get on me — it’s almost a joke, like, ‘I’m just gonna stop texting you, because all you text back is the same things.’ I’d rather talk on the phone. I love being in community, being with people. But texting is great, because you have your space when you need it.

What is your favorite social media platform?

Both Twitter and Instagram. I love Instagram because it gives you an opportunity to express yourself in film and pictures. It gives you that platform to really show your creativity. You have no choice but to try to be creative, because that’s the only way you’ll survive on Instagram. Twitter, I love how fast it is. I love the interaction — the banter back and forth.

Is there a site that you really like?

Yeah — ESPN.com. Pro Football Talk. Bleacher Report. Those are my top three sites. And Twitter.

On Twitter who do you really like to follow?

If I had to pick one person — Martellus Bennett. He’s funny, and he’s outside the box. You have a lot of athletes that are afraid to go against the grain. This is a hot topic now. Not only other athletes, but people outside of sports are challenging athletes to be themselves and speak on things they really believe in. Martellus has always been that. One of the reasons I’m always in trouble is because I speak my mind. I think it’s how it’s supposed to be.

Not only other athletes, but people outside of sports are challenging athletes to be themselves and speak on things they really believe in.

What’s the last movie you saw?

The Purge was good. What else? Oh, Barbershop: The Next Cut. The reason I thought it was amazing was that it tried to attack the root of the issues in Chicago. It wasn’t just a movie to make you laugh. Ice Cube went deeper. Ice Cube said, ‘Listen, this is a platform … for us to use this industry to address some of the issues affecting our people.’ It’s the same thing Spike Lee always does. He did it with Chi-Raq.

What else are you doing in your free time, when you’re not training?

I love landscaping. If I’m home in Florida, I’ll get out in the yard … clean up things, tighten things up. Manicure my trees, or get some help and re-mulch. I have flowers in the front of my house, and around a little water feature I have. I love flowers. I have flowers all throughout my house. My big sunflowers.

Do you have a favorite television show?

Yes. Underground. I love it. I’m so happy the networks are starting to embrace our culture more, and tell our stories. Another one I really enjoy is Power. It’s my little obsession.

I love listening to Jay Z before games … I kind of almost take his energy, his swag.

What’s the last concert you went to?

The last concert I went to was Fall Out Boy. The Fall Out Boys played at a little local bar in Chicago. I love Fall Out Boy. Pete Wentz is my guy.

Do you listen to music before games?

To get me started. Once I’m going, I couldn’t care less. But I need that energy, that beat, that rhythm to get me started. I’m a huge Jay Z fan. And the reason I love listening to Jay Z before games is … I kind of almost take his energy, his swag. I try to take that swag and use that in the game to set myself apart. When you look at Jay Z, he’s set apart. I try to do that on the field, have that type of confidence. Even to the point where it’s arrogance. I’m on a whole other level.

Your favorite sports team growing up?

Pittsburgh Steelers. Growing up in Pittsburgh, you have no choice.

When did you get this single-fang grill?

For my six-year anniversary. My wife [Michi Nogami-Marshall] has an all-bottom grill. And I have two fangs and a bottom one.

What was that moment like when you got on the phone with Champs and Under Armour and you told them, ‘This is my story and this is what I want to get across to the NFL, to my fans?

They say you don’t really understand who you are, or become a man until your early 30s/mid-30s. I was 27 or 28 or something [when I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder]. That moment pushed me the point where I was like, ‘OK. That’s not who I am. I can’t continue to go down that path.’ I spent three months in an outpatient program at [Harvard University’s] McLean Hospital. I was in dialectical behavior therapy, where I learned mindfulness and radical acceptance — tools and skills to be able to deal with the emotions and the stresses of life, the ebbs and flows of life, the good and the bad … Some people know how to deal with the ebbs and flows, and some struggle with it. I had to literally learn those tools. But throughout that process I was learning who I was, and I became so free.

Some people know how to deal with the ebbs and flows, and some struggle with it. I had to literally learn those tools.

You talk about the media being sensationalized.

That’s what sells. They want to see me throwing my hands, they want to see me pissed off. I’m supervulnerable … because I came out and said this [disorder] is what I’ve been dealing with. On the field, I tried to tame all my emotions. The things that make me great on the field — that passion, that love, and being able to show that and express that — off the field it was the same way. Every time I stepped out the house, I tried to be this perfect person. Because I didn’t want any slipups … didn’t want anybody to see any weakness. There was a specific moment when I was sitting in the closet. Literally, I was in there for an hour. I had a suit in one hand, a button-up in another. I had this linen suit I was looking at … I was like, ‘OK, what am I gonna wear?’ I had my Mercedes-Benz keys sitting on the dresser, like, ‘OK, I’m gonna drive that.’ My wife came in, and she saw me struggling. She was like, ‘Be you.’ That’s all she said. ‘Be you.’ It took me five minutes to get dressed. I threw on a Marlins fitted, a white tee, some jeans, some sneakers, jumped in my old-school — my ’70 Cutlass — with [JBL mPro] 415s in the back, turned up the music — and I had one of the best games I’ve ever had. It wasn’t just about that moment. It was about the direction of the rest of my life. Am I going to continue to be what I think the world wants me to be? Or am I going to be who I feel comfortable being, regardless of what people think?

What will you always be the champion of?

I’ll always be a champion of the mental health community. Help bridge the gap.

Where do you get your courage from?

Pittsburgh. My neighborhood. Larimer Avenue. I’m a product of my environment. That’s where I get my courage from.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Darian Symoné Harvin is a NYC journalist into people and their situations. Her affiliations include NBC News and HRDCVR—and her excellent podcast is called, Am I Allowed to Like Anything?