This time a year ago, it would have been hard to imagine Arizona State running back Cameron Marshall not having a big season and preparing for a certain selection in the NFL draft. But after seeing his role reduced in his senior season, Marshall's stock dropped big time. Accordingly, he had perhaps more to gain than anyone else at ASU's pro day last week, and he knew it.
With that and the lack of an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine on his mind, Marshall made pro day the first step in proving himself to NFL teams ahead of next month's draft.
"I felt like I had a lot to prove," Marshall said. "I still have a lot to prove going into this next-level stuff. I felt like there was a lot of stuff I didn't get to accomplish on the field this year that I definitely want to bring with me and use as motivation next year."
With the arrivals of freshman star D.J. Foster and transfer Marion Grice last season and a new offense under first-year coach Todd Graham, Marshall saw almost 100 fewer carries (135) than he did in 2011 (230), when he rushed for 1,070 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Marshall seemed a near lock to break Woody Green's career rushing touchdowns record but fell five short after getting into the end zone just nine times last season.
To his credit, Marshall handled the decreased involvement maturely. He was supposed to be ASU's workhorse, but he didn't pout and didn't say a negative thing about it. He was a team captain and a key leader for a team in transition. But those things don't rate very high on NFL scouting reports. Performance does.
In that regard, Marshall has some productive seasons with the Sun Devils to point to -- but certainly fewer than he might have had. Had Marshall gotten the 30 carries a game Graham initially said he could, Marshall probably would have been at the combine last month, though he still feels as though he should have received an invite like linebacker Brandon Magee, safety Keelan Johnson and punter Josh Hubner did.
"I feel like everybody here feels like they should have been at the combine," Marshall said after pro day. "Definitely, with my body of work here at (ASU), I felt like I should have been there."
Marshall didn't let that slight consume him, though. He trained with his father back in San Jose as pro day approached, and that extra work was evident on pro day. He weighed in at 211 pounds, nine pounds lighter than he finished the 2012 season. He also put up 22 reps in the bench press, which would have put him in a tie for 11th among running backs at the combine.
With an unofficial time in the 4.5-second range in the 40-yard dash, Marshall would have also ranked in the top 10 among combine running backs.
"I would have liked to run a little bit faster than that," Marshall said. "But I felt good with everything I ran, and I was proud of myself."
Marshall said his pro day numbers were about what he had expected. Some drills went a little better than he'd hoped, some a little worse. He talked to a few scouts afterward and hopes to set up some individual workouts before the draft.
Most -- if not all -- mock drafts out right now have Marshall going undrafted, which probably would not have been the case had he decided to enter the draft after his junior season. There's always a chance Marshall impresses someone enough in workouts to get drafted in the late rounds, but it seems likely he'll end up signing a free-agent contract somewhere after going unselected. Teams have to be intrigued by his strength and athleticism; remember his ridiculous hurdle over a USC defender in 2010?
However things go down next month, Marshall doesn't have any doubt that he has a future in football.
"I feel good about my opportunities; I'll put it like that," Marshall said. "I don't know if it's drafting or free agency or whatever comes next. I'm confident God has a plan for me, and wherever I end up is where I'm supposed to be."