One after another they all made a lavish play for him. Each hoped Jalin Marshall would pick them and lift them to new heights.
In turn, the Middletown High star took his time, sized them up, narrowed his list and finally made his choice:
Nooooo — this is not a recounting of the recruiting process that the Buckeyes went through as they beat out the likes of Notre Dame, Alabama and Tennessee to land one of the best prep football players in the nation.
This was Marshall last Tuesday night on stage at Finkelman Auditorium on the Miami University-Middletown campus. The Academy of Dance Arts was putting on its Spring Dance Concert in front of a packed house and he was part of an advanced tap dance number called “The Bachelor.”
A spinoff of the realty TV show, it featured 17 girls in short, sequined cocktail dresses trying to win his affections as they danced to Dutch jazz singer Caro Emerald’s rendition of “That Man.”
When Marshall appeared on stage — looking very much like James Bond in his stylish black tux and shiny black shoes — there were squeals from other young women in the audience.
As the girls danced, Marshall — hand in one pocket and looking confident and debonair — strolled through their ranks, stopping occasionally to spin one prospect, dip another in his arms and effortlessly lift a couple of others toward the heavens.
“’I’m just supposed to be a single guy who kinda flirts with the girls and in the end picks one,” he explained beforehand with a grin. “That’s not bad at all, is it?”
And after a couple of more lifts, a twirl of one girl around his waist and then rolling another across his back, he left the stage before re-appearing with some flowers that he handed to the dark-haired beauty he chose, who, in real life, was his girlfriend, Aidan Fultz.
As he wrapped his arm around his choice and the other girls pressed in around them, he flashed a little grin and there were more squeals from the audience.
It was just another night in the life of Jalin Marshall, who assistant track and football coach Matt Tyla called “a real Renaissance Man.”
As Tyla put it: “You don’t hear that term much any more, but he truly is a Renaissance Man. He has interests outside of sports that he’s passionate about. He’s one of those kids who doesn’t allow himself to be pigeon-holed. I’ve just never found him to be a kid that had to be defined by athletics.”
And yet with Marshall, they make for quite a good measuring stick.
As Middletown’s 6-foot, 196-pound quarterback, he ended his prep career as the Middies’ all-time career rusher with 4,759 yards. During his junior and senior seasons, he accounted for 51 touchdowns.
He was one of the stars of the Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., this past January, was rated the No. 1 prep recruit in Ohio by Rivals.com and ended up choosing Ohio State, where he will be moved to slot receiver and likely become a favorite target of Braxton Miller.
One big reason for that is his jumping ability. He’s the defending Division I state long jump champ — he went 23 feet, 3/4 inches to take the title last year and already has opened this season with a 24-feet, 4 ¼-inch effort — and he was fourth in the state high jump. And had he cleared his season-best 6-foot-8 leap at state, he would have won that crown.
He’s also a basketball star, has been on the honor roll all three years of high school, used to play the drums during services at the New Life Christian Center and last month had one of the leads in the school musical, “Oliver!”
He played the villainous Bill Sikes and sang “My Name,” the glowering solo with the refrain: “Strong men tremble when they hear it. They’ve got cause enough to fear it.”
He’s also part of the school’s show choir, which just toured New York City, where his older brother, Richard, lives and has been performing on Broadway.
“We did it all,” Jalin said. “Radio City Music Hall, the NBC Studios, Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue, a couple of Broadway shows, I loved it.”
“He’s just a well-rounded guy,” said his father, Richard Marshall Sr. “He’s tried a little of everything in high school.”
Jalin, though, admitted he missed out on one thing.
“I didn’t try being on the cheerleading team,” he said with a grin. “Then again, I don’t know if they’d have let me do that.”
Probably not. It’s pretty tough being a cheerleader when you’re the one being cheered.
When you first meet Marshall, you are struck by how affable and polite he is. His look-you-in-the-eye conversations — at least with elders — are sprinkled with “yes sir” and “no sir” and “thank you.”
“That’s a sign of great parents,” Tyla said. “There’s a respect for elders. He’s been taught there’s a way to treat your coaches and teachers. With him, as good as he is, there is no sense of entitlement. He understands, ‘If I want something, I have to work for it.’ ”
Richard Sr. said he and his wife, Angel, instilled that in all of their kids: “That was the way I was raised and that’s the way our kids have been raised. They do it without thought or hesitation.”
But he doesn’t want you to get the wrong idea. He said there’s plenty of fun in this family: “I wish you could see our dinner table sometimes. It’s roaring with laughter and there’s love throughout the house.”
The children, he said, were encouraged to pursue their passions: “Once we found you had a God-gifted talent, we just grabbed ahold of it and ran with it.
“Our oldest daughter, Monae, loved reading books and we fed that. She started at North Carolina Central and finished at Miami University in Oxford, graduated with a major in public administration, a minor in Spanish and got a master’s degree.
“R.J. was into dance and I remember taking him to see Alvin Ailey in downtown Cincinnati. Each kid, whatever their talent was, we tried to enhance it.”
Although Jalin has made the most of his athletic gifts, his coaches said he has remained even-keeled.
“Do the other kids here look at him as some untouchable god? No, because he doesn’t let it happen,” said assistant track coach and science teacher Keith Vinson. “Jalin is a normal kid. He’s never in trouble. He’s humble, and in the hallways, in the cafeteria and on the athletic field, he’s always a leader.”
Tyla agreed: “You’ll see him in the hallway talking to the freshmen, the teachers, the support personnel. He’s just a great ambassador for Middletown High.”
Although Marshall will be graduating this month (and after resting a sore hip will likely close out his Middie career with the state track meet in early June), head track coach Brian Lampart said his presence will remain:
“He’s always led by example. He’s reliable at practice, a hard worker and he’s respectful. He’s just a nice person. When younger kids see the seniors act like that, they start to act like that, too. Whether or not Jalin realizes it, his example has helped shape our team.”
While much of that is the way he was brought up, Jalin said it also comes from a love of Middletown High.
Over the years he said a couple of Dayton and rival GCL schools tried to convince him to transfer, but he never gave the suggestions a second thought.
“For you to understand why, I’d just need you to go to my school for one day, then see if you want to go someplace else,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing here. People are happy. Good people, even bad people, we all bond together and we’re like a family. I wouldn’t change being a Middie for anything.”
With Middletown located directly between Dayton and Cincinnati, he said he believes the Middies always have to prove themselves: “Standing right between those two bigger cities, I feel every time we go out on the field, the court or the track we have to show we’re not just capable of doing what they do, but that we can be better.”
He showed that most emphatically last August when he opened the season by rushing 23 times for 322 yards and three touchdowns and throwing for another score in a 43-39 loss to powerful Cincinnati St. Xavier in the Skyline Crosstown Showdown at Nippert Stadium.
While Middletown High has had a lot of great athletes over the years, guys like Jerry Lucas, Cris Carter and Todd Bell, Tyla said Marshall need not take a back seat to any of them:
“People don’t like to dwell on the past, but he’s going to go down as one of the greatest athletes ever to come through this school. His record and what he’s done speak for themselves.”
Marshall said he has followed Ohio State since he was “a little kid” and the more other schools enticed him, the more he found himself returning to the Buckeyes. He verbally committed early — back in January 2012 — and since then has watched OSU’s incoming recruiting class grow to 22.
A few of those newcomers have followed the path of Braxton Miller a couple of years ago and finished their high school course loads early so they could enroll at OSU in the spring before their freshman seasons.
One new recruit doing that is Trotwood-Madison’s Cam Burrows, who played extensively in the Bucks’ spring game last month.
Marshall decided to stay at Middletown High through his senior year, a move fully supported by his father
“This is a formidable time in your life and you can never get that back,” Richard Sr. said. “Later in life most people attend their high school reunions, but not so much their college ones.
“I know there were moments where Jalin said, ‘I wish I had gone (to OSU) early because those guys are there working.’ But he also has confidence in himself and what he can do on the field. And he just wanted to squeeze every little bit he could out of high school before it was over.”
Jalin said he thought about going early to OSU: “In some ways it made sense to leave, but I didn’t think I’d miss that much if I didn’t go. But if I left Middletown, I’d miss out on a lot here these past few months. There were a lot of good experiences I wanted to be a part of.”
He said he reports to Ohio State on June 9 — the day after the state track meet — and begins classes on the 10th.
As for his football, he said he initially wished he was going to continue being a quarterback, but quickly realized his best chance to play and advance in his career probably was as a receiver.
“In my mind I feel I can be a player no matter where they put me,” he said. “Whether I’m a quarterback, a slot, an offensive tackle, whatever, I feel everything can go through me. I truly believe I can make a difference out there on the field. I believe I can be the guy they game plan around.”
And why not?
As you witnessed Tuesday night on the Finkelman stage, Jalin Marshall certainly is “That Man.”
Award-winning columnist Tom Archdeacon writes about sports, the city, southwest Ohio and anything else that catches his fancy … or yours.