Dante Marsh is close to making good on his promise.
When Marsh began his pro football career in 2001 with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, it was before completing his sociology degree at Fresno State. He vowed to his mother and father he’d return to school and complete his studies once finished playing.
Marsh, who turns 38 this month, last played with the CFL’s B.C. Lions in 2014, capping a successful 11-year run with the team. After completing three classes last fall, the Oakland, Calif., native is finishing the final two classes he needs to complete his academic requirements.
Unfortunately, Marsh’s parents won’t see him receive his degree as both are deceased. However, Marsh hopes his perseverance and determination can serve as inspiration for his two children (son Christopher, 15 and daughter Brooklyn, eight).
“I promised my parents I’d go back,” Marsh said from California. “I can also show my kids that when you start something you should finish it.”
Marsh has done more than just study since his CFL days.
He has launched a personal training business and his own line of athletic clothing, serves as a motivational speaker, and is an ambassador for DAS Labs, a supplement company. Marsh has also coached the past two years, serving as a defensive backs coach last fall at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif.
Marsh earned his fifth championship ring last season as Modesto won the Valley Conference title. Marsh’s first two titles came at Fresno State before he helped B.C. capture Grey Cups in 2006 and 2011.
Marsh has definitely caught the coaching bug. Once he receives his degree, he’ll explore NCAA Division 1 opportunities and would entertain a return to the CFL as a coach.
“I’d love to coach the pro guys,” he said. “I definitely want to be a head coach but it’s a process.
“I love being a position coach because I know the position quite well and there are things I can tell players that many coaches can’t because they never did it. In terms of being a co-ordinator or head coach, that’s down the line somewhere and is God’s will.”
It seems time has done little to diminish Marsh’s skills. He provides instruction to clients in workout videos and it’s obvious March is still in great condition and possesses quick feet.
“I’ll be 38 this month and without being arrogant or cocky, I would right now still be (among) the top-three boundary corners in the CFL,” Marsh said. “It’s more than just working out, it’s getting your mind set that you can do anything you want if you just grind, grind, grind.
“I train every day with my guys and still work as if I’m getting ready for training camp. Chad Johnson (former NFL receiver) said it best, ‘It’s not that you lose your skills or get too old, you just run out of opportunities.'”
Marsh says he’s unsure why his tenure in B.C. concluded so abruptly but wishes it ended differently.
“I understand it from a business standpoint,” Marsh said. “My only frustration with the whole CFL thing is for all I did for the B.C. Lions, I just felt like the departure wasn’t right.
“I love Vancouver … eventually all that stuff will work itself out.”
Marsh said he had other opportunities to continue playing but the final details couldn’t get worked out.
“Montreal and Winnipeg reached out in 2015 and even last season about the possibility of playing but (the situation) wasn’t right,” he said. “I could play, that’s the easy part.
“I’ve got 33 career interceptions, I’ve been to three Grey Cups and won twice … I think I put together a Hall of Fame career so what more do I have to prove?”
Marsh said stepping into coaching, training and motivational speaking after football were all natural progressions for him. But there are some elements of today’s athlete he’s had trouble adjusting to.
“I’m old school and technology drives me nuts,” Marsh said. “These kids, they don’t understand the concept of work, they want something handed to them.
“They’re so caught up with Twitter and Instagram and social media and the instant gratification they get from these outlets that they’re not living in reality. In reality, you have to be a special type of individual. The average pro career is 3 1/2 years and I was blessed and fortunate enough to have 12. But as I always say, it’s a mindset.”
Marsh preaches a simple formula for success.
“How can they beat you if they can’t outwork you?” he said. “I trademarked the phrase, I put it on shirts, I live by it.
“Again, it’s a mindset. You reach for the stars and if you fall on the moon so be it. There’s no elevator to success.”
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misidentified Marsh as Banks in the third graf