Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Proper pronunciation of a name is as much a sign of courtesy as it is one of respect.
In some cases, however, there's no lack of courtesy or disrespect intended in a mispronunciation.
TaQuon Marshall can relate.
Georgia Tech's junior quarterback estimates that a vast majority of people that address him do so incorrectly -- as TAY-Quon, instead of the correct pronunciation, tuh-QUON.
"[It's] bout 90 percent. A lot of people do but I know what they're saying. It's no big deal," said the easygoing Marshall with a smile, in a manner suggesting he's quite familiar with that situation. "Sometimes I correct them, sometimes I don't. It's no big deal. A lot of people call me `Quon' nowadays."
On Saturday night, many of the 90 percent who have gotten his given name wrong and countless others who haven't yet had the opportunity to do so will get to learn the difference when Marshall leads Georgia Tech into a primetime ACC showdown at defending national champion and current-No. 7 Clemson.
The national television audience will learn what's in a name and why, in addition to being called "Quon," he's also being called things like "Maxwell Award Watch List Quarterback"
"It's an honor. It's a blessing. That's a pretty prestigious award," Marshall said about it finding his way onto the official watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is presented annually to college football's player of the year.
The fact that he is becoming a household name on the national level is because of how Marshall's become known in ACC circles. Those names include "Leader in scoring (11.0 ppg)," "Leader in Rushing TDs, (11)," "Leader in Total TDs (11)" and "Leader in Rushing (117.3 yards per game)." For good measure, he also ranks second in the conference in points responsible for (16.0 ppg) and is among the top 25 nationally in all five categories (fifth, seventh, 10th, 12th and 22nd). He also ranks second in the nation in rushing yards among quarterbacks.
"It's cool," he said. "I try not to pay attention to the numbers too much because I'm one of those guys, I'm like, `Hey, I just want to win. If you all want to win, then I want to win, too.' So I really try not to pay attention to the numbers too much and just go out and play."
Of course, Marshall is not oblivious. He knows he's making good things happen and, being human, is impressed by some of his deeds -- even if his modesty keeps him from being openly so. To show the sincerity behind the modesty, the stat that most impresses him is the one that ties him to teammate KirVonte Benson.
"I think the most recent stat that I saw was leading the ACC in rushing yards per game. I thought that was pretty cool," Marshall said. "I know KirVonte's right behind me so I think we might compete a little bit. But I'm happy that we're winning and the offense is successful and the guys upfront are having great blocks. Everybody around us is just energized and excited about what we're doing."
What he's doing on a national level did raise his eyebrows.
"That's definitely mind blowing but like I said, I don't really keep up with it," he said. "I'll see it on Twitter or something every now and then. Other than that, I don't really keep up with it. But it's definitely exciting just knowing that I'm up there with some of the top guys in the country."
Marshall caught people's attention in his debut as Georgia Tech's starting quarterback in the season opener against Tennessee. Also playing in front of a national-television audience, he set the ACC record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 249, and broke school records with five rushing touchdowns and 44 carries. He hasn't stopped producing since, as he has scored at least once in five of Georgia Tech's six games and has broken the 100-yard mark four times in six contests.
He's a mere 382 yards behind the single-season rushing record for a Georgia Tech quarterback, set by his predecessor, Justin Thomas, in 2014. He also owns two of the top six single-game rushing totals ever by a Yellow Jackets signal-caller -- his 163 yards on the ground against Wake Forest last Saturday rank sixth.
Marshall is also already more than halfway to matching Tech's single-season record for quarterback touchdowns. Only Tevin Washington (20 in 2012, 14 in 2011) and Joshua Nesbitt (18 in `09) have crossed the goal line more than Marshall has in just six games but Washington needed 14 games in 2012 and 13 in 2011, Nesbitt needed 14 in `09.
And, perhaps most impressively, he is on pace to becoming the first quarterback to ever lead the ACC in rushing.
All this in in the first six starts of his career.
"Yeah, that's crazy," he said. "I can't really say too much about it. I just go out and play and have fun."
He's been as productive through the air, as his pass efficiency is 164.40, which would lead the conference and rank 13th in the country if he had enough enough throws to officially rank among the NCAA and ACC passing leaders.
Then there are the big plays (plays of 20 yards or more). Marshall has made 14 of them-- seven on the ground, seven more through the air.
Again, all of this has come in just six games.
The unprecedented production has made an impression among his teammates and coaches.
"He's really quick and elusive," said his head coach, Paul Johnson. "He's a gifted runner. He's got pretty good quicks."
"He's an amazing player. He makes plays," said Benson, who, like Marshall, also began his Georgia Tech career as an A-back. "He's a playmaker, just like Justin [Thomas]. He does things I didn't even expect. Through his six starts, he's been doing an amazing job. He's an amazing player. I believe his mindset and his whole personality is going to be helpful throughout this year and throughout each game."
Marshall's mental game has impressed those around him as much as the physical game.
"What has impressed me most with TaQuon is that I believe he feels safe behind us," said senior right guard Shamire Devine, the reigning ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week. "I know [Justin Thomas] felt safe to a certain extent. With TaQuon, he feels like he just walked in a club with four bouncers. He's like, `I ain't got nothin' to worry about.'"
"TaQuon is just tough," said senior A-back J.J. Green. "He takes a lot of hits. Some hits he doesn't have to take but he's going to take them because that's just who he is. He's a competitor.
"He's a leader on offense. Guys are going to listen to him," Green added. "He likes talking to the guys. Me and him always have a conversation. Sometimes we might joke in the huddle a little bit, say a few jokes in the huddle, like `How did you mess up the play?' I say, `How did you mess up the call?' It'll be stuff like that. But he's a great guy. I'm glad to have him as my quarterback this year."
Marshall is glad about where he is but is not yet satisfied with who he is as a quarterback. He's taking advantage of the presence of Washington, who's in his second season as a Georgia Tech graduate assistant coach. He also took advantage of 1999 Heisman Trophy runner-up, Davey O'Brien Award winner and consensus first-team All-American Joe Hamilton while he was a member of the Yellow Jackets' football staff for Marshall's freshman campaign in 2015.
"I talk to Tev almost every day," Marshall said. "He's in our meeting room. He gives me good advice, just some tips and stuff when we're at practice. I also talk to Joe when he comes up. He gives me good advice. It's always great getting knowledge from people who have played in the program and have had success here."
Marshall is eager to have success on Saturday at Clemson in order to avenge a rather forgettable first visit back in 2015.
"It was rainy. It was wet, loud. The atmosphere was crazy," he recalled. "It was a big game of mine my freshman year. I was still trying to take it in. I know it will be exciting to go back up there this year.
"You really can't ask for much more," he added. "They're a good team. I think we have the capability to go in and win, so I think everybody's real excited. It's another prime time game, 8 o'clock, ABC, against a ranked team. That gets you excited right there."