Ay'Jaun Marshall has decided to pursue a military career and compete at college football's highest level.
The West York High School standout announced Sunday night on his Twitter account (@marshallspeed1) that he has verbally committed to play for Army.
"It is definitely a huge relief," Marshall said. "I've wanted to be a Division I football player since I was young. It is a dream come true."
The speedy 5-foot, 10-inch, 175-pound running back/safety becomes the first player this season from the York-Adams League to commit to a school that competes at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Choosing West Point: Marshall made his decision only a few days after an official visit to West Point last weekend. He also had offers from Sacred Heart, Morgan State and Navy, as well as interest from Towson, Temple and Villanova. He chose Army not just because of what it provides him as a football player, but the opportunities it will present him with after he graduates.
"In all honesty, playing Division I is a dream, but it was also the opportunities after football that stuck out to me. There’s much more for me. I will have to serve, obviously, but when you graduate from West Point, it means something. It's prestigious."
Marshall said the visit was the deciding factor for him and his family in choosing West Point.
"It was just the hospitality of the coaches and the players that helped," Marshall said. "They had a player panel, and the recruits left the room and parents could ask the players questions. That part helped my family a lot."
Dedicating his college career and immediate life to service, however, was a big decision that took a lot of time.
"It honestly took a while for me to decide," said Marshall, who has had offers from Army and Navy since the summer. "Since I got the offer, I've had to wrap my head around things. When you think of Army, it’s not just about going overseas and fighting. You can definitely choose to do that, but there are more options."
Preparatory first year: Marshall, who sports a solid 3.5 grade-point average and a 1090 SAT score, will spend his first year at West Point Prep, which plays against other prep schools and junior colleges, before finishing his academic and athletic career at West Point.
"West Point's prep school is on campus," Marshall said. "That's really nice, because Navy's is in Rhode Island. That was a big thing for me. The coaches are all near campus."
The Black Knights are coming off their finest season in recent memory, finishing 11-2 overall, including a 17-10 win over Navy and a dominating 70-14 triumph over Houston in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. That was Army's fourth straight bowl win and the Black Knights became the first school to win three Armed Forces Bowls.
Marshall said he is expected to be a slot back in the Black Knights' triple-option offense rather than a defensive back.
"I've never run a triple-option offense, so that will be a change for me," Marshall said. "How they recruit their slot backs, they like to get them out in space, so that's how I fit. They like to spread them out to be able to run the triple-option base set, catch passes and split out wide."
High school career: Marshall, despite missing several games with injuries, finished the 2018 season with 1,295 rushing yards on 171 carries, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. He finished fourth in the York-Adams League in rushing. He also scored 20 touchdowns. Defensively, he had 39 tackles. Marshall helped the Bulldogs rebound from an 0-5 start to finish the regular season with five straight wins and earn a District 3 Class 4-A playoff berth.
As a junior, Marshall rushed for 1,227 yards and averaged 7.4 yards per carry. He totaled 48 tackles on defense. He was a York-Adams League Division II first-team all-star at running back in each of the last two seasons. In 2017, he was the D-II Offensive Player of the Year.
"It was definitely a relief," Marshall said of his commitment. "Now I get to sit back and enjoy my senior year."