Sometime less than an hour after freshman Dustin Garrison had rushed for 291 yards against Bowling Green in his first collegiate start for West Virginia University, someone asked him if he knew who Kerry Marbury was.
“Naw,” said Garrison, not at all surprisingly, considering he was born in Louisiana just 19 years ago and went to high school in Texas, while Marbury was a local hero from a long-gone era, his claim to fame being that he had held the WVU single-game rushing record at that same 291 yards for 33 years until Kay-Jay Harris came along and broke it in 2004 with a 337-yard outburst against East Carolina.
In fact, after Harris had shattered Marbury’s record, he reached him on the phone.
According to his memory when reached this week at Fairmont State, where he teaches, Marbury relates the conversation as going like this:
“I’m sorry, Mr. Marbury, that I broke your record.”
“Kay-Jay, congratulations. Break the rest of them. I’m trying to fade into oblivion.”
But we’re not going to let that happen, so for Garrison and all the other youngsters who don’t know the tale of Kerry Marbury, the time has come to bring the Kerry Marbury story back to light, for it carries lessons that go far, far beyond the game of football and show how fickle fame can be, how misguided one’s dreams may become and how life is, in the end, what you make it.
Marbury sees self in Garrison
Let it be known that Marbury watched as Garrison burst upon the public awareness, stepping out of the obscurity of a football backup onto the highlight reels of ESPN. He watched and he marveled, for in many ways he saw some of himself in Garrison.
Marbury, in his day, was a water bug of a running back, blessed with 9.6 speed in the 100, which was run in yards, not meters, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was small, listed at 5-10 and 180, which meant he was shorter and lighter than that.
“I may have been way ahead of my time in those days because I was a lot faster than a lot of those people,” Marbury said.
But he didn’t make his runs against the kind of athletes that Garrison, who is listed at 5-8 and 175, faces in today’s Division I football.
“It was just amazing to see him make the moves and the runs he made at his size because now football players are bigger, stronger and faster,” Marbury said.
Of course, Marbury didn’t have the kind of offensive linemen blocking for him that Garrison has.
“We didn’t have the linemen that they do now. I think all the time if we had had the linemen they have now I may have stayed my senior year,” he said, only half joking.