By Jon Cooper
This is the latest in a summer-long #TGW series featuring student-athletes participating in the 2018 Fifth Street Bridge Program, Georgia Tech athletics’ summer internship program.
It’s just about impossible to make all the personalities at a sports talk radio station come to a consensus.
Add that to the list of TaQuon Marshall’s mind-boggling accomplishments.
The senior quarterback’s presence and work in the studios of Dickey Broadcasting, the home of 680 the Fan and Atlanta Sports X, during his six-week summer internship, had the people whose job it is to pontificate on sports, actually unanimously agree on something. That something was him and how special he is.
“He was everything that he’s been touted to be,” said Dickey Broadcasting’s marketing director and assistant program director Scott McFarlane. “He’s in such a high-profile position and the way he carries himself, it’s fantastic. It’s how we wish a lot of high-profile athletes and folks carried themselves. He carries himself as a fine individual, down-to-Earth, normal guy coming in, hanging out with the guys and doing a great job.”
“Pull up anything in the media or in newspapers written about people his age and it is surprising how he just totally goes against all those trends,” seconded Brandon Joseph, a producer — Marshall’s main mentor — and reporter for 680 the Fan and 93.7. “How well-rounded he is in everything that he does and not just knowledge-wise of just sports in general but life and culture and things like that far supersede. You would think, in meeting him if you didn’t know how old he was and that he was in college, that he’s been a professional adult for 15, 20 years.”
Marshall headed to The Battery, arriving at work by 11:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays over six weeks, to help out where needed as part of his internship on three-hour shows “Hometeam and Hamilton,” featuring former Yellow Jackets quarterback and Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Famer Joe Hamilton and personality “Hometeam” Brandon Leak, and “The Cheap Seats,” with Tug Cowart, and former UGA quarterback Hutson Mason. As do many people at Dickey, he wore many hats, working not only in the familiar role of talent in front of the mic, but also in the uncharted waters as an engineer working behind the glass.
“This was my first time doing something like this. I’ve never been really familiar with broadcasting, so it was very exciting,” said Marshall. “I got to go in there and ask questions, get a behind-the-scenes look at how a radio station actually works, how they go to the commercial breaks and things like that. So a couple of weeks in I was able to work the board and send the guys on commercial breaks, bring them back in, actually add my input into the show as it was happening, get on the radio, add in on segments that they were having. I had a good time with the guys that were on the show. It was a great group of guys.”
Part of what impressed McFarlane and Joseph was how easily Marshall fit in as one of the guys.
“I started off as an intern 17 years ago and I tell every intern to do two things: Ask questions and don’t be a bump on a log. Have an opinion,” said McFarlane. “We’re opinion-driven. So I wanted him to make sure that he was contributing and not just sitting back. Sit back for a week and learn the lay of the land but then start contributing.
“The other thing was, with his busy schedule,” he added. “I tell all interns, I get it. This is an unpaid internship. You may have to have another job. Obviously, with TaQuon, going to school (he took summer classes in Finite Statistics and Strategic Statistics on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and running workouts, just be here on time and get the most out of this. He did all of that perfectly.”
Marshall, who did 6 a.m. workouts every morning, impressed Joseph by the ease with which he grasped his responsibilities.
“It’s not really a surprise but he gets it. He gets EVERYTHING,” he said. “We had TaQuon engineer a show, which is running the board. When you look at it it’s very intimidating. Ninety percent of people run into problems when we put them in that position and they see the light. When he sat in front of it, you could tell. He took that moment, he took it all in and said, ‘This is the task in front of me,’ and he handled it! He wasn’t intimidated by it in the slightest. There was never a fear of his fitting in or assimilating. When the red light’s on some people tend to clam up and get reserved but TaQuon jumped in. He actually embraced the challenge.
“He asked all the right questions and you could tell he was putting the puzzle together in his mind,” he added. “He plays major college football. He has that resilience. You have to embrace the fact that you’re not supposed to be flawless or perfect at this. We joke around, ‘Don’t make the same mistake twice. You can make any mistake once. Just don’t make it twice.’ He embraced that. You never had to tell him more than once.”
Of course, he embraced the opportunity to get on the air and talk football with Hamilton and even enjoyed hanging out with Mason, now that both are on the same team.
“The dynamic of the Tech quarterback as an intern with the former UGA quarterback, it was great,” said McFarlane. “Watching those two go at it, multiple times I walked in or could see through the glass, those guys writing plays down on paper and going over plays and talking about their days. We get a bunch of things where you get to meet the Georgia Tech quarterback and then you have these Georgia guys who are ‘Red-and-Black’ through and through, they’re like, ‘I’m going to have a hard time rooting against this kid. He’s such a great kid.’ It was awesome to be able to play that up. TaQuon got it. He gets the rivalry, he gets the fun banter between the two programs.”
Marshall learned that keeping the banter fun, and clean, was not only a matter of good taste, but a matter of the law. Learning what he could NOT say was one of the biggest lessons he learned.
“I honestly didn’t know that there were seven words that you can’t say on the radio or you will get fined. That’s something I didn’t know,” he said. “I definitely don’t pay attention to things like that when I listen to radio. That’s one thing I lot of people don’t even know, that there are seven words that you cannot say on the radio.”
What Marshall did say on the radio was welcome and impactful.
“TaQuon helped US. He made us better at what we do,” McFarlane said. “He made us better in giving us insight and knowledge and things that we don’t necessarily get to see a lot of, getting to be around a lot of. How many kids his age will come in and be shy or reserved about it? He was teaching ‘The professionals’ how to do their job or be better at their job. He was just amazing, more than an asset.”
Marshall believes he can be an asset to Dickey or in the broadcasting field in the future. It’s something at which he’s eager to try his hand.
“That’s one of the things I also talked about at ACC Kickoff,” he said. “This definitely opened up my eyes to something new because I’m a marketing major and I want to get into sports marketing. So getting into sports broadcasting is definitely something I would LOVE to do down the line. I’m a BIG sports guy, I’m a huge sports fan outside of playing my sport so it’s definitely something I could see myself doing.”
His time-management skills were as impressive as the way he managed his responsibilities.
“There’s time. You just have to have time management, just put everything on a time schedule and when that time schedule comes be able to do it,” Marshall said. “After that, you have free time. In the summer it’s easy to have a lot of free time and everything’s not really jam-packed even though it sounds like it.”
The professionals disagree.
“It’s amazing to see everything that he does,” said McFarlane. “I played a little bit of college tennis, but I was not doing an internship and taking summer classes. He’s just a fine young man, a great work ethic, always here on time, always trying to contribute.”
“I couldn’t do what he does and to do it with such precision and with such a professional mindset,” said Joseph. “It’s amazing to watch. A lot of the guys on-air and off looked at him and we gained a new respect. The demands on his time and how he has to stay focused and execute everything, it’s just a huge testament to not just the environment he’s in at Tech but to the way that he was brought up. He gives all the credit to his family, just how they instilled that work ethic in him. It’s not easy but he makes it look easy. That’s really TaQuon.”