TAMPA — After the Green Bay Packers chose not to renew his contract in 2005, Torrance Marshall was mentally prepared — and perfectly content — to enter the next phase of his life.
"Let me put it this way," he said, "I didn't go to sleep at night wanting to play."
Today, he has a dramatically different mind-set.
The passion that made him a third-team All-American at Oklahoma and a third-round draft pick is back, and Marshall, 30, is one of the Storm's most valuable assets.
"He's a guy that comes out and goes hard every day," coach Tim Marcum said.
As a linebacker, Marshall plays with fury. As a fullback, he runs with force and is a powerful blocker. As an Ironman, one of the few remaining in the Arena League, not many are better.
"I want to be that all-around guy," Marshall said.
Getting to this point took time. Physically and mentally.
The NFL experience wasn't negative, but after four seasons, Marshall, a Miami native and the 2001 Orange Bowl MVP, believed it was time to move on. He wanted to finish his degree in criminal justice. He even planned a transcontinental vacation with friends.
Before either could happen, his agent called to ask if he wanted to give football another shot. Not in the NFL, but with the AFL's Austin Wranglers.
"At the time, my mind-set wasn't even on football," Marshall said. "I was actually kind of upset. I had just set up a trip to Europe."
Initially indifferent, he eventually decided to try it out. Before long, he was in camp hoping to make the team, which was hardly a sure thing.
The six months he spent away from the game, the longest stint he could remember, had not been kind to his body. By his own admission, Marshall was not in football shape.
But he had the right attitude.
"Torrance just wanted to play ball," said Storm assistant Eddie Vowell, who was then with Austin.
Marshall made the team. And before long, he was fit again.
"I gradually started getting into shape, and the football juices started flowing again," he said. "By midseason, I remember telling a friend, 'I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm back.' "
A year later, he was signed by the Storm, and his impact was immediate. While helping lead Tampa Bay to the playoffs in 2007, Marshall set a franchise record with 17 rushing touchdowns. From his spot at rush linebacker, he was second on the team with 43 quarterback pressures.
This season, he has 10 rushing touchdowns, five catches for 110 yards and a score, is sixth on the team in tackles and has two sacks. For his play in April, he was named the AFL's Ironman of the month.
"I just like playing and competing," Marshall said.