BY DARREN REESE
GREENEVILLE - Running back Brian Marshall won't be able to take a snap when Tusculum celebrates Senior Day this afternoon against rival Carson-Newman.
He doesn't complain, though. The Chattanooga native is thankful just to be healthy enough to attend the festivities.
Marshall was knocked unconscious when he was hit by another player's helmet on the second-half kickoff of Tusculum's home game against Newberry two weeks ago.
He was taken off the field via ambulance and spent the next three nights in the hospital. He was diagnosed with both a head concussion and a spinal concussion.
He has since returned to class, though side effects still linger from the injury.
Marshall will be recognized with Tusculum's five other seniors during pregame festivities. The Pioneers kick-off against Carson-Newman at 1:30 p.m.
"I wouldn't say disappointed, just more unfortunate," Marshall said of not being able to play in his final game at Pioneer Field.
"It's something every senior looks forward to."
Up until the devastating hit that left the Tusculum home crown in complete silence, Marshall had become a focal point of the Pioneers' offense this season.
He was a Preseason All-South Atlantic Conference selection entering the year, and last month became the first player in school history to eclipse 1,000 yards in both rushing and receiving in a career.
Earlier this season, head coach Frankie DeBusk labeled Marshall as the team's "biggest surprise of the year."
"We knew he was going to be good, but I didn't know he would be able to perform the way he has," DeBusk added.
Marshall doesn't remember much about the fateful tackle that prematurely ended his college playing career. He does recall some of his teammates telling him to lie still once he had regained consciousness.
He was temporarily paralyzed and had to teach himself how to walk again. His legs are still weak and he still has neck and back pain. The constant headaches he was having have stopped.
Marshall once had ambitions of one day earning a tryout for the National Football League, but at this point, he feels like is football days are over.
"My goal was to play in the (NFL) or go overseas and play ball," he said. "I could probably still have that chance, but I don't want to risk getting hit like that again."
"Plus, I always planned on one day going into the Air Force and working with computers. So, that's probably what's next for me after I get my diploma in May."
The Pioneers will also say goodbye to seniors Luke Harris, Aaron Morgan, Israel Pickens, Andy Rosetti and Skylar West Saturday.
"High quality individuals are going to be walking off that field for the last time Saturday," DeBusk said. "I'm very proud to have been able to watch those young men grow up."
"It's a small class but a very important one. They've been here, they've fought through some hard times, and I think they are better people because of it."
A win over Carson-Newman would put a positive light on what has otherwise been a disappointing season for the Pioneers.
Tusculum (2-7 overall, 1-4 SAC) has lost four straight games, including last week's 23-20 overtime loss at Mars Hill. The Pioneers haven't beaten C-N since 2008.
"It's been a frustrating year, just because we felt like we have all the pieces to be successful and for whatever reason it just never came together," Marshall said.
Carson-Newman (6-2, 3-2) is currently fighting for a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Eagles are ranked No. 5 in the Super Region 2 Poll with the top six advancing to the postseason.
C-N head coach Ken Sparks picked up his 305th career victory last week against Brevard, which puts him ninth in college football history.