UCLA’s Cassius Marsh, the Seahawks’ third-round draft choice, is a versatile D-lineman who has to live down his reputation and live up to his namesake.
Angry Doug Baldwin, meet Angry Cassius Marsh. Not because Marsh seems to feel perpetually disrespected — a third-round pick by the Super Bowl champions is good for a guy who showed up to college “a really sloppy 300 pounds,” he said — but because he’s just, well, hot to hit. Anything. Any time.
“I play with a lot of fire, and I play with a lot of passion,” said Marsh, a defensive end, Saturday on a teleconference call with Seattle reporters after his selection. “Sometimes that can spill over. I made some mistakes as a young guy.
“It’s something that I’m very aware of. It’s something that when I go out on the field, I always keep in the back of my mind. I’ve been able to grow from my mistakes and learn.”
Or as Jim Mora, the UCLA coach and former coach-for-a-year with the Seahawks, put it in his usual original way, “Cassius is kind of a wild-horse rider at times, and that’s OK.” (For you Mora fans, that’s his college-speak for “dirtbags.”)
Just what the Seahawks need — a penalty magnet.
In the minds of Seahawks scouts, however, that is fixable.
“He’s a really passionate kid, and sometimes he pushes the limit, but he’s aware of it,” Seahawks West Coast scout Tyler Ramsey said. “He’s got it under control, and I think this is a great spot for him. It’s not something that’s going to be a problem.”
What’s going to be an asset, the Seahawks think, is his versatility along the defensive line, where he can play either inside or outside; a junior Michael Bennett, the Seahawks’ key re-hire before he reached free agency.
“He can play multitude of spots, kind of like Bennett,” Ramsey said. “A 6-4 guy that can play all over the place.”
And if coach Pete Carroll develops a hair as wild as Mora, he can play him on offense at tight end. He caught 2 TD passes for Mora. At the scouting combine in February, he ran some of the tight end drills as well D-line stuff.
“I would love to play tight end,” Marsh said. “I made it one of my goals to play both ways at the next level. But I’m going to do whatever the coaches want me to do. If that’s what they want out of me, if they feel like they can use me, then so be it. If not, then I’ll be making the impact on the defensive side of the ball.”
But the storyline for Marsh is usually about his temper. As a freshman, he slammed his helmet and shoulder pads to the ground and stormed out of practice. As a sophomore he was suspended for two games for his part in a melee during a game against Arizona.
Last season against Cal he was ejected after a Bears lineman took a swing at him and was Marsh swung back.
In a Los Angeles Times story, Marsh said, “There is no excuse for my reaction. It’s one of those things that it is never really fixed. It’s a part of you and you always have to be conscientious.”
But unruliness has rarely bothered coach Pete Carroll, now or back in Marsh’s high school days. Marsh said he made a quiet commitment to play for Carroll at USC after a big prep career at Westlake Village Oaks Christian, the same Southern California school as former Washington quarterback Nick Montana.
“Yes, I had a little silent commit,” he said. “I went on a little trip to USC, and I committed to them on the (down) low. But, Coach Carroll ended up leaving, and there were rumors that he was leaving, and I ended up switching up and going to UCLA.”
That was a win for then-coach Rick Neuheisel, the former Washington coach who subsequently lost the Bruins job and was succeeded by Mora, which greatly pleased Marsh.
“Coach Mora is a great coach, and he brought great coaches with him,” he said Saturday. “He brought an NFL pedigree, and guys who were going to teach me to be a professional, and how to do things at the next level. He changed the whole culture at UCLA.
“I love Coach Mora and everything he’s done for the program, and everything he’s done for me.”
Marsh comes from an athletic family. His dad, Curtis, a three-year NFL wide receiver, and an older brother, Curtis Jr., is a defensive back for the Cincinnati Bengals. Dad’s favorite athlete was — you guessed it — Cassius Clay.
“My mom liked it because in Greek it means ‘strength,’ Marsh siad. “My dad, he was gung ho for it. It’s a very different name, a name that you have to live up to greatness. So that’s what he gave to me.”
So it comes as no surprise that among his many tattoos is one that quotes from The Greatest of All Time: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
All Marsh needs to do is learn to stop punching when he hears the bell.