Former teammates, best friends to meet on field Print
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Wednesday, 08 October 2008 13:27
NFL Headline News

 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Denver's Brandon Marshall and Jacksonville's Mike Walker talk at least every other day. They text even more often. They travel together during the offseason, spend bye weeks together if possible and are always welcome at each other's home.
It's been like that for years.
It'll probably be like that forever, too.
Marshall and Walker became best friends in 2003, almost instantly after they were thrown into the same dorm room at Central Florida. There they were, two young college kids with similar backgrounds who turned down scholarship offers from bigger schools to pursue their dream of playing receiver in the NFL.
Neither of them could have expected things would turn out like this, right?
``It doesn't surprise me at all,'' Marshall said Wednesday. ``That was our mind-set from (the start), that we were working not only to be the best in college but working toward being one of the best in the NFL.''
for the season opener. Walker, who spent the last two years recovering from a knee injury, enjoyed a breakout game Sunday night against Pittsburgh. He caught six passes for 107 yards.
Both of them want more - for their teams, for their families, for themselves, and maybe more importantly, for each other.
``We're kind of like brothers,'' Walker said. ``We did everything together: go out, work out, every single thing. If was I was there, Brandon was there.''
They'll be together again Sunday, when the Broncos (4-1) host the Jaguars (2-3). Only this time, they'll be on opposite sidelines for the first time.
``When the whistle blows, we're not going to be friends,'' Walker said with a smile.
Marshall tried to talk tough, too, but then broke down and offered a much more accurate glimpse of his feelings for his former teammate.
``If I was on defense, I wouldn't hit him as hard 'cause that's still my buddy,'' Marshall said.
To hear these two talk, they're closer than Peyton and Eli Manning or Tiki and Ronde Barber. And they have the stories to back it up.
Who won?
``He slammed me once and I slammed him twice,'' Marshall said, adding that he was ahead 6-5 on the court when they took things outside.
There never really was any question about who was the better receiver.
Walker, a year younger, 2 inches shorter and about 20 pounds lighter than the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall, was the more polished pass-catcher in college. He had 64 receptions for 855 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior in 2005 before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in November.
Marshall finished that season with 74 catches for 1,195 yards and 11 scores, but he had 18 receptions for 319 yards and three TDs in the final two games - without Walker on the field.
``You never want to see a guy go down, but it gave me more of an opportunity,'' Marshall said. ``I had to put the offense on my shoulders and ride with it like that.''
Marshall's late surge got him an invite to the NFL combine, and the Broncos drafted him in the fourth round. It was the shot he wanted and needed, the one he and Walker had talked about so often sitting in their room late at night.
et to another level. We tried to help each other out, make sure we got there.''
Marshall got there first. He burst onto the NFL scene last year, catching 102 passes for 1,325 yards and seven touchdowns.
Walker could only watch from afar. He returned to school for his senior year in 2006, and even though he was still recovering from the knee injury, caught 90 passes for 1,178 yards and seven touchdowns. The Jaguars drafted him in the third round in 2007, but he spent his rookie season on injured reserve in hopes of getting back to 100 percent.
``Every week he was coming up with 135 yards here, 110 yards there,'' Walker said. ``I was calling him every week, saying, 'Good game, man, but you've got to slow down. You're putting a lot of pressure on me. They're going to expect me to match this my first year.'''
Walker has better numbers than Marshall the last two weeks - one more reception and 51 more yards - and made the stats well known in a recent conversation.
``It was just a matter of time for me,'' Walker said. ``I knew I was capable of doing it. I just had to keep working hard in practice, and it finally paid off in a game.''
No one was happier than Marshall.
``It was about time,'' he said, taking one final shot at his best friend. ``Y'all got a good receiver down there. Can't wait 'til he becomes a really big part of the offense.''

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