Just down the highway from Cape Canaveral, on the edge of a small Florida town called Titusville, the Marshall clan was in an orbit all its own on Saturday. Lillie and Wilber Sr., the heads of a family that includes 11 children, 31 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, buzzed around their three-bedroom stucco house, answering innumerable telephone calls, greeting visitors and keeping their legion of little ones in line. "Shhhh, children," said Lillie gently at one point. "He's doing the TV now."
Instantly, the swirl of activity stopped, and everyone peered into the living room. There on an easy chair, the 10th of the 11 Marshall kids, Wilber Jr., sat staring into television lights, preparing to tape an interview that would be shown in Washington.
The day before, Marshall had jetted out of O'Hare International Airport with several bottles of Dom Perignon in tow. That evening, moments after Marshall's agent, Richard Bennett, called with the news that the deal had been made, that the Bears hadn't matched the Redskins' offer to pay Marshall $6 million over five years, the bubbly had begun to flow inside the home Wilber had bought for his mother and father.
Marshall got next to no sleep on Friday night, and by Saturday he hardly seemed in the mood for the big family bash planned for Sunday. "To tell you the truth, I'm exhausted," he said. "It's been a pretty long week, and I feel relieved that it's over. I'm not bitter toward the Bears. They did what they thought they had to, and so did I."
Last week, as Marshall shot a few games of pool with Richard Dent of the Bears and Michael Jordan of the Bulls, he was certain his playing days in Chicago were over. "I pretty much knew they weren't going to sign me," says Marshall. "And I think the guys knew why I had to leave."
"I tell you what: The Washington Redskins are getting one hell of a football player," says Bears defensive end Dan Hampton. "He's probably the best all-around linebacker in the league, bar none. He can do it all. So you have to take your hat off to the Redskins. I can understand why they'd give away two low first-round picks. Instead of paying a couple of stiffs, they pay one superstar. It's a real coup for them." Hampton does take some solace in Marshall's departure, however: "As far as the players are concerned, it does show a possibility of movement."
Though Marshall is the first impact player since 1977 to switch teams as a free agent, he doesn't view himself as a pioneer. "This isn't really the same kind of free agency the players have been fighting for," he said. "My situation was unusual, and I'm not sure how often it'll happen again."
Quarterback Doug Williams sees a smooth transition for Marshall, despite his big contract. "I find it hard to believe that having him will cause dissension," he says. "As for the money, everybody has to take care of himself."
To his friends and family, Marshall is a generous and gentle fellow. In addition to the house he purchased for his parents, he bought his mother a white Ford Tempo and his father a red Toyota truck. And he showers other family members with money and gifts.
Now he will have even more money to spend on them. But Marshall insists that the money won't go to his head. "I plan to live the same way," he says. "The money will be for my family and in annuities. Hey, I'm living good compared to where I came from. I know how to hold on to what I have."