BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- If Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha are Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, then maybe Curtis Marsh can be Vance Worley.
Marsh is the Eagles rookie cornerback from Utah State, and playing in a secondary crammed with Pro Bowl corners, hes finding a way to get people's attention.
Marsh has been one of the biggest surprises of Eagles training camp. After converting from tailback to cornerback just two years ago, he was supposed to be a raw talent. A long-range project.
Thats not what weve seen so far.
Hes not a long-range anything, this kid can play, Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said. Hes a good cornerback.
Marsh said he never considered himself a project, despite playing tailback his first two years at Utah State. He arrived at Lehigh ready to compete, and hes done exactly that.
No matter how many Pro Bowlers are ahead of him on the depth chart.
I dont see myself as a project at all, he said. My position coach Corey Raymond did a great job in college of preparing me for this, and I feel like last year, as a corner, I was a good corner. And I did only play the position for two years, but ... I feel very comfortable at it.
Raymond, who spent six years in the NFL with the Giants and Lions, said Marsh was a polished corner as soon as he made the switch.
His coaches in high school did a great job with Curtis, and as soon as he moved over to corner with us, he was ready to go, Raymond said from Lincoln, Neb., where hes now secondary coach on Bo Pelinis Nebraska staff. He didnt have any bad habits, so it was easy for him to make the transition.
Maybe youre wondering where Marsh fits in on a defense with three superstar corners, plus Joselio Hanson, a seven-year veteran, and Trevard Lindley, who got considerable playing time as a rookie last year.
Marsh isnt wondering.
Getting lost in the shuffle is the last thing on his mind.
I'm not afraid of that, he said. Im just here to play and Im here to compete. Im so blessed and privileged to be sitting behind these guys and learning from these guys. I have time to develop and eventually be a starter like these guys, but Im just trying to get better, trying to compete and trying to learn the best that I can right now.
They drafted me because they believed in me. They wanted me to step in and be the guy for this team. Whenever that is, I'll be ready. For now, I'm in the best position possible, and I don't worry about if I was on another team that didn't have great corners what position Id be in. Because Im with what I feel is the best team for me.
At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Marsh has good size. His college position coach, Raymond, spent six seasons in the NFL in the 1990s, so Marsh was prepared for the NFL game when he got here. Hes smart, polished, athletic.
Anything but a project.
Marsh has been so impressive these first two weeks of training camp, he even earned some first-team reps in nickel this past week.
When Im on the field with Asante or with DRC Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi, guys like that, and Im out there with Trent Cole and those guys, I have to step my game up because these guys are Pro Bowlers and these guys have been doing it, he said. Theyre putting me out there, theyre confident in me. I feel like I have to step my game up.
Instead of worrying about getting left out or caught up in the numbers, Marsh looks at his situation as a great opportunity.
How can you not get better as a young cornerback when you have Samuel, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha -- with eight combined Pro Bowls -- to learn from on the field, in the film room and in the locker room?
Nnamdi is real, real patient at the line, Marsh said. Just crazy athlete, and he's been able to teach me a lot of patience. Asante, he sees the routes. So its like you use your instincts, and he's been helping me use my instincts to jump routes. And I kind of feel like DRC is a mix between both, but I also feel like his body and the way he plays is the most similar to me. So I've learned a lot from DRC -- I sit next to him, and he's been giving me a lot of pointers.
Its great. Theyre all different styles of corners, and I feel like I have an opportunity to take a piece of each persons game and put it into mine every day.
Its great, because when those guys tell me youre doing good -- You look good out there, rook -- that feels great. These guys are Pro Bowlers, they've done it before, and they think that Im good. I just try to elevate my game and compete every day.
Marsh and the Eagles 22 other rookies will play in their first NFL game on Thursday, when the Eagles open the preseason with a 7:30 p.m. game against John Harbaughs Ravens at the Linc.
I get nervous before every game, so I imagine I'll be nervous, he said. I'll play as hard as I can. The NFL's been my dream since I can remember, so it's going to be an amazing experience. I know that for a fact.
Weve all seen cornerbacks -- and guys at every position -- who look smooth and smart and fast and athletic at practice but dont carry it over to the games. Their careers dont last long. So Thursday will be an important step for Marsh. Hes already got the coaches attention. Can he keep it?
I have to prove myself to these vets, that Im willing to work hard and Im not going to shy away from anything, Marsh said. Im doing anything that I can to help the team win.
I feel pretty good about where Im at right now. But theres so much to learn and Im in a great position to do it.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com