The relationship between a promising young rookie and his father was front-page news for much of 2017 — almost exclusively for all of the wrong reasons.
Unlike the bond between Lonzo and LaVar Ball, the relationship New Orleans Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore has with his dad Marland hasn’t been making national headlines. But it is worth writing about.
A talented quarterback at Lincoln West High School in Cleveland, Marland started throwing passes to Marshon when the boy was just four years old. His son also tagged along at work, where dad put up drywall and renovated homes as a contractor. That bond endures today, except now it’s Marshon — who was drafted 11th overall in the 2017 draft by the New Orleans Saints — taking Marland to work.
With Marshon poised for his first NFL playoff game when the Saints host the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, we were fortunate enough to speak with both son and father about the trials and travails of no. 23's first pro season.
InsideHook: How has life been different during Marshon’s rookie year?
Marshon: The only real difference between college and the NFL is no school. Now you have more free time on your hands. You aren’t in class or studying, so you have time to go over what you need to go over and get your body right.
Marland: I get more phone calls. People asking me if I can teach their son some things — I get those type of calls. I’ve been watching him play ball since he was young, so I’ve seen him go step by step, phase by phase. From that standpoint, there’s not a huge difference.
IH: Has there been anything that’s harder or easier than you expected?
Marshon: Not really. The hardest thing is understanding the defense and knowing what’s going on when certain calls are called and where your help is. The mental part of it is harder. Other than that, it’s what I thought it would be — just going out there and playing against the best competition.
IH: Has there been anywhere that it’s been especially fun to go see Marshon play?
Marland: New Orleans has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. But every place I go, I just enjoy him being on the field. I just keep my eyes on him and watch like I’ve been doing. Try to stay even-keel.
IH: What was it like to catch your first NFL interception and return it for a touchdown?
Marshon: I’ve played offense my whole life, too, so when I get my hands on the ball I try to score, but I don’t get too many opportunities. When I caught it, I knew I had a shot but I almost stumbled because I knew there was someone behind me. But I wanted to get in the end zone so bad. Once I was in, it was like living a dream come true. That was crazy for me. I enjoyed it.
Marland: I’ve watched that play probably a hundred times. Laughed, cried, tried to do a backflip. This is what he wants to do, so to see his dreams come true like that was a huge moment for me. It’s something that I still have recorded. Every time I watch it, it gives me the same feeling. Those moments, seeing him out there, and then on top of that keeping humility within him and staying level-headed, is just as big as anything else.
IH: For a recent Gillette commercial, you both got a taste of what Marshon’s first NFL game was like from the other’s perspective. Can you talk a little bit about what that experience was like?
Marland: They did really a good job capturing the moment and to be chosen for something like this was huge for me. It was surreal, but in the same breath, it’s like “we’re here,” you know, mission accomplished. Let’s continue to be great.
Marshon: To be able to do something like this with my dad means the world to me. And having such a well-known company do this and keep me clean-shaven was great as well.
IH: What sort of football training did you guys do while Marshon was growing up?
Marshon: We used to throw the football around a lot. That’s what we started out doing and that’s why I can catch like I can. I can still remember times doing that from when I was a little kid through when I was a teenager. Those are moments you hold onto your whole life.
Marland: He used to go out and run routes. Hand-off drills. Blocking. When he was younger, he played running back, so there were fundamental things he had to learn about being a tailback. Those basic things carry on. The most fundamentally sound person wins. He’s obviously taken those things and run with them.
IH: Would either of you have any advice for others trying to accomplish what you’ve achieved?
Marshon: I would say just don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t go your way. I dealt with injuries during my first two years at Ohio State and didn’t give up. I learned a lot from that. Stay humble about everything and your blessings will come to you. It takes a dream and staying to it.
Marland: As a parent, you’ve got to stay positive, stay supportive and just be there. Be that positive force. You have to let them know you’re going to be there no matter what’s going on.
IH: Any predictions for the rest of the season?
Marshon: We’re trying to make it to the Super Bowl and win it. But we have to take it one game at a time.
Marland: What he said.