Southfield's Marshall Has More History-Making in Mind as Senior Season Revs Up

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

August 31, 2023

SOUTHFIELD – No matter what Southfield Arts & Technology senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall accomplishes from here on out in football, he can claim one distinction not even many all-time greats have achieved.

Greater DetroitWhen Marshall was in seventh grade, he got a college scholarship offer from a Power 5 college program.

Yes, you read that correctly. He was in seventh grade.

While University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was at the school to scout another player from Southfield A&T at the time, Marshall’s father Brian and uncle Aaron gave Harbaugh a tape of Isaiah’s highlights up through his seventh-grade year.

That was good enough for Harbaugh, who offered Marshall a scholarship then despite his youth.

“I was surprised because getting an offer wasn’t on my mind when I was in seventh grade,” Marshall said.

So, that was the beginning point of Marshall’s courtship to play college football. It hasn’t stopped since, and now the question is whether it will continue all the way up to signing day in December.

Starting his last year of high school, Marshall – also known as “Zeke” – has established himself as arguably the best quarterback in the history of any Southfield program, and certainly one of the best dual-threat signal callers in the state.

Marshall might be committed to Kansas and plans to enroll in January after this Southfield A&T semester is done, but odds are good that won’t stop other programs from continuing to pursue him, especially if he has the big senior season many expect.

“There are still some coaches that talk to the head coach of my school,” he said. “But I personally haven’t talked to any.”

Marshall (97) works with his offense during a practice earlier this month.Last year as a junior, Marshall threw for 2,571 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for 1,065 yards and 18 scores as Southfield A&T finished 8-3 and won the Oakland Activities Association White championship.

Marshall’s coach is his uncle, Aaron Marshall, who obviously could see seeds of greatness being planted in his nephew from a young age.

“As he grew up and grew older and training him, he really kind of embraced everything,” Aaron Marshall said. “He was always a really good listener. He was always mild-mannered (and) had signs of someone who wanted to do something, not really being forced to do it. As a kid, you definitely saw some foreshadowing that he had something special because of his focus and attention at such a young age.”

His senior year got off to a great start Saturday, when he went 15 of 25 for 210 yards and three touchdowns passing and rushed for 80 yards and the game-winning score in a 29-27 Southfield A&T win over Detroit Cass Tech.

Marshall rushed for the clinching touchdown with 54 seconds remaining, a 16-yard scamper to the end zone on a 4th-and-5 play.

“If I have a hole, I’m going to take it,” Isaiah Marshall said. “Just like that last play when I scored, I told myself that if I had a hole, I was going to take it.”

While he is a major problem for defenses when he runs, Marshall is actually trying to improve his ability as a pocket passer this year as he prepares for college.

“Just staying in the pocket more, staying balanced, staying consistent and making great reads,” he said. “I’ve tried to do less (running) and try to get the ball to my receivers more. But at the end of the day, I’m going to try and do what I have to in order to help my team win.”

Marshall, the son of past Northwestern University player and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice standout Brian Marshall, has grown up around Southfield A&T football – Brian is among Aaron Marshall's assistants – and has seen many good teams and future college players come through the program. 

But the Warriors have never advanced to a state championship game, and making program history is obviously a major motivation.

“We have 29 seniors, so I think that’s a big part of what we can do this year,” he said.

Given how he’s watched Isaiah grow up physically and in the game, Aaron Marshall knows if anyone can lead the Warriors to history, it’s his nephew.

“He’s even more vocal now as a senior,” he said. “Kids really latch on to him because of his work ethic. He wants the best for everybody, and he’s such a team guy. When he speaks, they really pay attention.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Isaiah Marshall (red jersey) is off to another fast start as a senior this fall for Southfield A&T. (Middle) Marshall (97) works with his offense during a practice earlier this month. (Photos by Ricardo Thornton/RT Studios.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

July 10, 2024

CJ Nightingale's family values, small-town upbringing and Christian faith steered the Mendon native into a career coaching college football.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosNightingale, a 2010 Mendon High School graduate, is busily preparing for his first season as Belhaven University's eighth football coach. He was officially named the Blazers' head coach seven months ago, on Jan. 1.

Belhaven, a Division III school located in Jackson, Mississippi, competes in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Nightingale credits his love of coaching to his father Chris Nightingale and grandfather Charles Nightingale.

"It all started with my dad and grandfather. At one time they were both involved in coaching, and their general love for sports wore off on me," CJ Nightingale said.

Once CJ reached high school, his interest in athletics only intensified thanks to several people who made a big impact on him.

"I had the most wonderful experience attending school and participating in Mendon athletics,” Nightingale said. “We didn't always have the better athletes, but we were successful because of all the time and commitment put in by our coaches, teachers, administration along with parental and community support. Success is the result of many people who focus on the same cause."

Nightingale lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Mendon, earning four varsity letters in all three sports. He was named the St. Joseph Valley League's MVP in all three sports his senior year, and Mendon earned league titles in all three during Nightingale's senior year as well.

As a starting quarterback and defensive back his sophomore year, Nightingale led Mendon to the 2007 Division 7 football championship with the Hornets' 20-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis. Nightingale still holds the state record for career interceptions with 27.

Mendon had finished the 2006 season 3-6. A losing season remains rare in Mendon, and Nightingale stated it fueled the Hornets' title run the following season.

"I think losing is more difficult in football than in any other sport because of how much work goes into preparing for a season,” Nightingale recalled. “We were a very young team in 2006 and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't the best feeling, but it was a real learning experience and served as a big driving force that next season.

"All the hard times we endured the previous year served as a byproduct for our success in 2007. That team was unselfish, and not one player on the team cared who got the stats or accolades."

At Mendon, Nightingale played for legendary coach John Schwartz in football, David Swanwick in basketball and Glen Samson in baseball.

Lessons from Schwartz – a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame – and Samson have especially stuck with Nightingale into adult life and his own coaching career.

"Coach Schwartz had a way of getting everyone on the same page not just on the field, but he taught you how to be the best version of yourself off the field in every-day life. Coach Samson knew how to get his players in the right positions on the diamond to make us successful," Nightingale said.

"The environment at Mendon solidified my desire to become a coach and teacher. The best leaders are also the best teachers, and when you are surrounded by people like that it makes a big difference."

Nightingale attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he lettered in football four years as a defensive back and return specialist. During Nightingale's career, the Thunder posted a combined record of 34-8 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs when he was a freshman.

After graduating college, Nightingale taught history and spent two years as the varsity football coach at Richmond High School in Indiana. In 2016 he secured his first collegiate coaching job at Greenville University (Ill.) as a defensive backs coach, where he spent one season. He then served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana Wesleyan University beginning in 2017 before returning to his alma mater Wheaton in 2019 as the Thunder's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. Nightingale coached 24 all-conference players, 10 all-region performers and seven All-Americans over his four seasons at Wheaton, and the Thunder made the Division III playoffs all four years.

The head football coaching position at Belhaven became available in December 2023 when previous coach Blaine McCorkle moved on to Division 1 Northwestern State (La.). Nightingale applied and went through a three-week interview process before being selected as the program’s next head coach.

"I truly feel like God has called my wife Shanel and I and our family here for a reason. We are going to pour into Belhaven as deeply as we can and see what life brings us,” CJ Nightingale said. “As a college football coach, you have the unique chance to pour into your players spiritually, academically, athletically and socially. That's what is really special about this profession."

Belhaven's program has enjoyed a lot of success, especially the past three seasons with a combined 24-7 record, including a 9-2 finish last fall.

"I am very fortunate to be taking over a strong program here at Belhaven. You don't sustain success, but rather you must be able to build on it," Nightingale said. "We are excited about this season after a great spring. This group of coaches and players got a lot done these past six months. We have had a lot of guys here on campus all summer working to get better. There are lot of goals in front of us that haven't been achieved yet. Two of those goals are to go undefeated in conference play and host a playoff game.”

CJ and Shanel have three children, including 5-year old daughter Charlotte, 3-year old son Trey and 14-month old daughter Coco. They are expecting a fourth child in mid-September.

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Mendon’s CJ Nightingale (2) celebrates during his team’s 2007 championship win over Traverse City St. Francis at Ford Field; at right Nightingale is pictured with his wife Shanel and children Charlotte, Trey and Coco. (Middle) Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. (Family photo courtesy of CJ Nightingale.)