Some would say graduate wide receivers Justin Marshall and Quian Williams are battle-tested.
Marshall, a transfer who spent five seasons playing at the Power Five level at Louisville, and Williams, who transfered to UB last season after four seasons at Eastern Michigan, have seen their fair share of football.
Williams became a breakout talent for the Bulls after racking up 64 receptions, 835 total yards and two touchdowns in his debut season at UB last year.
On the other hand, Marshall played with the likes of NFL MVP-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson and current ACC star Malik Cunningham at Louisville.
With Marshall entering the scene, expectations were high for a revamped UB receiving corps.
It has quickly become a two-man show.
Williams has 404 yards and three touchdowns on the season while Marshall has recorded 396 yards and four scores. From deep pass plays to game-winning touchdowns, the duo is doing it all through six games.
“When you bring another guy in who has the potential to be number one, we were able to see the maturity Quian had,” Bulls offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery said.
There was no hostility met with Marshall’s arrival to the UB receiving group.
Marshall initially knew Williams through a roommate at Louisville, who knew Williams’ former teammates at Eastern Michigan. The two began talking on the phone once Marshall decided to transfer to UB during the 2022 offseason. Williams would frequently call Marshall to give him a sense of what to expect from the Bulls’ offense.
“[Conversations with Quian] just made the transition a little bit easier for me,” Marshall said.
Williams stepped up as a leader in the offseason, and Marshall is re-paying that to the rest of the receiving group. Using his six years of college football experience to guide the younger receivers, Marshall plays a leadership role in his first season with the Bulls.
“Those guys [fellow receivers] are my brothers man. I’m a little bit older than some of the guys in the room so I got to take a little bit of a different role in trying to be the big bro,” Marshall said.
Marshall and Williams, the “big bros” of the wide receiver group, connected off the field through openness and faith. Now roommates, the two have bonded and learned to maintain a level-head through religion.
Before every game, Williams has a conversation with God.
“I pray when I get up in the morning, Justin prays as well being that he’s my roommate, before every game,” Williams said. “I get my mind right, my thoughts together and remember why I’m doing all of this.”
While finding strength through prayer to prepare for the imminent game, Williams remembers who he plays for — his loved ones. He writes the names of lost family members and other significant people in his life on his cleats to remember the effect that they’ve had on him as an athlete and an individual.
“I remember them as I’m going through my process, warming up before the game. And when game time comes, I’m ready,” he said.
And he’s proven to be ready. He leads the team in receiving yards and has proven to be a reliable target for first-year junior quarterback Cole Snyder.
“Q [Quian] is a dynamic player. He can do a lot of different things and he plays way beyond his size” Marshall said.
Marshall has also proved to be an all-conference talent. He hauled in the game-winning touchdown against Miami (OH) two weeks ago and had five catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns against Holy Cross in Week 2.
A newfound football family and a shared faith in God has caused Williams and Marshall to become very close friends. But what really solidifies their chemistry is their accountability for one another.
While Marshall is quick to help up a teammate or break down how to run a certain route, he’s just as quick to give them tough love. Marshall is very much a “motivational trash talker,” where he’ll tease fellow teammates in order for them to strive to prove him wrong.
“I talk a lot of trash to get guys going because all of us are very competitive,” Marshall said.
When a fellow teammate is feeling unmotivated or visibly lacking in practice, Marshall asks them what their idol-receivers would do in that scenario to hype them up.
“If he [idol-receiver] were in this position, how would he bounce back? How would he translate things?” Marshall said.
Marshall’s trash-talk and teasing maintains a healthy competition between his fellow receivers, especially Williams, and motivates his teammates to surpass their expectations.
When Williams plays well, Marshall feels obligated to respond with a touchdown of his own.
“They’re naturally very highly motivated. They’re working really well together,” Montgomery said.
Marshall and Williams have shown a great deal of leadership, maturity and work ethic thus far. The pair have become an offensive force to be reckoned with, good teammates and most importantly, brothers.
“We have fun together inside the facility and outside the facility,” Marshall said. “It’s all about being brothers man, like really brothers.”
Dylan Greco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org