Marshall Harris

Trust Spotlights

Marshall Harris


Marshall Harris is a former NFL defensive lineman who spent four years in the league. A passionate studio artist, Harris shares how stepping out of his comfort zone helped him find himself.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Marshall Harris excelled in high school football and played at the collegiate level for TCU. Drafted by the New York Jets in 1979, Harris spent four seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots, respectively, before finishing his football career in the USFL.

Being in a football environment taught Harris the value of teamwork, resilience, and persistence. He believes these soft skills are important for players to recognize as they transition to the next stage of their lives.

You realize that your football home is as impactful as your home, sometimes more so. I think all those lessons that you learn through team athletics can serve you well

Admittedly, Harris found his transition from the NFL a bit challenging. He struggled with mentally preparing himself for who he was going to be post-football, but he credits former teammate and mentor, Jerry Sherk, as well as counseling provided by The Trust’s Cleveland Clinic for helping him reinvent himself.

Harris’ enrollment with The Trust was timely, as it allowed him to receive treatment for a heart condition of which he was unaware of. He is thankful for his experience, crediting the organization for recognizing the unique care that players need when visiting a health professional.

The Trust is set up and the doctors are specialized in looking for the things that athletes are going to take and manifest in their later years… The Trust is like a miracle for a retired football player

Harris’ takeaway from his experience with The Trust is that players are responsible for their personal health. Although the services he used were not available during his playing days, Harris acknowledged how crucial physical health and psychological services are for retired players today.

The Trust is a godsend for players in my years

Post-retirement, Harris spent almost 30 years specializing in Advertising and Graphic Design and was working in New York City the morning of the September 11 attacks. After spending the next three days in New York, Harris evaluated his next steps in life and decided to pursue studio art. Two decades later, this decision paved the way for a life-altering social engagement project.

Last fall, Harris went to Paris to participate in a three-month art residency called, The Resilience project. As an artist, he became accustomed to a new creative process that pushed him outside of his comfort zone.

The importance of the project is not the finished product. We gather several different groups and we have them work on something [that] is not predefined. The art is... what happens between the individuals… so the conversations that you have with the groups that you're working with creates this project

During this time, Harris worked with middle school students and their teachers, and helped coach a group of youth football players connected with the local American football rules team, The Flash. The local community welcomed him with open arms, and after seeing the world from a broader standpoint, he returned home from France a different person.

Today, Harris enjoys his career as a studio artist and encourages current players to travel abroad and learn from other cultures. He is enthusiastic about his work and does not see himself retiring from art anytime soon. Knowing the art world can be subjective, Harris spoke on the importance of being one’s true authentic self.

Harris defines a quality life as being appreciative of your blessings and pressing on to become a better person. No matter how unpredictable things get, he believes one right decision can manifest into something tremendous moving forward.

What you are to yourself is what's really important... because what you do every day, how you apply those skills... is what's going to take and manifest itself either in a game, or an exhibit, or a finished work of art

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