"This is Brandon Marshall. ... I understand you're trying to find out some information about me."
Marshall's history of alleged violence against women has been chronicled without restraint. Last year, he disclosed he has borderline personality disorder, a mental illness characterized by impulsive behavior and uncontrolled emotions. After six seasons of miscues, Chicago represents a clean slate.
When I say my story will be a thorough report on his life, he is skeptical. When I ask for an interview, he quickly declines.
The numbers suggest Marshall is already the best wide receiver the Bears have ever had. Since the team was founded in 1919, only one player has caught 100 passes in a season. Marshall did that three years in a row from 2007 to 2009 — an accomplishment matched by only four other players in NFL history.
But since the Broncos drafted him in the fourth round in 2006, Marshall has become known for more than his stats: Arrests for domestic violence and drunken driving. Arguments with coaches. Acknowledging he suffers from a mental illness.
A pattern has emerged: trouble, then promises he has changed, charges that go away, then more trouble. Two days before the Dolphins traded him to the Bears in March, a woman accused Marshall of punching her outside a New York nightclub at nearly 4 a.m.
Depending on your outlook, Marshall is either a brooding basket case prone to finding trouble or a terrific yet misunderstood athlete who needs proper guidance. Are the Bears — his third team in four seasons — his last chance? Can the patterns of his life be broken?
Researching his history, I had discovered police reports describing the family violence he witnessed as a child. I had learned about a father's dual legacy that echoed in his son: a spectacular high school football career followed by years of arrests and conflicts. But what did that mean for Marshall, the potential savior for Bears fans, the reason the team dealt away two draft picks and took on his $28.1 million contract?
Marshall and I keep talking. A few minutes later, his tone changes. He abruptly invites me to live with him at his home in Florida for a few days. "I'll even pick you up at the airport."
I pause. Is he serious?
"You want to understand me? Come and stay with me."
'House so big you gotta call on the cell'
COURT RECORDS, PENNSYLVANIA: On Nov. 17, 1987, Marshall was riding in the back seat of a car with his younger sister, London, on Larimer Avenue, the main strip in their neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Up front, an argument between his parents escalated.
According to court records, Freddie Marshall punched his wife, Diane, in the eye. Freddie stopped the car in traffic, then got out and walked around to the passenger side and punched Diane in her other eye. She kicked at him, but Freddie grabbed her feet and pulled off her skirt. Diane hustled to the driver's side and drove to a stop sign. Freddie caught up to her, got back in and hit her again, leaving bruises under her eyes.
In the back seat, the two children screamed and cried. Marshall was 3. His father would be ordered by the court to stay away from the family home for four months as part of an order of protection.
Nearly 25 years later, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Marshall is behind the wheel of his charcoal gray Mercedes-AMG sports utility vehicle as he picks me up at the airport. He had given a slightly aloof wave, as if I weren't sure who he was.
I ask why he had invited me to Florida less than 24 hours earlier, and he responds that he wants me to watch him live his normal life. He promises not to entertain me, not to do anything he normally wouldn't. But he isn't allowing any photos. And he says he isn't interested in answering personal questions.