Gavin MarshallPhoto Provided

Tribal member Gavin Marshall, a freshman place kicker for the University of Oklahoma has a deep-rooted connection to the university.

Second-generation OU football player recruited by Lincoln Riley finds his home in Norman

By Christian Chaney
November 1, 2023

Gavin Marshall, a freshman on the 2023 University of Oklahoma roster, has a deep-rooted connection to the university. His parents, sister, grandmother and both great-grandparents all attended OU.

His great-grandfather, John Curtis Berry, played lineman for the Sooners in the 1930s. Berry not only contributed on the field but also made significant off-field contributions. He established a medical practice on Main Street in Norman and served as a team doctor for OU.

His connection to the Choctaw community led him to provide free healthcare services to fellow Choctaw individuals. His generosity to the town of Norman and the Choctaw people left a legacy that resulted in the dedication of Berry Road in honor of his contributions to the town of Norman.

Gavin attended high school in Frisco, Texas, where he was an all-around athlete. He was not only a standout football player but also part of the basketball, soccer and track teams.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic made Gavin’s football future uncertain, as there were doubts about the upcoming season.

He received an invitation from IMG Academy in Florida, which offered him the opportunity to complete his education while traveling across the country to play football. This was a pivotal moment for Gavin’s football career.

ESPN televised six of his games, giving him national exposure by putting his talent on display. During his time with the academy, Gavin excelled.

He broke many records, including setting records for the two longest field goals in the academy’s history and the highest number of points scored in a single season. Gavin was surrounded by impressive teammates, with 13 five-star recruits in the mix, including Quarterback JJ McCarty, who now serves as the starting QB for the University of Michigan.

In 2021, Gavin’s team was named MaxPrep’s High School National Champions. This was a remarkable moment for Gavin, opening doors to many recruitment offers and scholarship opportunities. He received scholarship offers from Arizona State, Air Force Academy and West Point. Additionally, he was given the opportunity to walk on for Florida State and the University of Southern California.

In hindsight, the USC offer is ironic, given that Lincoln Riley recruited Gavin to play at the University of Oklahoma. He committed to Oklahoma in the summer before his senior year, and because of his family history with OU, it was a simple choice for him. Gavin was eager to join OU, so he was determined to graduate early to join his new team in the offseason.

However, Riley had other plans. Riley sent shockwaves through the football world by announcing his departure to USC in late November 2021. He served as head coach of the Sooners from 2017 to 2021, winning four consecutive Big 12 Championships. This unexpected announcement resulted in considerable shock and stress for Gavin and his family.

Gavin found himself at a crossroads and, once again, had to decide about his football career. In the meantime, OU was on the hunt for a new head coach. During this time of uncertainty, Lincoln Riley and USC made an effort to persuade Gavin to flip his commitment. Less than a week after Riley departed, the OU Athletic Department announced Brent Venables as the 23rd head coach at the University of Oklahoma.

Venables, who served on the OU staff as a defensive coordinator under Bob Stoops, wasted no time trying to get the program back on track. Amongst the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding the football team, Venables reached out to Gavin to ensure his commitment to OU.

During their hour-long phone call, Venables and Gavin hardly talked about football; rather, Venables talked about life, personal beliefs and manhood.

“I was 17 years old trying to make a decision about where I wanted to be for the next four to five years and who is going to lead me, so it was really important to me,” Gavin explained.

Venables apparently emphasized the importance of character development and talked about the programs he planned to implement beyond the realm of football.

After the call, Gavin was left with two choices. He could stick with a team that could be potentially going through an entire rebuild, but one that he always aspired to play for and continue his family’s legacy or part ways with the Sooners and their new coach for a more stable team. Gavin ultimately chose to bet on himself, and he decided to play for his dream school.

“After that phone call and talking with Coach Venables, it was pretty much all OU from there on out,” Gavin said.

This phone call with Coach Venables solidified Gavin’s choice, and he has now settled into college life and Norman.

He describes his time at OU thus far as “challenging but rewarding” as he is learning to balance college and athletics.

He expressed his support for the OU coaching staff in helping him navigate the challenges and responsibilities of a student-athlete, and he says he has enjoyed every step of the way.

The undefeated Sooners took down No. 3 Texas 34-30 in a historic win in the Red River Rivalry. Gavin said the week leading up to the game is always special.

“Everyone is a little on edge just because of the magnitude of this game and what it means to Oklahoma fans. But when you sign up to play at Oklahoma, you sign up to play in this game.” Gavin believes the OU vs. Texas rivalry is the most intense game American sports has to offer, and it certainly lived up to that reputation for his first Red River Rivalry game,” said Gavin. “After last year’s 49-0 loss to Texas, Gavin said redemption was on many of the players’ minds. Prior to the game, OU legends DeMarco Murray, Brian Bosworth and Baker Mayfield had passionate messages for the team. Gavin said his team came out ready to play and fired on all cylinders. From the first snap to the last play, it was clear OU came prepared and determined to get the win. “We were there to conquer and win the game.”

According to Gavin, he is incredibly blessed to be in his position.

“It hasn’t gone without a lot of hard work and a lot of other people pouring into me all throughout my life,” Gavin said. “I’m really lucky.”

OU looks to remain undefeated as they face tough Big 12 opponents in the coming weeks. Here’s a list of upcoming games and more information on the Sooners.