RB CJ Marable was instrumental in helping the Birmingham Stallions become the inaugural USFL champions in 2022. Marable who was named the USFL Week 5 Offensive Player of the Week, was Birmingham’s leading rusher finishing the season with 401 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns.
While his highlight reel was, quite literally, on display this past season, his journey to playing professional football has been far from easy.
A Dream is Born
Torrance Marable Jr., who goes by the nickname CJ, laced up his first set of football pads at the age of 5. Some of his earliest memories include tossing the ball outside with his father, Torrance Marable Sr., who doubled as his all-time quarterback in outdoor pickup games. It was in his hometown backyard in Decatur, Georgia that the elder Marable told his son he was capable of taking it to the next level, instilling in him a new passion for the game.
“He just looked at me one day and said, man, you’ve got it,” CJ recalls. “Just stay focused, stay consistent, and the sky is the limit. And that confirmed everything for me. I fell in love with the game and believed I could be whatever I wanted to be because my Dad said it.”
Marable, a two-star recruit coming out of Towers High School, initially signed with Arkansas State as a grayshirt, but in the weeks leading up to his expected start date, he says the communication with the school just stopped, unexpectedly. Arkansas State wasn’t returning his calls and when they finally called him back, they no longer had a place for him on the team.
Pivoting along the Path
Wanting to keep his football dreams alive, Marable pivoted his focus to playing at the junior college level. But a last-minute offer to play at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina — with a full scholarship — was one he couldn’t refuse. Marable’s 2017 freshman season was explosive: the Georgia native started all 11 games and led the Big South with 1,038 rushing yards only to find out that the school was pulling back on its football team and would become a non-scholarship program by 2020.
With his dreams once again the line, it was a familiar time for Marable – time to pivot. He transferred to Coastal Carolina, a place he says shaped him into a better person on and off the field.
“We had this acronym B.A.M., which stood for Be a Man,” Marable told NBC Sports. “Coach Jamey Chadwell taught us to be accountable for whatever we do and to stand on our own two feet. He told us that if you quit on football and can’t go through the hard times here, then there’s no way that you’ll be able to deal with the hard times in life.”
Deferred but not Denied
Marable finished his collegiate career with a streak of 32 straight games with at least one reception. In his three years at Coastal Carolina (2018-2020), he rushed for 2,691 yards with 41 total touchdowns, assembling impressive enough stats and film to sign as an undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago Bears in 2021. But once again, things didn’t go as planned and Marable was released before the start of the regular season.
“I wasn’t comfortable where I was because I felt like I should have been drafted,” he said. “I felt like I had a point to prove. I did what I was supposed to do but it just wasn’t in my favor at the time. I never wanted to question God so I just had to stay consistent, stay focused, and continue to grind to get to where I wanted to be.”
It was in this period, dialed in on training and staying pro-ready with tunnel vision focus, that he heard about the USFL, not just once but on three separate occasions. First, the idea came from his manager, who he calls “Hood”, who thought it would be a good opportunity for the running back. His trainer for the NFL combine agreed. But Marable brushed the idea off both times, wanting to stay focused on that potential NFL opportunity. It wasn’t until his girlfriend’s father brought it up again that Marable took it as a sign to do his own research and take the USFL seriously as a path forward in professional football.
Just Keep Going
Looking back, Marable credits his strong support system, specifically his Mother, Sabrina Sims, for helping him stay positive in periods of disappointment and uncertainty. “She reminded me that every storm I’ve been in, I’ve got out of.”
It’s okay if this chapter isn’t making any sense. Keep going, your story surely will.
— CJ Marable (@TorranceMarable) September 27, 2021
Never failed just a different route 💯
— CJ Marable (@TorranceMarable) April 25, 2022
Often I get so lost in my thoughts thinking about loses, but I remember where I come from.. I ALREADY WON 🦋 pic.twitter.com/RaYFL8vpBo
— CJ Marable (@TorranceMarable) April 15, 2022
“Life is going to hit you,” the 25-year-old said. “Nothing is going to go as planned but never give up. If I could go back in time and give my younger self advice it would be these two simple words: keep going. God’s got you, never give up.”
Leading by Example
Marable, who welcomed a baby boy in March with girlfriend Bayley Randall, says he wants to instill that lesson in his son Trae (Torrance Christopher Marable III).
“When he grows up I want to be that example and show him that Dad never gave up. Even though I failed at times the difference between me and anybody else is that I just never gave up.”
The Stallions running back is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology. He wants to help other athletes develop when his football career is over — which, at the rate he’s playing, doesn’t look like it’ll be anytime soon.
First and 10 with CJ Marable
“I love to listen to music, my favorite artist is Future so that’s all I play. But my go-to hype-up album is “Thug Motivation” by Young Jeezy.
What is your role on the team?
To get the offense rolling. My strengths include blocking the ball out the backfield, my vision, and my speed.
To what do you attribute the Birmingham Stallions’ early success?
“I’m really impressed with how well we get along with each other. We laugh with each other. We joke with each other. We are a family. We spend our off days and downtime together. The offensive linemen and the running backs go out to eat every Thursday or Friday depending on the week.”
“Honestly, it feels great when everything you work for is paying off. But in the back of our minds, we know that we have to stay consistent. We have a bullseye on our chest. Everybody wants to beat the Birmingham Stallions.”
What is it like being the only USFL team to play in front of a home crowd?
“I feel like the fans are really coming out there and doing their job and it’s helped us a lot, especially on third downs you can just hear them yelling ‘defense, defense’. We’re the first professional football team for Alabama so it feels great to be able to just go out there and put on for the city of Birmingham.”
Favorite Running Back?
“Reggie Bush. When I was at Carolina, we played against BYU on “College GameDay”, and I had a great game. Later during the week, I got interviewed by Reggie Bush so that was a cool experience.”
“Wings. All flats.”
Favorite Vacation Spot?
How would your family and friends describe you as a person?
“I’m a driven person and I won’t let anything stop me from getting to where I want to be in life. I’m also funny and outgoing.
Name one thing about yourself that not everybody knows about you.
“I enjoy fishing.”
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