James Lawrence ‘Jim’ Marshall was a fourth round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns in 1960, before being released in September, 1961 and joining the Minnesota Vikings shortly afterwards. Alongside fellow defensive end Carl Eller and defensive tackles Alan Page and Gary Larsen, Marshall would find fame as part of the Vikings’ defensive line known as the ‘Purple People Eaters’. Indeed, in the history of the National Football League (NFL), which was founded, as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), in 1922, no defensive player has made more consecutive starts (270) or played in more consecutive games (282) than Marshall.
However, for all his longevity and durability, Marshall will always be best known for what can only be described as a ‘moment of madness’ during a mid-season game against San Francisco 49ers at Kezar Stadium, San Francisco on October 25, 1964. In the fourth quarter, with the Vikings leading 27-17, Marshall picked up a fumble by running back Billy Kilmer and sprinted towards the end zone, some 66 yards away, with both teams in hot pursuit. Even so, much to his apparent suprise, nobody gave chase as far as the end zone where, believing he had scored a touchdown, he threw the ball out of bounds.
Marshall said afterwards, ‘My first inkling that something was wrong was when a 49er player gave me a hug in the end zone.’ Something was indeed wrong. Oblivious to the frenzied screaming of his teammates from the sidelines, Marshall had become disorientated and carried the football 66 yards, unscathed, into the wrong end zone, resulting in a two-point safety for San Francisco. Thankfully, his gaffe did not affect the result of the game, with Minnesota winning 27-22 but, despite being regarded as one of the finer defensive linemen of his day, Marshall will always be remembered for his ‘wrong-way run’.