Between the Motos:  James Marshall

Between the Motos: James Marshall

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At the 2006 San Diego Supercross, James Marshall went down in a heat race. An injury to his spinal cord left him paralyzed, and James’ life would never be the same. However, he poured the same work ethic that drove him as a racer into other facets, starting with rehab, but moving also over to his non-profit organization, The James Marshall Project. Now seven years past his crash, James is still quite positive about life, and the sport in general. We called him for an update for this week’s Between the Motos.

Racer X Online: James, in the wake of your accident and injury, you started the James Marshall Project. Explain what that’s all about?
James Marshall: It’s been a really, really fun thing that we’ve had going for awhile. My health has had to take a bit of a backseat, in a way, to that, but it’s a great thing that we have going on. Health wise, though, I have had a pump installed to help reduce lower-body spasims, which is something that typically goes on with spinal injuries like my own. So that’s good. As for the foundation, right now we’re working on concussion studies. We’ve partnered with Memorial Hermann hospitals here in Houston on that, and we’re also doing our second-annual MX Auction, where you’ll find a lot of great stuff from top athletes out there, from Ryan Villopoto to James Stewart, to the JGR guys and even some privateers. You can find out about all of it at JamesMarshallProject.com.

Is there an even bigger, grander goal, overall, for the organization?
Well, we are directed toward brain and spinal injuries. To back up a little bit, my brother suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome, not a lot of people know that. He passed away when he was three years old. Obviously, that was a huge part of my life, and I always felt like I should do something to help out there. Then, with my spinal cord injury, I got great support from the motocross community, but I met a lot of people when I was in rehab, and they suffered the injuries from some crazy incidents. From car accidents, to one person who had taken a shower, was walking to their bed, and slipped and hit their head on the night stand, and boom, lights out.

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James and his girlfriend Tiffany at this year's Dallas Supercross.
Weigandt photo

Wow.
No kidding. I really felt like, when I was in the hospital, looking up at the ceiling, I felt like my chances were no better than theirs. Everything I had worked for had gone down the drain with the rest of the water. I didn’t think I’d be recognized by anyone. But then Road 2 Recovery stepped in and did a grand job. Just unbelievable what they did for me. I really felt like, there has to be an avenue where I can give back, not just to the top athletes in motocross, because Road 2 Recovery does a great job with that, but also, there has to be a greater, broader goal in life here. So that’s what we’re open to—any type of injury, be it athletic or not.

You bring up an interesting point, and I’ve heard Ernesto Fonseca say this: In our sport, we think paralysis is very common, but in every day life, it’s not something you see all the time, so it probably doesn’t get the attention, the research and the funds that it really needs.
Absolutely. It’s a very complicated injury, but you don’t see many people out in the general public, unless you know someone personally. You see people suffering from cancer, and they’re out and about, sometimes you wouldn’t even realize it. Here, I feel like a lot of people with spinal cord injuries don’t go out, they stay inside, they feel like “What are people going to think?” They worry about the stereotype. I think that’s what keeps people from being as public about it. So, if we can even do a little bit, I guess it helps things go in the right direction.

You have a few other things going on. Talk about your racing series.
Yes sir, the Main Event Series, here in the Houston area. We’re also racing in San Antonio this year, and that’s going to be a great event this year. Dirt Wurks came in and redid the track at the Cycle Ranch, so that’s going to be a great event. This year, we’re going to a full night program. That’s great for me, so I don’t have to bake in the Texas sun! But overall, these races run a supercross format with a long main event.

What’s your role at those races?
I do anything I can. I’m the title sponsor, and I try to help collect other sponsors. We’re brought on Rockstar, GoPro, DVS and a lot of other companies, so cheers to all of those guys who help us. I’ll do whatever is needed, even some announcing, whatever the case may be. I still love this sport, because it’s brought a lot of happiness to me.

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Today, Marshall helps train riders, and he's not afraid to bring the pain.
Photo courtesy Marshall

You’re also working with some riders?
I’m working with one rider right now, his name is Drew Long. We’re preparing for Loretta Lynn’s, and we have a Regional coming up at Freestone. Our big goal is to make Loretta’s, and we’re going to do a lot of hard training in the Texas sun—it’s gonna’ be a hot one here, so we’ll be ready.

You mention that love of the sport, and that says a lot. You know, with an injury like yours, you could have really hated dirt bikes and motocross racing.
Man, you know, the sport brought me so many great things, be it happiness, sadness, it brings a lot of everything, but it’s my background, and I love what it was able to teach me. I think I would have missed out on a lot of life lessons if I didn’t have motocross in my life. So it’s a beautiful thing, and nothing that I want to forget about. I do my best to not stay bitter about the injury, obviously, we’re human and we’re going to get upset from time to time. Those things are going to come in and out, and I keep positive surroundings around me so I’ll have a smile on my face—and then, I’ll try to put a smile on the people that are around me. Obviously, I have a great group of people around me with my family, and, I’m very close to God, and that helps.

Honestly, that just sounded like a podium speech!
Hey, I didn’t get to do enough podiums speeches as a racer! I think I got a Racer X gas card once, and that’s about it. So it’s been a long time practicing.

Awesome. Anything else you’d like to cover?
I do want to thank a few people. First, I have to thank my family, without them, I wouldn’t be doing any of this, and of course I thank God. Also Cody Lipps, Ace Burt, Larry Hughes, Steve Present from Texas Ski Ranch, Todd Hargroder @ ADI Rides, Steve Woods, Susan Stoltman, everyone on the board at the James Marshall Project, my girlfriend Tiffany, Bien Sambilay at Drenaline Cycles, the whole industry and everyone in Houston, and everyone that’s a part of our Outlaw452.com Main Event Series, everyone that participates, Racer X for this interview as well as the riders I train. And a huge, huge shoutout to Brooks Dremely, a rider from down here who was recently injured. I know it’s tough, it’s still tough for me, but we’re trying to get some things going for him to help him out. Check jamesmarshallproject.com to keep updated with all the latest news!

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