CHICAGO | Remember when your son or daughter made their first tackle, or scored their first touchdown, in Pop Warner football?
They got such a thrill, you almost cried.
That's Brandon Marshall, still, at age 28. The Bears' big money wide receiver, a "scholarship player" as coach Lovie Smith calls him, remains a kid at heart.
He loves and respects the game, loves his teammates, loves the fans who've supported his battle with a split-personality disorder, loves opposing receivers of stature who set the bar high.
Marshall is ego-free and all that's been advertised this season. He's the "beast" that Bears' quarterbacks have longed for in years past.
Presidential debate? The NLCS? Forget about it.
The matchup with the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson, another "beast," on Monday Night Football made it must-see TV.
Both are keys to their respective teams getting to the postseason. Both receivers are ballhawks; prized showdogs chasing Frisbees.
But Marshall, geez, still acts like a kid, in a good way. Everything about the game still excites the seventh-year pro and that makes him easy to root for.
And, he doesn't make excuses after fudging a pass play.
"I'm excited about playing the Lions," Marshall said prior to kickoff. "It doesn't matter if it's a Monday night game. It doesn't matter if I'm coming off a game where I had 40 yards or 200 yards, I prepare the same.
"I love playing football, I'm very passionate about it and I think my emotions on the field show it."
Yes, but he's not Roy Williams or Muhsin Muhammad or Dennis McKinnon cocky, just grateful for the chance to use his superb talent for the team.
"I don't really need any extra stats or rah-rah speeches to get me going, especially in this type of game," Marshall said.
His average of 99.2 receiving yards per game through the first five is the highest in franchise history while Cutler connected with 11 different receivers for a 13.4 average per catch.
"What I like about what we're doing is we're not trying to force me the ball," said Marshall, averaging seven catches a game, another franchise high, despite double coverage.
"We're relying on guys around us to make plays and when I get my opportunity, we'll take advantage."
Here's another nugget on Marshall: He idolizes several of the league's top receivers, hoping to reach their level one day soon, and charts their tendencies on his iPad.
"Calvin is as advertised. I really like what he's doing and where his career is heading," Marshall said. "I'm just trying to keep up with the pace he's setting."
Marshall scouts the game's top receivers, reads their bios and studies film to see what makes them elite.
"There's guys who do some things better than me," he said. "I love the way Larry Fitzgerald 'attacks' the ball. I love the way A.J. Green, a bigger guy, runs routes. And Victor Cruz -- mercy!
"I'm trying to add to my repertoire."
For more endorsements and accolades?
"To pound the pavement and make plays for my teammates," Marshall is quick to answer.
A lakefront breeze isn't this refreshing.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at email@example.com