ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --It's possible that Brandon Marshall might be the same kind of player without the adversity of having been cut three times by his original team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It's possible he might have still found a long-term home in the NFL without hearing from one of his coaches that he wasn't good enough to stick in the NFL.
It's possible he might still be at the cusp of All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition even if he had not dealt with the self-doubt in which he found himself momentarily trapped at times during the first two-plus years of his career, even as late as 2014 training camp with the Broncos.
But who knows?
"It's hard to say, because I feel like I've always had principles that I've always stuck to," Marshall said.
"But I think that has made me better, absolutely. It's made me better as a man and as a football player, because I was really struggling. There was a time where I was really struggling. I was questioning myself if I could play."
He could still hear the words of his first position coach echoing through his mind.
"I had a coach tell me that he didn't know if I was cut out for the NFL," he said.
And even after he joined the Broncos, he still wasn't sure.
"I had worked my tail off on the practice squad [in 2013], and then the next summer, I remember driving to the stadium for a [summer] scrimmage," he remembered. "And I was on the bus thinking, 'Am I cut out for this?'"
But he quickly moved on from that. He reminded himself that he was a good player -- one who belonged in the league. Instead of listening to his Jacksonville coaches, he needed to pay heed to the ones he had in Denver -- not only his first position coach with the Broncos, Richard Smith, but Adam Gase.
Linebacker Brandon Marshall agreed to terms on four-year contract extension with the Denver Broncos through 2020. Relive some of his best moments. (Photos by AP)
Now the head coach in Miami, Gase was the offensive coordinator in the record-setting 2013 season who saw first-hand what Marshall's work on the scout team did against one of the greatest units ever assembled.
"He said, 'You're doing a hell of a job, man. Look, I'm going to pound the table for you to get up on the active roster. They need to play you.' And I was like, 'Okay,'" Marshall said, smiling.
It didn't finally happen until the end of the 2013 regular season. Von Miller tore his ACL, and Marshall was promoted to fill the vacancy on the roster.
But during training camp the following summer, he was working as a backup behind Danny Trevathan. A roster spot was not guaranteed. As he toiled, the doubts returned.
"I just had to fight those demons in my mind, telling me, 'You're not good enough.' Once I got over that, it was good."
It was darkest before the dawn, as the cliche' goes. A few days after those demons popped in his mind two summers ago, Trevathan suffered the first of three injuries that would derail his season. Marshall had his shot.
He never looked back.
"I was confident instantly, just because of how it went down," Marshall said. "It was unfortunate what happened to Danny -- me and Danny are brothers, we have a bond."
But Marshall also felt it was meant to be -- because of how the opportunity happened.
"This is what really happened," Marshall said Tuesday. "Danny was supposed to be out for that period and I was supposed to go with the ones. I'm in the huddle, and all of a sudden Danny comes running off the sideline, and he says, 'B, I got you.' I said, 'You sure?' He's like, 'Yeah.'
"Three plays later -- boom. Then I was like, 'Damn.' But then it hit me: It was unfortunate, but it was meant to be."
And with every snap, he gained confidence.
"The media asked me, 'Can you do it? Can you replace him?' I'm going to be just fine," Marshall recalled. "And I was confident and I played well. I thought I played really well that year."
And he's gotten even better since then. But the chip on his shoulder from being told he couldn't make it will always help define him as a player.
We'll never know what Marshall would have been without it. But neither he nor the Broncos could imagine anything different -- or better.