Interview of the Week – James Marshall of James Marshall Project

Interview by Annie Connolly, 6/15/2010

Many of you may remember a  young and talented rider by the name of James Marshall.  Marshall was a successful rider who was permanently sidelined while racing the 2006 AMA Supercross season.  James suffered damage to C-2, C-4 and C-5 vertebra and is now living in a wheelchair.  Although he can no longer compete at races, Marshall has not let his injury deter his enthusiasm nor his involvement with the sport of Motocross.  James has since founded the James Marshall Project to help fallen riders.  We caught up with him to talk about his own history and learn more about this foundation.

Andrew Short, James Marshal, Martin Davelos

James, give us a little history on yourself – How you got involved with riding, how far did you take it, your injury…

I am 26 years young, live in Dickinson, TX and I began riding dirt bikes at the age of 8. I really fell in love with the serious side of racing; I took that to the next level in my eyes.  I trained A LOT, I did whatever it took. Time went by and I won a few championships as an amateur then turned professional in 2004. In 2006 I was having a better but not “Great” season so far. I had to make a main event before the series headed east. The gate dropped and I was riding right with Michael Byrne as we both passed Kyle Lewis when I hit a false neutral. Everything changed right there right in front of my eyes. I am now wheelchair ridden and almost totally dependent on other people for the most part.  It has been 4 and half years now, so I feel it’s time to give back.

Can you tell us about the James Marshall Project and how it all began?

The “James Marshall Project “ is a non-profit foundation that was created to help injuries such as TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) & SCIs (Spinal Cord Injuries), not only in the Motocross industry but in your local network as well.  Ace Burt and I sat down one day and I explained what I wanted to do and ever since he’s been one of my greatest mentors. We started work on the foundation the next day.

How was the support when you were injured?  Did you receive aid from any foundations or programs like your own?

The support I got from Road 2 Recovery (since I was a licensed AMA professional) was phenomenal but there were so many people and other organizations, fund raisers, checks written to me, etc. I was overwhelmed with support and comfort from everyone in the MX community as well as. None the less, the support was through the roof and that’s exactly why we launched the “JMP”.

Are there any other programs that JMP is affiliated with?

Right now RiderDown.org,  for sure. They donated a new laptop to me so I could get more involved with all aspects of “JMP”, as my old laptop crashed. We are working on a few different things with other foundations and will have more info on these projects soon.

Is the JMP vision specific to the Moto Industry or are you working within multiple sports?  Are there any other sports that are seeing these same types of injuries?

Everyone should receive the same support I received, not only in motocross but in any sport. So no, it is not limited to just MX.  As for other sports seeing these types of injuries?  Maybe, but not as common.  We’re just hoping to get more of the foundations to work together and not alone.  In the end helping those injured reintegrate back into their communities.

Are there any riders that the Foundation is currently working with? If so, who?

Yes, Randy Childers who suffered a cervical 3 injury while racing at a new track in Beaumont,TX.  We are working on a benefit to be held at the opening round of “Outlaw 452 Main Event Series” on August 14th. We set a goal for Randy to be out of his chair and walking by the event. He is making great progress and the future looks bright for him. For more on Randy, visit www.jamesmarshallproject.com.

Does the foundation approach injured riders or can a rider and their family come to you for help?

Both ways because unfortunately I don’t get reports from everyone’s local news stations (I’m not Ron Burgundy). We want to help, so we could either be approached or make the first move, jamesmarshallproject is for all traumatic brain and spinal injuries, sport related or not.

What can people do to support JMP?

Word of mouth can be very powerful so we are very thankful for that. We just received our tax ID and opened the bank account. We have a PayPal account link on our website to make donations. For information on other donation options, please contact the JMP Chairman, Cody Lipps. You can find all Cody’s contact info at jamesmarshallproject.com/About_Us.php

In the past few years we’ve seen a lot of neck and back injuries, some even proving to be fatal.  There’s so much pressure on riders to be fast, to do the next big trick – Do you think the level of competition has contributed to the frequency at which we’re seeing these injuries?

It’s a very good possibility. My opinion on that particular subject is the sport is growing like crazy, development of the four stroke makes riding dirt bikes totally different and the tracks continue to get more challenging obstacles. Then with more riders beginning to ride and race these unfortunate things happen.

How hard was it to adjust to this new lifestyle, and do you have any words of encouragement for kids in the same situation?

GOSH, I stared at the ceiling forever just asking God to give me that freedom back. I had an extremely tough adjustment to this. Talking was good for the moment, crying fixed it for a second, screaming didn’t do it, etc. I just found what works for me but by no means have I figured it all out. I still ask questions to other quadriplegics. It’s a tough brotherhood.

Thanks so much, James! Best of luck to you with JMP!

Thank you very much Eastern Dirt! It was the Project’s pleasure! JMP has extremely intelligent and hard working board members. I feel it will be successful. Thank you.

For more information on The James Marshall Project, please visit www.jamesmarshallproject.com