Former Virginia Tech Football Player Stuns 'American Idol' Judges with Garth Brooks Cover

Spoiler alert: He’s going to Hollywood!

Photo: ABC / Eric McCandless

If there's one thing American Idol has proven over the past 20 years, it's that undiscovered talent lies in every nook and cranny of the United States—and sometimes in the most unexpected places. America learned that lesson again Sunday night when 24-year-old Dan Marshall auditioned for the show's 20th season.

The land surveyor from Chesapeake, Virginia, stunned judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan with his cover of Garth Brooks' 1990 hit "The Dance." But what was even more shocking than Marshall's talent was his unlikely background. The country crooner said he's been singing all his life, but up until five or six months ago had never performed in public. Instead, he was focused on football.

"Football has always been a big part of my life, ever since I was five years old," he said in an interview before his audition. "After high school, I was recruited as a walk-on to play at Virginia Tech. It was incredible getting to go out there and play every Saturday. It was the best four years of my life."

But after graduating, Marshall's path changed. It reached a fever pitch at the beginning of last summer, when he sang in front of people for the first time. "I sang at my grandfather's memorial service," he said. "I forced myself. I was like, 'You're going to do this.'"

After, he had his first gig singing at brewery down the road from his house. And since then, he's had three or four more. Still a beginner to singing and playing guitar, Marshall began his audition with a lengthy instrumental intro, then launched into his version of the ballad.

After wrapping up his audition, the judges were thrilled at the potential they saw. "You have that storytelling thing," Richie said. "There's something you can't teach and that's called natural talent and your craft of who you are."

Perry admitted that she was nervous when Marshall revealed he only had five or six months of experience under his belt but was pleasantly surprised by his "natural-born talent". "All you need is support and a little guidance," she said.

Fellow country artist Bryan also had some words of advice for the budding musician. From his years of experience touring, he challenged the young singer to push his performance to the next level, saying "You're one of the best sounding country artists that have been through, but you're not doing all the emotion properly. If I had 20 minutes out there to coach you, I could really show you some tricks. You'll just have to focus on toeing the line the whole way."

WATCH: See Luke Bryan's Heartwarming 'American Idol' Duet With A Singer Living With Cystic Fibrosis

After all was said and done, the judges unanimously agreed Marshall deserved a shot at the Hollywood round and granted him a coveted golden ticket. We can't wait to see his upcoming Idol performances, but in the meantime we'll be checking out more of his covers on TikTok.

Way to go, Dan!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles