November 1, 1971
Twenty-eight years later Ed Marinaro can laugh at the campaign launched against him when he was a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Strong and durable, the Cornell running back set or tied 17 NCAA records en route to two national rushing crowns, ran for at least 200 yards in more than a third of his college games and twice scored five touchdowns in a game, but he was dogged by the Ivy League's wimpy image. "There are at least 15 better halfbacks...and all of them would love to play just once against Colgate—or Harvard," claimed a newsletter published by Penn State, which had heavily recruited Marinaro. That sort of derogatory publicity hurt: Marinaro finished second to quarterback Pat Sullivan of Auburn in the balloting. But Marinaro harbors no resentment: "Cornell gave me the confidence to know I was more than just a football player."
Now Marinaro once again finds his college feats minimized. Since freshman eligibility was reinstated in 1972, most of Marinaro's records—amassed over a mere 27 games—have fallen. However, multiply his record 174.6 yards per game over the 43 games that new record holder Ron Dayne played, and Marinaro would have outrun Dayne by 1,110.8 yards.
Following a modestly successful six-year NFL career, distinguished by trips to two Super Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings, in 1973 and '74, Marinaro turned to acting. Best known as Officer Joe Coffey on Hill Street Blues, Marinaro has recently performed in the Showtime original movie Gift of Love: The Daniel Huffman Story and in a recurring role on the ABC sitcom Oh Grow Up. "When you're used to being in the limelight as a celebrated person, it's hard to have that be over," says Marinaro, 49, explaining his career choice. That doesn't mean Marinaro views acting as an extension of his drive to compete: "I'm burnt out from competition. Competition is basically about proving you're the best, and I'm tired of having to prove myself. That's why I like fly-fishing; it's not a competition but a hobby."
Between fly-fishing trips and golfing on the Celebrity Players Tour, where, Marinaro says, "I know I can't win an event," he finds time to present awards for the Special Olympics, raise funds for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and, of course, act. "I'm proud that I have been able to redirect my passion," Marinaro says. "In a lot of ways, what I've accomplished as an actor is greater than what I did as a football player."