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It Was Worth The Wait
Curry Kirkpatrick
October 13, 1986
Vinny Testaverde had to endure three long years on the bench before lifting Miami to the top
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October 13, 1986

It Was Worth The Wait

Vinny Testaverde had to endure three long years on the bench before lifting Miami to the top

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In five victories this season, Testaverde has converted 78 of 126 passes (62%) for 1,193 yards and 12 TDs, and the No. 1 Hurricanes haven't even rung up a 67-pointer yet. Equally impressive, in the only game in which he has not passed for more than 200 yards, a 23-15 defeat of archrival Florida last month, Testaverde had a nasty case of the flu. Still, he completed a breathtaking 50-yard pass on third-and-24 from the Hurricane 17 to break the Gators' momentum in the closing minutes.

As jurisprudential briefcases continue to suggest, discipline must be an elective at Miami. However, Testaverde has never had a difficult time keeping his considerable nose squeaky clean. (The Shnoz Club, he calls the prominent organization to which he belongs.) Goodness knows, goodness is what Testaverde has always been about. He doesn't smoke or drink, and he abhors the slightest profanity in the presence of women. His housemates' gravest complaint is that he leaves out the Chips Ahoy cookie bag when he turns off the TV at night.

"My mom said, 'Ugh, a football player,' when I told her that I was dating Vinny," says Testaverde's girlfriend, former Miami cheerleader Luanne Pelosi. "But then I convinced her how different Vinny was." Luanne is "Lulabelle" to some of the Hurricanes, who recall the historic team flight to Duke on which Pelosi caught Testaverde's eye, primarily because of the spectacular fit of her jean skirt. "I don't even remember what top she had on," he says, without cracking a snicker.

Spoiled by a fawning family, including four sisters who waited on him hand and foot, Testaverde had a fine shot at becoming a colossal pain. Instead, he turned out to be a highly moral, downright nice and unfashionably modest young man. According to veteran Hurricane watchers, Kosar had some "real thug" in him. For kicks in practice he would rifle passes out of bounds to within inches of perceived enemies, including a Miami Herald female reporter. Once, witty Bernie nearly separated school president Edward T. Foote II from his numerals. Testaverde, too, is a football killer, but without a mean streak in his body.

"A nice, nice, great person who tries to get mean in the huddle," says Bratton. "You can see Vinny getting pumped, because he turns red. But we just look at each other and smile. Bernie was treated like a franchise. Vinny is more one of us."

Testaverde refuses to get embroiled in that favorite Hurricane pastime, Compare the Cane QBs. He confesses only that he is "probably faster and stronger" than Kelly and Kosar, but "that doesn't mean better." He also meets criticism of his intellect and his once laughable class schedule with refreshing candor. "I never applied myself in class in high school," Testaverde says, "because I didn't realize how important grades were for getting a scholarship. I still don't find school one of the more exciting things in life. I don't want to sound like a dummy, but how in the world are some of these math and science courses truly meaningful to me?

"I was always one of those kids trying to find the easy way out. Here as a phys-ed major I figured I'd take the easy classes first. But then people jumped all over me, and I came out looking bad. [One semester Testaverde's course load was published as Introduction to Sports, Nutrition, Introduction to Recreation and Sports Injury.] Now that I'm taking marketing, biology, public affairs, things like that, nobody wants to know."

Testaverde's shyness surfaced last spring when he flunked a speech course because he was afraid to pontificate on subjects his audience knew more about than he did. "Rather than give the speech, I just didn't go to class," he says. "I'm going to have to deal with this course sometime. But after so much experience in media interviews, I think I'll feel a lot more relaxed and confident."

How destined was Testaverde for gridiron greatness? How serious was his father, Big Al, a 6'1", 260-pound New York construction worker, about grooming the kid to excel at the game Al loved? "It's a dream coming true," says Al. "Football, quarterback, the Heisman. I want that trophy more than he does; I'll admit that. If he wins it and I drop dead the next day, I'm happy."

Testaverde was born in South Brooklyn, with a football in his bassinet. Not a pink football with blue polka dots nor a Nerf ball nor a fuzzy job with a rattle inside. Nothing but the genuine pigskin for little Vinny. In peewee ball Big Al would carry around his son's birth certificate so he could prove the tall, athletic signal caller wasn't three years older than the rest of the gang.

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