Alas, his left one might be that bad now. He has undergone surgery on it twice. "The doctor told me it will be arthritic," says Marino, "but"—he smiles that street-corner smile, the one that says he's too young to worry—"hey!"
Fortunately, Marino was never fast. He ran a 5.1 40 coming out of school. He survives in the pocket with, as Shula says, "that little move" and an uncanny sense of time flitting by. He was sacked only 12 times through 15 games this season, least in the NFL, and for that his offensive linemen love him. Says All-Pro right guard Ed Newman, "You'll get juked by a linebacker and you'll say, 'Oh, bleep!' but Dan's so aware, the ball is gone. He's smart enough to use his God-given gift, which is a rifle."
To protect his bad knee Marino wears a Lenox Hill Derotation Brace. Ironically, it's a version of the brace that was designed for Namath. "It's funny, but today at practice I got a call," says Marino. "The Lenox Hill Brace Shop wants me to pose for a photo session wearing the brace." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the note. He shakes his head. He'll have to talk to Stevenson about it.
It is early on a Tuesday morning, and the Dolphins have just defeated the New York Jets in the Orange Bowl, and Marino has thrown four touchdown passes to tie the league record of 36 in a season set by George Blanda in the AFL in 1961 and Y.A. Tittle in the NFL in 1963. Both Blanda and Tittle were veterans when they set the record, 34 and 37 years old, respectively, which makes it all the more stunning to think that Marino right now is no older than most redshirt college quarterbacks in their senior season.
Out in the parking lot some high school friends, Billy Sabo, Nicky Tudi and Carmine Casciato, wait for him. Nicky and Carmine are down from Pittsburgh on vacation; Billy has been here for several months, working as an assistant manager in a K mart and living in a spare bedroom in Marino's town house. Also down from Pittsburgh is a special guest, 21-year-old Claire Veazey, whom Marino will marry sometime after the season.
Unlike the others, who drink beer and chatter, Claire sits nervously on the hood of the car Marino has rented for his pals, and scans the stadium exits. The betrothal was supposed to have been a secret, but a wedding shop owner in Pittsburgh leaked it to the press, and The Miami Herald printed the news on its gossip page under the heading PASS COMPLETED.
Claire hasn't been in Miami long, but already she's homesick. "It's so flat here," she says.
People walk by carrying posters of Marino throwing the ball. Seventy-five thousand of the posters were passed out free tonight, and tomorrow they'll hang in dens and bedrooms throughout South Florida. It must be hard for a woman to share her man like that. "Claire's a good kid," Nicky had said earlier. "We were all at this thing the other night, and all these girls were coming on to Dan, and Claire understood. We talk to her about handling it, and she's good."
"I know he didn't get hurt tonight, but I always worry about him until I see him," says Claire now. After a while Marino strolls toward the car, and Claire, like the bride-to-be she is, brightens up.
On another day Marino is in a Miami rib place meeting with some men who want to market a T shirt that says THE MARINO CORPS WANTS YOU. The logo on the shirt resembles the Marine Corps crest, and if the gimmick catches on, some money could be made. Marino, who is doing this because the men are from Pittsburgh, has already said that his share of the profit will go to charity.