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"Yeah, well, actually to be the best quarterback who ever threw the ball."
"Yeah, I want to play for the Rose Bowl and national championships."
Understand that Marinovich is no braggart but a wondrous athlete with lofty goals. Yet USC knows better than most schools the folly of such gibberish. A few years ago, when the Trojans recruited hotshot quarterback Sean Salisbury from Escondido, Calif., John Robinson, then the coach, hailed him as the next Elway. If you don't recall Salisbury's doing much for Southern Cal, you've got the right guy. Then there was Ryan Knight, one of the top schoolboy running backs in the land in 1983. He was supposed to be the Trojans' next Heisman Trophy winner. Oh well, recruiting national championships is a dicey business.
What's fascinating about Marinovich, a 6'4½", 212-pound lefthanded redhead, is that he is, in a real sense, America's first test-tube athlete. He has never eaten a Big Mac or an Oreo or a Ding Dong. When he went to birthday parties as a kid, he would take his own cake and ice cream to avoid sugar and refined white flour. He would eat homemade catsup, prepared with honey. He did consume beef but not the kind injected with hormones. He ate only unprocessed dairy products. He teethed on frozen kidney. When Todd was one month old, Marv was already working on his son's physical conditioning. He stretched his hamstrings. Pushups were next. Marv invented a game in which Todd would try to lift a medicine ball onto a kitchen counter. Marv also put him on a balance beam. Both activites grew easier when Todd learned to walk. There was a football in Todd's crib from day one. "Not a real NFL ball," says Marv. "That would be sick; it was a stuffed ball."
Meanwhile, Todd's mother, Trudi, worked on the region above the neck by playing classical music (lots of Bach and Beethoven) and jazz (plenty of George Shearing and Woody Herman) in his room. Cartoons were forbidden because they were too violent. Instead, Trudi tuned her son in to old movies like Hitchcock and Agatha Christie thrillers to spark his intellect. She dragged Todd along with his sister, Traci, now 21, to museums. To this day, when Trudi makes an unexpected turn in the car, Todd says, "Uh-oh, Mom's taking us to another museum."
Eventually Marv started gathering experts to work on every aspect of Todd's physical condition—speed, agility, strength, flexibility, quickness, body control, endurance, nutrition. He found one to improve Todd's peripheral vision. He enlisted a throwing coach and a motion coach and a psychologist. These days 13 different experts are donating their time in the name of science.
Tom House, the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers and a computer whiz, has analyzed Todd's form and found that while his balance is perfect, his arm is 4.53 inches too low throughout his delivery. Todd, who listens to everyone, is working on it. This Team Marinovich is the creation of Marv, who was a two-way lineman and a captain at USC in 1962, a marginal pro in the AFL with the Raiders and a sometime assistant coach for the Raiders, the Rams, the Cardinals and the Hawaiians of the defunct WFL.
Though Marv owns an athletic research center—a sort of high-tech gym—his true occupation has been the development of his son, an enterprise that has yet to produce a monetary dividend. And the Marinovich marriage ended last year after 24 years. "All Marv has done," says a friend, "is give up his entire life for Todd."