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Douglas S. Looney
February 22, 1988
Todd Marinovich was groomed from infancy to be a top-notch quarterback
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February 22, 1988

Bred To Be A Superstar

Todd Marinovich was groomed from infancy to be a top-notch quarterback

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Which is fine with Marv. Father and son now live in a one-bedroom apartment. Todd has the bedroom, and Marv sleeps on the sofa in the living room. On weekends Todd visits Trudi, who has moved back in with her parents in Newport Beach.

"I think I'm a tyrant," says Marv. "But I think you have to be to succeed. The best thing about it is my relationship with my son. We wanted to have the healthiest possible mom and the healthiest possible child. It's fanatical, but I don't know if you can be a great success without being a fanatic." He pauses and then continues, "I suppose it was a little overdone."

Maybe. Todd has obviously not had a normal childhood, but he's a surprisingly normal teenager for one who has never permitted beer or even Coca-Cola to cross his lips. And in spite of multihour workouts seven days a week for nearly all his life, Todd is carrying a 3.2 grade point average at a first-rate school. So he has something to fall back on should he—perish the thought—not turn out to be the second coming of Elway. Nevertheless, failure would be a dreadful blow for both father and son. Todd bristles at the suggestion that he was forced into this obsessive existence. "There is no way somebody could be made to do all this stuff," he says. "I choose to do it."

With six months to go before Todd dons the cardinal and gold of USC, the returns are far from complete on whether Marv has succeeded in creating the perfect quarterback. To pick a few nits, some observers think Todd might be a tick slow (4.7 in the 40) or not quite agile enough. Marv puts a different spiral on the situation, saying, "Todd has the background, heredity, environment and opportunity. I just don't think he can fail. His limiting factors are the blocking, the receivers and the ability of his coaches." Indeed, Marv has yanked Todd off teams three times because of what he viewed as coaching ineptitude.

To handle the recruiting blitz, Todd had narrowed his choices to six schools by early January. His priorities were location, offensive style, winning tradition and supporting cast. The contenders:

•Arizona State. Marinovich loved the warm, dry weather, the Sun Devils' rabid fans and coach John Cooper. Todd was far closer than anyone knew to heading for Tempe. Then, in January, Cooper left to take the Ohio State job. Oddly, Cooper never called to try to lure Marinovich to Columbus. Arizona State later shot itself in the recruiting foot when quarterback coach Mike Martz told Marinovich the Sun Devils already had a passer, Bobby Valdez, "with your same abilities and potential." Worst of all, Arizona State dragged its feet on hiring an offensive coordinator. Marinovich is a drop-back passer. What if the new guy runs the wishbone?

•BYU. It was a big early favorite. Marinovich loved the Cougars' quarterback tradition embodied by Gifford Nielsen, Jim McMahon and Steve Young. Todd did have some misgivings about the quality of play in the WAC, but BYU blew it when coach LaVell Edwards failed to visit Mission Viejo. That gaffe left the impression that BYU simply didn't care enough to send its very best.

•Washington. Marinovich was highly impressed with coach Don James, who came by the apartment. He liked Seattle but was concerned about its distance from home and the fact that the Huskies couldn't promise it would not rain on game day for the next five years.

•Miami. The Hurricanes got excited late. Still, Marinovich was infatuated with Kelly, Kosar & Testaverde U. "A pro team in college," proclaimed Marv. But the 'Canes inexplicably adopted what Todd felt was a haughty attitude, as if they were doing him a big favor by just talking with him. That, along with the cross-country location, doomed the fledgling affair.

•Stanford. It had all kinds of pluses. A small minus was that El way Sr., who was the first coach to come visit, had looked at junior-year films of Todd but not of his play as a senior. Marv and Todd had the feeling that Elway had not done his homework. Another difficulty was that, for a young man who wants to play in the Rose Bowl and for a national championship, the Cardinal is a long shot. Stanford's last Rose Bowl appearance was 1972, and it hasn't won a national crown since 1940.

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