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Marino, Daniel Constantine, Jr. ("Dan")

MARINO, Daniel Constantine, Jr. ("Dan")

(b. 15 September 1961 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), quarterback who, after an outstanding college career at the University of Pittsburgh and seventeen years with the Miami Dolphins, held every major passing record in the National Football League (NFL) at the close of the twentieth century.

Marino was the first of three children and the only son born to Daniel Constantine Marino, Sr., a delivery-truck driver, and Veronica Kolczynski Marino, a homemaker. He was raised in South Oakland, a neighborhood near the University of Pittsburgh whose population was primarily Irish-American, Italian-American, and Roman Catholic. He entered his parish school, Saint Regis, where his father coached the football team. Marino took to sports, especially football and baseball. He entered Central Catholic High School in 1976, attracted by its sports programs, and began receiving inquiries from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) football recruiters as a sophomore. He passed for more than 1,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons, gaining Parade magazine All-America recognition in 1979, his final year. Baseball scouts were also impressed with Marino, who pitched to a 25–1 record his senior year; he was a fourth-round amateur draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 1979. After serious consideration he opted for the football grant-in-aid from Pitt, beginning college in autumn 1979 only four blocks from his boyhood home.

Pitt's winning football tradition had been revived in the 1970s by Coach Johnny Majors with a legendary national championship in 1976, and Marino kept the Panthers at their renewed high level. Replacing the injured starting quarterback in the middle of his freshman year, Marino led Pitt to five consecutive wins and an 11–1 record, and remained the starter for the rest of his college days. Pitt again finished 11–1 in both his sophomore and junior years, then fell to 9–3 in 1982. Marino's best year in college was 1981 when, as a junior, he set school records for touchdown passes (37), passing yards (2,876), and completed passes (226); was named an All-American; and finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. In addition, he was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the Sugar Bowl, where he passed for three touchdowns, including the winner, with thirty-five seconds left in the game (Pitt defeated the University of Georgia 24–20). By the time he received his B.A. in communications in 1983, Marino was Pitt's all-time offensive leader, with 8,290 yards gained, 693 pass completions, and 79 career touchdown passes, and he became the fourth Pitt player to have his number retired. Pitt's overall record was 42–6 in the Marino years, and the team twice was rated number two in the final national polls.

The 1983 NFL draft was legendary for its quarterbacks. John Elway of Stanford University was the number-one choice in the draft, while Marino was taken as the next-to-last pick in the first round, twenty-seventh choice overall, by the Miami Dolphins. Marino and the head coach Don Shula got along well from the start. Shula, who quickly fell in love with his new six-foot, four-inch, 227-pound field leader, soon was adjusting his team and his offensive scheme to fit Marino's obvious talents, focusing on a strong offensive line to protect his quarterback. In the middle of his rookie season Marino got his first start, against Buffalo, and made his mark, completing nineteen of 29 passes for 322 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 38–35 overtime loss. Marino finished the year as the leading passer of the American Football Conference (AFC), set a record for lowest percentage interceptions in a rookie year (2.03), and highest completion percentage for a rookie (58.45), became the first rookie quarterback to start the Pro Bowl, and was chosen as the Rookie of the Year. The NFL Marino legend was born.

Following this auspicious start to his professional career, Marino made 1984 even greater, leading the Dolphins to a 14–2 record and the Super Bowl. Marino's passing was phenomenal even by his standards, as he set records for touchdown passes (48, which exceeded the old record by 12) and passing yards (5,084) that stood for the rest of the century. The Dolphins scored 28 or more points in 14 of their 16 games. A pure, drop-back passer, Marino piled up the numbers with his quick release, downfield vision, self-confidence, and poise. Protected by a strong line, he threw often and successfully to the "Marks Brothers," the receivers Mark Clayton and Mark "Super" Duper. He had 4 games with more than 400 yards each, 12 games with 3 or more touchdown passes, and was an obvious choice as the NFL's MVP. Marino played in what was fated to be his only (and Shula's last) Super Bowl against the quarterback Joe Montana and the San Francisco Forty-niners. Marino completed 29 of 50 passes for 318 yards, but was sacked 4 times, a high for the season, and threw 2 interceptions as San Francisco defeated the Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. Ten days later, on 30 January 1985, Marino married Claire Veazey in his parish church in Pittsburgh; they raised five children together.

Given his 1984 performance, Marino's desire to renegotiate his contract was understandable, but the Dolphins held out, and Marino eventually caved in after holding out for thirty-seven days. Despite missing training camp, he still wound up leading the league in touchdown passes (30), passing yards (4,137), and completions (336), while the Dolphins (12–4) again made it to the AFC title game, losing 31–14 to the New England Patriots. Marino's September 1986 agreement with the Dolphins was then the top package in NFL history (six years, $9 million, plus incentives). His 1986 season made the Dolphins look like wise investors as he again led the AFC in yards completed and touchdown passes, his high being six versus the New York Jets on 21 September.

Marino continued to pile up impressive numbers even as the Dolphins defense declined in the late 1980s. In 1990 he passed the 30,000 passing yards mark in his 114th game, the fastest pace ever, and in 1993 the 40,000 milestone, also the fastest (153rd career game). He suffered his first serious injury, a torn Achilles tendon, on 10 October 1993. After rehabilitation and serious training, in his next regular-season game, on 4 September 1994 against New England, Marino passed for 473 yards and 5 touchdowns in a comeback 39–35 win that he termed his most memorable game. He led the AFC in passing efficiency and touchdown passes and was named the Comeback Player of the Year. During the 1995 season he broke Fran Tarkenton's career passing records. Marino retired after the 1999 season, his seventeenth with the Dolphins, with a gracious statement full of praise and thanks for others that he delivered on 13 March 2000.

Marino was a confident, likable, fun-to-watch quarterback whose comebacks, long gains, and touchdown bombs were familiar to football fans of the 1980s and 1990s. He was a strong team leader, respected by his teammates as well as by fans. His career totals included 61,361 passing yards and 420 touchdowns, both records, 9 seasons of more than 3,000 yards gained in the air, and 6 of more than 4,000. His number "13" jersey was retired by the Dolphins. Fans mourned that he never won a Super Bowl.

Marino has produced two autobiographies: with Steve Delsohn, Marino! (1986), and with Marc Serota and Mark Vancil, Marino: On the Record (1996). He is also featured in Peter King, Greatest Quarterbacks (1999), and Beckett Publications, Dan Marino: The Making of a Legend (1999).

Lawson Bowling

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