Marino, Dan

views updated May 23 2018

Dan Marino


American football player

He's considered the most prolific passer the National Football League (NFL) ever produced. During his seventeen seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Dan Marino generated one of the most remarkable quarterbacking careers in the history of football, averaging twenty-four touchdown passes per season offset by fewer than fourteen interceptions. Year after year, game after game, play after play, Marino's laser-sharp passes moved his team down the field and into scoring position. When Marino retired after the 1999 season, he held records for the most passing yards (61,361), completions (4,967), and touchdown passes (420) in NFL history. Over the years, this fiery competitor won not only games, but also the hearts of the South Florida people. His on-field heroics entertained them, while his off-field endeavors enhanced their lives. Without Marino, The Miami Children's Hospital Dan Marino Center wouldn't exist. Marino's charitable foundation helped build the 20,000-square-foot center, which serves children with chronic medical needs.

Learned Sports Fundamentals from Father

Daniel Constantine Marino, Jr., was born September 15, 1961, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Veronica and Dan Marino, Sr. Marino grew up in a blue-collar section of Pittsburgh called Oakland, along with his two younger sisters. Marino's mother worked as a school crossing guard, and his father drove the midnight delivery truck for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Marino was young when his father, a sandlot football coach, taught him to toss a football. While waiting for dinner, the father and son pitched the ball back and forth in the living room. Early on, Marino developed a quick release as his father taught him to draw the ball back swiftly and release it with a flick of the wrist and a whip of the shoulders. By the time he entered the pros, Marino could take the ball from the center and get off a pass

in just 1.5 seconds, greatly decreasing the chances of getting sacked.

Besides teaching Marino basic sports fundamentals, Marino's father also taught him that hard work and determination were key to success. In his autobiography, Marino recalled that his father always told him, "'You don't deserve anything in life. You work for what you deserve.'"

Became High School Football, Baseball Star

At Central Catholic High School, Marino starred as a football quarterback and baseball pitcher. During both his junior and senior seasons, Marino passed for more than 1,000 yards, earning Parade magazine All-America honors in 1979, his senior year.

Marino could have played college football just about anywhere, but he chose to stay close to home and attend the University of Pittsburgh, or Pitt. After Marino signed with Pitt, the Kansas City Royals baseball team drafted him. Marino was thrilled. He planned to play baseball during the summers and attend college the rest of the year. However, Marino turned down the baseball contract when he found out that if he accepted it, he would lose his athletic scholarship and have to pay for college.

Became Hometown Hero at Pitt

In 1979, Marino entered Pitt, his hometown school. Part way through his freshman year, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Marino took over for Pitt's injured star quarterback and never left the lineup. Marino led the Pittsburgh Panthers to an 11-1 record during each of his freshman, sophomore, and junior years. He also led his team to four post-season appearances, in the Fiesta, Gator, Sugar, and Cotton bowls.

Marino's junior year, 1981, proved the most prolific. That year, he rewrote the school's record books, setting single-season records for most completed passes (226), passing yard (2,876), and touchdown passes (37). He also led his team to a 24-20 Sugar Bowl victory over the University of Georgia with the go-ahead touchdown pass coming with 35 seconds left to play. For his efforts, Marino was named Sugar Bowl MVP and finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, given to the most outstanding college football player. By the time Marino finished his senior season at Pitt, he owned the school's all-time records for pass completions (693), yards gained (8,290), and career touchdown passes (79).

Drafted by Miami Dolphins

In the 1983 NFL draft, Marino was the 27th player drafted. It was a banner year for quarterback talent, and five other quarterbacks, including John Elway and Jim Kelly , were chosen before the Miami Dolphins picked Marino.


1961Born September 15 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1971Plays on the St. Regis grade school football team
1979Graduates from Pittsburgh's Central Catholic High School
1979Drafted on June 5 by Kansas City Royals to play baseball
1979Begins football career at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt)
1981Plays in Sugar Bowl, coming away the game MVP
1983Graduates from Pitt with a communications degree
1983Taken by Miami Dolphins on April 26 as the 27th pick in the first round of the NFL draft
1983Makes first pro start on October 9
1985Plays in first (and only) Super Bowl on January 20, a loss to the San Francisco 49ers
1985Marries Claire Veazey on January 30
1992Establishes the Dan Marino Foundation
1993Tears Achilles tendon on October 10; sits out remainder of season
1994Plays self in movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
1999Misses five starts due to pinched neck nerve
1999Released by Miami Dolphins at end of season
2000Announces retirement from football on March 13
2000Joins HBO's "Inside the NFL" series as co-host
2002Joins CBS' "The NFL Today" as co-host

From the beginning, Marino and Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula hit it off. In his autobiography, Marino said he progressed rapidly because Shula forced him to call his own plays early on. Instead of relying on his coach, Marino had to learn to dissect the defense on his own. This forced Marino to study longer and play harder.

On October 9, Marino got his first pro start and completed 19 of 29 passes, including three touchdowns, in a 38-35 overtime loss to Buffalo. He set many NFL records that year, including highest completion percentage for a rookie (58.4) and lowest percentage of interceptions for a rookie (2.0). As the leading passer for the American Football Conference (AFC), Marino became the first rookie chosen to start at the Pro Bowl and was named The Sporting News Rookie of the Year.

The following year, 1984, proved spectacular for Marino as he set NFL single-season records for touchdown passes (48), passing yards (5,084), and completions (362). With Marino's help, the Dolphins went 14-2 and won the AFC championship. They headed to Super Bowl XIX, where they faced Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers on January 20, 1985. Marino drove the ball 318 yards by completing 29 of 50 passes, but the Dolphins still lost 38-16.

Marino's strong arm and fierce competitive nature made his team a perennial contender.

"What I always admired about Dan Marino was the fire about him," NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer said, according to ESPN. "Everybody talks about his quick release But I always saw the fire in his eyes. When you played against him, you knew he would probably have a good day. You just hoped it wasn't enough to beat you."

Racked up an 'Armful' of Records

Over the years, Marino's arm provided an amazing aerial show for spectators. With his phenomenal passes, Marino produced a crop of records. In 1986, Marino set an NFL record by throwing 100 career touchdowns in the fewest games-forty-four. Johnny Unitas held the old record, throwing his 100th touchdown at game fifty-three.

In 1991, Marino became the fourth player in NFL history to pass the 35,000-yard mark. In 1994, he tossed his 300th touchdown in his 157th game. Fran Tarkenton held the old record for fewest games to reach 300, though it took him 217 games. In 1998, he became the first quarterback to complete 400 touchdown passes.

As to be expected, there were setbacks along the way. In 1993, Marino tore his Achilles' tendon, ending a playing streak of 145 consecutive gamesan NFL record for quarterbacks. By 1996, Marino had had five knee surgeries, or "oil changes" as he liked to call them.

Retired as Great Passer, Great Humanitarian

Though Marino never made it to a Super Bowl again after 1984, he continued to stack up the records. In 1999, Marino became the first quarterback to reach 60,000 yards. The year, however, was a tough one for Marino as a pinched neck nerve forced him to sit out five starts. The season ended with a devastating 62-7 playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 15, 2000. Following the playoffs, the Dolphins released Marino, and several NFL teams courted him. In the end, Marino decided to retire. Going somewhere else just didn't feel right.

Career Statistics

Miami: Miami Dolphins.

Though Marino's records stand out, there is one hole in his resume: he never got to play on a Super Bowl-winning team, although he retired holding twenty-five NFL regular-season records. Marino, however, says that doesn't matter. As he told the New York Post, "I was extremely happy with my career. I wouldn't trade 17 years with the Dolphins, my experiences and what I did as far as consistency and taking pride in my job for a Super Bowl and having the opportunity to play in one city and play as long as I did."

Marino will be remembered not only as a great passer but also as a great humanitarian. The Miami Children's Hospital Dan Marino Center was built with help from Marino. Each month, the center serves 2,000 children from Florida and across the world. More than seventy medical professionals, from speech pathologists to neurologists, work there. Marino helped found the centera one-stop shop for children with medical needsafter his son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism. Marino was frustrated with having to travel all over the place to see specialists to get proper care. Marino has thus left a legacy on paper-the record books-and a legacy of brick and mortar-the center-that is daily changing lives.


Address: c/o Dan Marino Foundation, PO Box 267640, Weston, FL 33326. Fax: (954) 423-5355. Phone: (954) 888-1771. Email: [email protected].


(With Steve Delsohn) Marino!, McGraw-Hill, 1986.

Awards and Accomplishments

1979Earned Parade magazine All-America honors
1981Named The Sporting News All-America team quarterback
1981Named Sugar Bowl Most Valuable Player
1983Named The Sporting News Rookie of the Year
1983Became first rookie quarterback to start a Pro Bowl
1984Broke NFL single-season record for touchdown passes (48), passing yards (5,084), and completions (362)
1984Named the NFL's Most Valuable Player
1984-86Named to The Sporting News NFL All-Pro Team
1984-87Named to the American Football Conference (AFC) Pro Bowl team
1986Threw an 85-yard touchdown pass on November 2, the longest completion in NFL history
1986Threw 100th career touchdown pass on September 7, setting an NFL record by reaching that mark in the fewest games (44)
1988Reached 20,000-yard milestone on September 18
1991-92Named to the AFC Pro Bowl team
1994-95Named starting quarterback for the AFC Pro Bowl team
1995Completed his career 3,687th pass on October 8, setting an NFL record for most career complete passes
1996Became first quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 50,000 career yards
1998Became first quarterback in NFL history to complete 400 touchdown passes
1999Named NFL Man of the Year for charitable works
1999Became first quarterback to reach 60,000 yards

Where Is He Now?

Marino and his wife, Claire, whom he married in 1985, live in Weston, Florida. Their six children, including two who were adopted from China, keep them busy. Marino also serves as a co-host for HBO's "Inside the NFL" and CBS' "The NFL Today." A great deal of his time is spent on philanthropic gestures. Marino established the Dan Marino Foundation in 1992 shortly after his son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism. Over the years, the foundation has raised more than $3.6 million to help children with developmental disabilities. To stay active, Marino plays golf and hopes to some day qualify for the U.S. Open.

(With Marc Serota and Mark Vancil) Marino: On the Record, Collins Publishers San Francisco, 1996.



Marino, Dan. Marino: On the Record. San Francisco: Collins Publishers San Francisco, 1996.

Owens, Thomas S. Dan Marino: Record-Setting Quarterback. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 1997.


Attner, Paul. "A Jewel-Without the Jewelry." Sporting News (March 20, 2000): 58.

Bell, Jarrett. "Marino Enjoying Easy Street: Charitable Foundation, Golfing, Kids Take His Time." USA Today (August 23, 2000).

Fabrikant, Geraldine. "Playing It Cautious After the Game's Over." New York Times (November 17, 2002).

"5 Questions for Dan Marino." New York Post (September 20, 2002).

King, Peter. "Letting Go." Sports Illustrated (March 20, 2000): 64.

Rodriguez, Ken. "Dan Marino Still Sparkles in South Florida." Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service (September 16, 2000).


"Bristol University Discusses Dan the Man." (December 9, 2002).

"Dan Marino." (December 9, 2002).

"Dan Marino Profile, Statistics and More." (December 5, 2002).

"The Complete Dan Marino." (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel. (December 10, 2002).

"The Sporting News: Dan Marino." Sporting (December 10, 2002).

Sketch by Lisa Frick

Marino, Dan

views updated May 17 2018

Dan Marino

When quarterback Dan Marino (born 1961) was still available late in the first round of the 1983 National Football League draft, the Miami Dolphins were sur- prised and delighted. Marino set many major passing records over 17 seasons before retiring after the 1999 season, while leading the Dolphins to 10 postseason appearances and one Super Bowl. Marino, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, went on to become a broadcaster and product endorser after his retirement from professional football.

Raised in Blue-Collar Neighborhood

Marino grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's, working-class Oakland neighborhood. His father, Dan Sr., worked the graveyard shift delivering bundles of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and threw footballs in the backyard with his son. Young Marino, who rooted for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a youth, played his early football on a street so narrow that teams had four players maximum; the end zones were telephone poles and curbs constituted the sidelines. Buses and cars often served as the linebackers he had to dodge. "If Marino didn't have anything else to do, he threw at the telephone poles," Larry Schwartz wrote for ESPN Classic.

He emerged as a Parade magazine All-American while at Central Catholic High School. Marino pitched and hit so well that the Kansas City Royals selected him in the fourth round of baseball's amateur draft, but Marino rejected the team's offer of a $35,000 signing bonus in order to play college football instead, at the University of Pittsburgh, just five blocks from his home. "Something, maybe my heart, told me to stay home and go to Pitt," he told Schwartz.

Had Ups and Downs as Panther

Halfway through his freshman season, Marino became Pittsburgh's starting quarterback and never looked back. The Panthers reeled off three straight 11-1 seasons, winning the Fiesta, Gator, and Sugar bowls. In Marino's junior season, 1981, Panthers Head Coach Jackie Sherrill turned his quarterback loose with a more wide-open offense and Marino responded with 37 touchdown passes, which led the entire National Collegiate Athletic Association, and 2,876 yards with a nearly 60 percent completion rate. He saved his best for last that year. Facing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, and with the Bulldogs still having an outside shot at a national championship, Marino stared down a Georgia blitz and hit tight end John Brown with a 33-yard touchdown pass with 42 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 24-20 victory. Moments earlier, Marino had talked Sherrill out of attempting a game-tying field goal.

Pittsburgh ended the 1981 season ranked fourth in the Associated Press poll, and the Panthers harbored national title hopes the following season with Marino back for his senior year. Marino, however, threw more interceptions than touchdowns (23 to 17) and Pittsburgh finished 9-3—disappointing compared with expectations. The last two games were especially disappointing. The regular-season finale was an embarrassing 48-14 loss at home to in-state rival Penn State, and the Panthers failed to score a touchdown in a 7-3 defeat to Southern Methodist in the Cotton Bowl. "The bottom fell out my senior year at Pittsburgh," Marino wrote in his book, Dan Marino: My Life in Football, excerpts of which appeared on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Web site. "It's never fun to play poorly or to be questioned. It certainly wasn't for me that senior year at Pitt. But I think it served me well to learn how to handle everything that came with the game's ups and downs. Some people call it growing another layer of skin. I just call it growing up."

Dolphins Needed a QB

Marino's mystifying senior slump befuddled many observers—and him—and dropped his value on draft day. That the player pool was stocked with promising quarterbacks—Schwartz called it the "Quarterback Class of '83,"—didn't help Marino, either. Quarterbacks John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, and Ken O'Brien all went ahead of Marino. Other teams that had expressed their interest took running backs and defensive tackles. Miami, meanwhile, had liked what they saw of Marino at the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis but assumed he would not be available late in the first round, when the Dolphins were scheduled to pick 27th, or next to last.

Marino received a phone call from Miami coach Don Shula. "Hey, you want to come to Miami? Because we need a quarterback," Shula said, as Marino recalled in his book. Marino's reply: "You bet." Miami had reached the Super Bowl three months earlier, losing 27-17 to the Washington Redskins, but the Dolphins lacked the franchise quarterback they were missing since Bob Griese retired in 1980.

Still, Marino had some critics to silence. "I worked my butt off that summer in hope of making a good first impression," Marino wrote in his book. The young quarterback had a good team around him. The Dolphins had reached the Super Bowl with a standout defense and a strong offensive line that anchored a ball-control offense in the absence of a high-scoring attack. Shula, once Marino was ready, would let the Dolphins open up offensively. "Right from the start, Don Shula was the perfect coach to help develop me into [a quarterback] quickly."

Three games into the 1983 season, Marino took over from David Woodley as starting quarterback. In 1984, he blossomed into a star. He set two headline-grabbing, single-season records: most touchdown passes (48, which Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts broke in 2004) and most yards completed (5,084). He impressed other coaches and media for his maturity as well. "Quite frankly, Marino just doesn't make mistakes," Paul Attner wrote in the Sporting News in November of 1984. "Remarkably, Marino goes about his destruction so easily, so calmly, so naturally, that you forget he was in college just two years ago or that he is confronting complex defenses that are employing every possible sleight-of-hand to confuse the young lad or that even an esteemed coach like Tom Landry once said it takes every five years to mature into an NFL quarterback." Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott said, as quoted on the ESPN Classic Web site: "You were basically at Dan's mercy. All the great ones see the game so quickly that when everybody else is running around like a chicken with their head cut off, they know exactly where they want to go with the ball."

Marino and the Dolphins won the American Football Conference championship in 1984, avenging a home upset loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs a year earlier. Super Bowl XIX featured Marino against another of the game's best young quarterbacks, Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers. Montana, already with a Super Bowl title under his belt, was the game's Most Valuable Player three years earlier. After two weeks of Montana vs. Marino headlines and sound bites, the quarterbacks and their teams met at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California. Though the Dolphins led 10-7 after the first quarter, the rest of the game was all 49ers. They led 28-16 at halftime and won 38-16, and Montana had another Super Bowl MVP award. Marino, with his team playing catch-up all day, completed 29 of 50 passes for 318 yards, threw for one touchdown pass and had two interceptions. The 49ers sacked him four times.

His Commercial Value Rose

Despite the Super Bowl defeat, Marino's value as quarterback and commercial endorser soared. Soft-drink bottler Pepsi took advantage of the Montana-Marino hype and featured both in a television ad shortly after the game. "Joe, next year I'm buying," Marino said in the ad, after Montana bought him a Pepsi at a machine. Marino also endorsed Isotoner gloves after Aris-Isotoner vice president Richard Rubin chose the quarterback over race-car driver Mario Andretti and a heart surgeon. The company's slogan was "Take care of the hands that take care of you." According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Rubin said Isotoner's sales increased by 500 percent over the first five years of Marino's marketing agreement, which ended in 1994 with a management turnover. "The Isotoner ads have been off the air for more than a decade, but people still ask Marino about them," Jackson wrote. "In the winter, Dan can walk down the streets of New York and get Isotoner comments," Marino's marketing manager, Ralph Stringer said in Jackson's article. "A person will say, 'I saw your commercial [very recently].' I say, 'You didn't see that commercial.'"

Marino never played in another Super Bowl, despite the Dolphins' many playoff appearances. In 1985, they hosted the AFC title game but lost at home 31-14 to a New England Patriots team that had not won in Miami since 1966. Miami also came up one victory short in 1992, falling at home 29-10 to Buffalo. Marino had talented receivers in Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, but the defense faltered over the years and there was never a running game solid enough to balance the offense. "We used to laugh when we heard every single year that the Dolphins were committed to the running game," said Kelly, the quarterback who led Buffalo to four straight AFC titles from 1990 to 1993 and is in the Hall of Fame. "They never had a running game, and we knew if it came down to it, it was going to come down to No. 13 [Marino]."

Marino, who stayed healthy in an injury-prone position for most of his career, set 25 NFL records and shared five others. Shula resigned as coach in 1995, opting for an executive position while Jimmy Johnson, who had won titles with the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Miami, took over on the sidelines. In his final season, 1999, Marino threw more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes (12) for the first time since his senior year in college. After an embarrassing 62-7 playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Marino announced his retirement. His regular-season career statistics included 4,967 completions in 8,358 attempts for 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns. He was named to the All-Pro first or second team eight times and all-AFC six times. Marino also played in nine Pro Bowls.

Turned Down Executive Position

The Dolphins retired Marino's number, 13, the following season. He, quarterback Bob Griese (12), and running back Larry Csonka (39) are the only players so honored by the franchise, which began play in 1966. Marino was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2005.

Marino has been busy as a broadcaster for CBS and HBO; in 2004, three weeks after agreeing to become the Dolphins' senior vice president of football operations, he abruptly quit. "Dan Marino made the best audible of his life," Joe Schad wrote in the Palm Beach Post. "He didn't realize what he had gotten himself into. He didn't realize how many hours at the office this would require." Schad saw the hiring as celebrity window dressing. "[Owner Wayne] Huizenga was the restaurant owner. [General manager Rick] Spielman was the chef. [Head coach] Dave Wannstedt was the waiter. And they would let Marino make a few plate decorations. It was absurd. Marino, the greatest and most popular player in the history of the Dolphins, should not have lowered himself to that."

Marino is still in demand for endorsements. Late in 2005 Marino was endorsing Samsung Electronics, among other companies. "Even five years after retirement, Marino remains ubiquitous," Jackson wrote in the Miami Herald. "Marino has become one of the rare celebrity athletes whose popularity has endured long after he left the field." He is still visible in broadcast and print ads and on billboards, and has dabbled in film. "He represents quality based on the career he has established," said Ralph Stringer, who handles Marino's marketing deals. "Danny comes across as the boy from Pittsburgh. He's believable," Stringer told Jackson. "He has achieved the best, so you think he would associate with the best."


Palm Beach Post, February 4, 2004.


"100 Greatest College Football Endings,", (December 19, 2005).

"Dan Marino: My Life in Football," Pro Football Hall of Fame, (November 22, 2005).

"Marino's Golden Arm Changed the Game," ESPN Classic (November 22, 2005).

"Nobody Does It Better," Sporting News, November 5, 1984, (November 22, 2005).

Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dan Marino profile, (November 22, 2005).

"Thriving in the Pocket," Miami Herald, August 7, 2005, (December 19, 2005).