“Once in great, great while, a 10 year old comes along to
play with the philharmonic orchestra, and once in a great, great while a Dan
Marino comes along to throw the football. You can’t explain why. You just watch
-- Sid Gillman
I'll always remember
that summer day in 1983. The heat was sweltering, the humidity heavy; a typical
Miami summer afternoon.
My Dad and I were
headed for St.
ThomasUniversity, at the time the practice facility for the Miami Dolphins.
The air conditioner in my Dad's car was broken so we had the windows open, the
hot wind blowing in the car as we zoomed down the expressway.
The famed Killer B
defense was the strength of the team. “WoodStrock”, the quarterback tandem of
David Woodley and Don Strock, wasn’t an ideal situation but it was good enough
to get them to Super Bowl XVII just a few months earlier.
Now the Dolphins had
drafted a guy from the University of Pittsburgh, someone named Dan Marino.
inconsistent play and Strock’s talent for relief pitching had left the Dolphins
still searching for a franchise QB to replace Bob Griese.
We were obviously
curious to see if Marino would be the one.
Parking was quite a
ways from the beat up wooden bleachers where the fans were allowed to take in
the action. The stands were unshielded in the blazing sun and the smell of
Coppertone permeated the air. I lugged a cooler along as there were no
We sipped Cokes and
scanned the field, looking for the target of our curiosity.
Suddenly, a tall
curly-haired kid wearing an orange #13 jersey came trotting out of the cement
block field house and onto the field. Everyone looked at him.
He was a lot bigger
than Griese. And, after going through passing drills with the receivers, it was
obvious that his arm was stronger. Clearly, this was a fast ball pitcher.
Don Shula blew his
whistle and the Dolphins came together to scrimmage each other. During the
11-on-11 exercise, we all watched (enjoyed!) an incredible passing exhibition.
At times the defense,
the famed Killer B defense, seemed powerless to stop it.
After practice was
over we headed back to the car, amazed at what we had just seen. We marveled at
the velocity of the throws and the sheer speed of his release.
There was no question
that this kid could play. Only his own rookie mistakes had spoiled the rhythm
of his work.
We knew then that the
Dolphins had something special. We just didn’t know how special.
For those who watched
Dan Marino’s career, from his first training camp through his final season, this
weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies serve as a moment of pride, of
tribute, of happiness for the recognition of the greatest player in team
history, of the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
For Marino, it is the
satisfying culmination of a brilliant NFL career. It is an opportunity to say
“thank you” to so many who helped him get to where he is today, in football and
I won't lay out all
of the records and accomplishments here. Marino’s profile occupies a large
chunk of the team's media guide, so voluminous are his achievements.
Suffice it to say
that Marino owns every single important NFL career passing record. All of them.
As a leader of men, he made those around him better. An NFL Most Valuable
Player (1984), the teams he quarterbacked had only one losing season in 18. One. Year after year he elevated his
team to heights that they would not have otherwise been able to achieve or, in
some years, deserve.
Off the field, his
charitable and community efforts made him an indelible part of the fabric of South Florida and the NFL. He won the NFL Man of the Year award in 1998,
primarily for his work in creating the DanMarinoCenter at Miami Children’s Hospital. His work with organizations
like Make-A-Wish has become legendary.
In a sports world
full of jerks, it’s terrific to see a good guy finish on top. Really, underneath
all the trappings and bling, Dan Marino is just a regular family guy. He puts
his pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. Perhaps in the end it
was his humanity that truly endeared himself to people.
Now Marino’s career
comes full circle, from that first training camp in Miami in 1983 to the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
There can be no
doubt: Dan Marino made good. He delivered.
Well done. Thanks for giving your best on the field.