March, 20 2023
Dan Marino faced a tough choice as an eighteen-year-old two sport athlete at Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High. The Steel City native attracted national attention as a Parade Magazine All-American at quarterback, while finishing 12-0 as a pitcher and batting over.500 as a shortstop. Drafted by the Kansas City Royals (MLB), he faced a dilemma: if he signed a professional baseball contract, he would have to forfeit a scholarship to play at Pitt.
Marino chose Pitt and his success reinforced the decision to drop baseball. Marino played as a freshman, leading Pitt to victories over arch-rivals West Virginia and Penn State and a bowl victory. Pitt’s 11-1 record resulted in a top ten final ranking. He suffered a sophomore slump in 1980. A five-interception performance in the season opener against Boston College was followed by a severe knee injury against Temple. He saw little playing time as backup Rick Trocano led Pitt to a second consecutive 11-1 record and a second-place finish in the polls.
Marino attacked knee rehabilitation in the offseason and threw for eleven total touchdowns against Cincinnati and South Carolina to open his junior season. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder in the 42-28 win over the Gamecocks and sat out the following week. He returned and fought through the pain, throwing 37 touchdowns on the year and was first team All-America. His first game back was a 42-14 dismantling of Florida State in which he had three touchdowns. Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden said after the game that facing Marino was next level. “He’s a pro quarterback in college, really,” an impressed Bowden stated. A bitter 48-14 loss to Penn State ended the Panther’s national title hopes. “When you lose it always hurts,” Marino said in a subdued locker room. “But if I’m fortunate enough to keep playing this game, I’ll probably lose a lot more times.”
Marino and his teammates recovered and displayed mental toughness in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. Trailing 20-17 late in the game, Marino threw a game-winning 33-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with just 35 seconds to play.
Marino was drafted in the first round by the Miami Dolphins and spent sixteen seasons as one of the NFL’s greatest passers. When he retired in 2000, he was the NFL’s all-time leader in passing attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns.