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His Orange County high school record for all-time passing yardage, 9,182, stood for more than two decades. "One thing that I am today and that's completely honest," he tells the Chiefs.Now he is thirty-nine, wearing surfer shorts and rubber flip-flops. "I wouldn't change anything for the world."As he speaks, Todd fondles and flips and spins the ball.
Years later, an ESPN columnist would name Marv number two on a list of "worst sports fathers." (After Jim Pierce, father of tennis player Mary, famous for verbally abusing opponents during matches.) At the moment, Marv is sitting at the back of the Chiefs gathering, resting his bum knee, eating an organic apple. It's quite an experience playing in front of a hundred thousand people. Everyone is holding their breath, wondering, What's he gonna do next? Here's a name you'll recognize: I was drafted ahead of Brett Favre in the 1991 draft. I made some amazing friends — we're still in touch."Todd surveys the young faces before him. "You said you only played three years in the NFL," the boy says, more a statement than a question. The Newport Beach Cheyennes were scrimmaging the best fourth-grade Pop Warner team in Orange County. Todd was nine years old, playing his first year of organized tackle football.
"I was the first freshman in Orange County to ever start a varsity game at quarterback," Todd continues. With time waning and the score close, the game on the line, the Cheyennes' coach opted to give his second-string offense a chance. Over in his spot near the end zone, Marv's eyes bugged. The Marinovich family had recently returned from living in Hawaii, where Marv, after coaching with the Raiders and the St.
Louis Cardinals, had done a stint with the World Football League's Hawaiians.
The Raiders' colorful owner, Al Davis, made him one of the NFL's first strength-and-conditioning coaches.
Before Todd could walk, Marv had him on a balance beam. The coach in the Raiders cap — they call him Raider Bill — asks Todd how he got along with his coaches, eliciting a huge guffaw from both Todd and Marv, which makes everybody else crack up, too.
"Some guys think the most important thing in life is their jobs, the stock market, whatever," he says. The question I asked myself was, How well could a kid develop if you provided him with the perfect environment? He took the snap and faded back, threw a perfect pass into the back corner of the end zone.
" For the nine months prior to Todd's birth on July 4, 1969, Trudi used no salt, sugar, alcohol, or tobacco. As Todd was being cleaned up, Marv convinced the coach that Todd needed to go back in the game. "That has always been my favorite route," he says now, sitting outside a little coffee shop on Balboa Boulevard, drinking a large drip with six sugars and smoking a Marlboro Red.As a baby, Todd was fed only fresh vegetables, fruits, and raw milk; when he was teething, he was given frozen kidneys to gnaw. He tells the story from a place of remove, as if describing something intimate that happened to someone else. It was spiraling and there was blood just flying off of it, splattering out into the air." When the catch was made, there was silence for a beat.As a child, he was allowed no junk food; Trudi sent Todd off to birthday parties with carrot sticks and carob muffins. He'd just cleared the line of scrimmage when Goliath-boy stepped into the gap and delivered a forearm shiver very much like the one that had gotten Marv ejected from the Rose Bowl. "And then I remember the parents cheering." Six years later, on the opening night of the 1984 football season, Todd once again gathered himself as best he could, rising to one knee on the turf at Orange Coast College. He'd just been blasted by two big studs from the celebrated front line of the Fountain Valley High School Barons.By age three, Marv had the boy throwing with both hands, kicking with both feet, doing sit-ups and pull-ups, and lifting light hand weights. Three days before he'd even set foot in a ninth-grade classroom, the six-three, 170-pound freshman was the starting quarterback for the varsity team at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, the largest Catholic high school west of Michigan.On his fourth birthday, Todd ran four miles along the ocean's edge in thirty-two minutes, an eight-minute-mile pace. Now, late in one of Todd's first games in Pop Warner, the coach sent a play into the huddle, a handoff to the halfback. In a sports-mad county known for its quarterbacks — from John Huarte and Matt Leinart to Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez — Todd's freshman start was a first. His head was ringing, his vision was blurred, he wanted to puke.Into this tableau ambles a tall man with faded-orange hair cropped close around a crowning bald spot, giving him the aspect of a tonsured monk. Somebody tosses him a football, like a speaking stick. I played waaaay before you guys were even born." Without his sunglasses, resting now atop his head, his blue eyes look pale and unsure.