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Guest marlins02

Posted on Fri, Aug. 05, 2005

 

 

 

 

 

`Bona fide hero'

 

Dan Marino's legacy, especially in South Florida, is much grander than just that of a football superstar.

 

BY JASON COLE

 

jcole@herald.com

 

 

Dan Marino will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday, the ultimate compliment for a glorious 17-year playing career that endures in an off-field life perhaps more graceful than any of his wondrous throws.

 

To many, Marino's enduring image carries immeasurable weight.

 

Marino is an example of the best Miami has to offer, and not just in terms of sport. Beyond the many NFL records, starting with his 420 career touchdowns passes, he is handsome, flashy and giving.

 

Some 20,000 people will be at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday, just a Marino-to-Mark Duper touchdown from the Hall of Fame building. They will see Marino, former San Francisco great Steve Young and NFL pioneers Fritz Pollard and Benny Friedman be inducted.

 

''I put him right up there in terms of the most prominent citizens we've ever had,'' said Dr. Paul George, a professor of history at Miami Dade College. George, 62, is a Miami native who specializes in the history of the city.

 

``He is the most cherished athlete/citizen we have ever had. He has eclipsed everyone, and it goes beyond the mere athletic achievement. He made Miami his home. He stayed here, raised his family here, had all those children, adopted children. You never had the kind of off-field issues that some people get into. Not a hint.

 

``On top of that, he came to our community at a time when so much was going wrong and people were so down on the community. The man has led an exemplary life in so many ways. This is a bona fide hero.''

 

Marino will never rank with the likes of Julia Tuttle, Henry Flagler or Dr. James Jackson, people who helped build the city.

 

Nonetheless, Marino developed into the city's modern image of success.

 

THE MAGIC STARTED

 

Marino fell to the Dolphins with the 27th overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft. The team was coming off a Super Bowl loss to Washington, and quarterback wasn't considered a high-priority position.

 

Coach Don Shula took criticism for selecting Marino initially. The talk didn't last long.

 

''As soon as Shula put him in, the magic started,'' said Bernie Rosen, 78, the former sports director of WTVJ who has worked at the station since 1949. ``It was as if the community could just feel his presence immediately. You knew he was something special.''

 

In 1984, Marino set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season with 48. It was a magical season which ended with a Super Bowl loss to San Francisco, the only Super Bowl appearance for Marino. The lack of a title is the only major blemish on his career.

 

Rosen also grew up in New York. He even was in the stands the day New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig called himself the ''luckiest man on the face of the Earth'' in his famous farewell speech to baseball.

 

To Rosen, Marino's stature is everything of the iconic sports greats of New York, be it Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio or Joe Namath.

 

''There's no one like him who generates the kind of news and presence that he does, even now,'' Rosen said. ``Sure, the Heat has [shaquille] O'Neal, and he generates a lot of attention. But we're talking five years later, and Marino still gets that type of reception. If he goes to a Heat game and is introduced, the fans still stand and applaud him.

 

``He has done so much for this community. How he played, the flash, the excitement. Then there's his charity foundation and his work with the hospitals. Everything he does is just so right on the mark.''

 

`PRETTY BOY'

 

A billboard of Marino and wife Claire stands alongside I-595 in Broward County, the couple advertising for a local jeweler. They are a picture of elegance; Marino always has been glamorous.

 

''Not only was Dan a superstar, but he's a pretty boy who could play,'' CBS analyst and former New York Giants championship quarterback Phil Simms said. ``Why do you think it's so hard for the fans down there to accept anybody else? Nobody else ever measured up on any scale.''

 

But it is more than looks. Marino was adept at saying the right thing, even when it was the boring thing. He rarely snapped at reporters and apologized after the one time he did late in his career.

 

He has been a spokesman for the affluent life, putting his name behind the upscale growth in Weston years ago and now in a high-end condo development in Fort Lauderdale.

 

One night years ago in New York, he and some fellow players went out. The group got rowdy, and the police were called. Marino played peacemaker and then ripped into his friends afterward for creating a scene.

 

''He's as clean-cut an image as you will see for a star,'' George said. ``Everything he has done has been with class. I have a friend whose grandfather admired Marino so much. When the Dolphins turned Marino away, he has hated the team ever since. That's an amazing effect for one player.''

 

Said Rosen: ``He captured this community in every way. It's really unbelievable.''

 

 

ive been reading these articles all week and i cannot wait till sunday, if i had the green i would certainly be there.

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