Twenty-eight years later Ed Marinaro can laugh at the campaign
launched against him when he was a leading candidate for the
Heisman Trophy. Strong and durable, the Cornell running back set
or tied 17 NCAA records en route to two national rushing crowns,
ran for at least 200 yards in more than a third of his college
games and twice scored five touchdowns in a game, but he was
dogged by the Ivy League's wimpy image. "There are at least 15
better halfbacks...and all of them would love to play just once
against Colgate--or Harvard," claimed a newsletter published by
Penn State, which had heavily recruited Marinaro. That sort of
derogatory publicity hurt: Marinaro finished second to
quarterback Pat Sullivan of Auburn in the balloting. But
Marinaro harbors no resentment: "Cornell gave me the confidence
to know I was more than just a football player."
Now Marinaro once again finds his college feats minimized. Since
freshman eligibility was reinstated in 1972, most of Marinaro's
records--amassed over a mere 27 games--have fallen. However,
multiply his record 174.6 yards per game over the 43 games that
new record holder Ron Dayne played, and Marinaro would have
outrun Dayne by 1,110.8 yards.
Following a modestly successful six-year NFL career,
distinguished by trips to two Super Bowls with the Minnesota
Vikings, in 1973 and '74, Marinaro turned to acting. Best known
as Officer Joe Coffey on Hill Street Blues, Marinaro has
recently performed in the Showtime original movie Gift of Love:
The Daniel Huffman Story and in a recurring role on the ABC
sitcom Oh Grow Up. "When you're used to being in the limelight
as a celebrated person, it's hard to have that be over," says
Marinaro, 49, explaining his career choice. That doesn't mean
Marinaro views acting as an extension of his drive to compete:
"I'm burnt out from competition. Competition is basically about
proving you're the best, and I'm tired of having to prove
myself. That's why I like fly-fishing; it's not a competition
but a hobby."
Between fly-fishing trips and golfing on the Celebrity Players
Tour, where, Marinaro says, "I know I can't win an event," he
finds time to present awards for the Special Olympics, raise
funds for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and, of course,
act. "I'm proud that I have been able to redirect my passion,"
Marinaro says. "In a lot of ways, what I've accomplished as an
actor is greater than what I did as a football player."
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER
"When you're used to being in the limelight," says Marinaro,
"It's hard to have that be over."