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Marino Reflects On His Rookie Season

Posted Sep 4, 2012

It’s been 29 years since Dan Marino broke into the National Football League as a rookie quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.

It’s been 29 years since Dan Marino broke into the National Football League as a rookie quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.

Marino’s Hall-of-Fame career had two beginnings back in 1983 – his first appearance in relief of David Woodley in the fourth quarter of a Monday night loss at the Los Angeles Raiders and his first start three weeks later in Miami against the Buffalo Bills. Historians choose to recall Marino’s first touchdown pass to tight end Joe Rose against the Raiders as a sign of things to come, rather than how that Bills game began for him at home.

“My first two series I threw two picks,” said Marino this afternoon after speaking at the first Dolphins Touchdown Club of 2012 at Bokamper’s in Miramar. “You’ve got to have a short memory.”

With that approach already ingrained in him, Marino went on to throw three touchdown passes to keep Miami in a tight game with its division rival from Buffalo. The Bills pulled out a 38-35 overtime victory, but the Dolphins would win nine of their last 10 games behind Marino, setting the stage for his legendary second season in 1984.

Marino took the audience at Bokamper’s behind the scenes for a moment when he shared the story of a conversation that took place on the sidelines between him and veteran safety Lyle Blackwood.

“It was my first start and after the national anthem (safety) Lyle Blackwood comes over to me and he says, ‘Dan, it’s your first start and I don’t want to put any pressure on you at all, but if you play bad we’re going to lose.’” Marino recalled. “Then he ran on the field and I was like, ‘Okay.’ That was it.”

And that was it, as Marino never looked back and continued to take the league by storm for 15 more seasons, setting every passing record imaginable until Brett Favre passed him years later. His teammates knew right away that he was going to be something special.

“He was unbelievable,” Rose said. “He was accurate, confident and it was just a matter of time. From day one he was so good and everybody looked and just knew it was going to be different. He had the goods.”

With the Dolphins opening up the 2012 regular season this Sunday at the Houston Texans, it remains to be seen if, when and with whom a similar conversation might take place for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He was the first quarterback taken in the first round by the Dolphins since Marino and will become the first rookie quarterback in franchise history to start the opener.

Unlike Marino, who was on a team fresh off of reaching the Super Bowl, Tannehill inherits a team coming off of a 6-10 season that ended stronger than it began. Even though Marino came into training camp that year dead set on winning the starting job, he knew the odds were not in his favor with David Woodley having started in the Super Bowl. Hall-of-Fame Head Coach Don Shula told Marino to prepare as if he was going to be the starter and to be ready for whenever that moment arrived, which Marino believes helped with his development.

“I was very fortunate when I first came in the league as I had some talented players around me like Mark Clayton, Mark Duper and Nat Moore,” Marino said. “He’s (Tannehill) going to have to grow as much as he can on the run and that’s part of the deal. I would tell him to have a short memory. You’re going to have some bad games so you have to keep it going and just turn it loose.”

Marino admittedly has not seen Tannehill throw in person and he puts a lot of stock in that, but what he has seen has impressed him. He met Tannehill at the kickoff luncheon last week and immediately liked the fact that the young man has the height to see over the line and as far as he heard, can make all of the throws.

“I’ve seen him run around pretty good and he made some plays running and he has the experience of being a wide receiver so he understands some of that part of it,” Marino said. “They wouldn’t have picked him eighth if they didn’t think he could be a big-time player in the league.”

Considering the fact that Marino was one of the big-time players of his era and set that as his goal back in that rookie season should only further that opinion.

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