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18-Oct-2015 09:16

Originally published in the May 2009 issue The Fallbrook Midget Chiefs are fanned out across the field on a sunny autumn day in southern California, two dozen eighth graders in red helmets and bulbous pads.Whistles trill and coaches bark, mothers camp in folding chairs in the welcoming shade of the school building, younger siblings romp.His face is all angles, his fair skin is sunburned and heavily freckled, his lips are deeply lined, the back of his neck is weathered like an old farmer's. I played waaaay before you guys were even born." Without his sunglasses, resting now atop his head, his blue eyes look pale and unsure.He is six foot five, 212 pounds, the same as when he reported for duty twenty-one years ago as a redshirt freshman quarterback at the University of Southern California, the Touchdown Club's 1987 national high school player of the year. Raised much of his life on the picturesque Balboa Peninsula, he speaks in the loopy dialect of a surfer dude.Fathers hover on the periphery, wincing with every missed tackle and dropped pass.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."Hi, my name is Todd.Marv Marinovich was the cocaptain of John Mc Kay's undefeated USC team of 1962. The team won the national championship; Marv was ejected from the Rose Bowl for fighting.After a short NFL career, Marv began studying Eastern Bloc training methods.

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He moves toward the field in the manner of an athlete, loose limbed and physically confident, seemingly unconcerned, revealing nothing of the long and tortured trail he's left behind. "I wouldn't change anything for the world."As he speaks, Todd fondles and flips and spins the ball.

It seems small in his hands and very well behaved, like it belongs there.

When he was born, his father placed a big plush football in his crib.

The Raiders' colorful owner, Al Davis, made him one of the NFL's first strength-and-conditioning coaches. 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.

The press dubbed him Robo Quarterback; he was the total package. He once told a reporter in jest that he enjoyed surfing naked at a spot near a nuclear power plant.His Orange County high school record for all-time passing yardage, 9,182, stood for more than two decades. Thereafter, among his other transgressions — nine arrests, five felonies, a year in jail — he would be known derisively for naked surfing.