Todd Marinovich Will Serve as Cautionary Tale to Young Athletes in ESPN Feature

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2011

4 Oct 1992:  Quarterback Todd Marinovich of the Los Angeles Raiders looks on during a game against the New York Giants at the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium in os Angeles, California.  The Cowboys won the game, 13-10Mandatory Credit: Ken Levine  /Allsport
Ken Levine/Getty Images

Known as "Robo QB," Todd Marinovich was viewed as the perfect quarterback.

He was trained to become a quarterback by his father Marv from the day he was born. While Marinovich did make it to the NFL, his career was over in the blink on an eye.

Marinovich's father, a lineman and captain at USC, became one of the NFL's first strength and conditioning coaches. He used training techniques to prep Todd for football stardom, starting when he was merely an infant.

The training clearly worked as Marinovich was a star quarterback in high school and was recruited by every major college program. He ultimately chose his father's alma mater, USC, and showed more flashes of greatness.

Personal demons such as drug use eventually caused him to wear out his welcome at USC, however.

This led Marinovich to declare early for the NFL Draft, in which he was drafted 24th overall by the Los Angeles Raiders. As was the case in college, Marinovich showed plenty of promise. His drug use was out of control, though, and after failing three drug tests, his two-year NFL career came to an end.

Marinovich's story will be chronicled in a new ESPN Films production entitled "The Marinovich Project." The documentary will describe the training regimens Marv put together for his son, Todd's ascent as an elite quarterback prospect and his eventual downfall.

While the story is certainly a sad one, it should serve as a cautionary tale for promising young athletes and their fathers of pushing them too hard. Having aspirations of being a professional athlete is great, but as Marinovich and his father proved, it simply cannot consume your entire life.

Todd Marinovich had no real choice with regards to whether he would become an NFL quarterback. His father put him on that path while he was still in diapers, so it was all that Todd ever knew. Even if he wanted to rebel, training to become an elite athlete was simply second nature.

Rather than simply expressing his desire to do something else with his life, Marinovich resorted to drug use in order to lash out and remove himself from the world of football. It certainly wasn't the ideal outlet for Marinovich, and it cost him a promising career, but it is understandable why he did what he did.

If there is a textbook example of what not to do when preparing your child to become the best athlete he can, it is what Marv Marinovich did to his son. While his training ultimately was successful in making his son the "perfect quarterback," he also created an imperfect human being who felt alienated by his father.

It is clear that Marv was trying to live vicariously through Todd as he never got to have an NFL career himself. Kids need to be able to make their own decisions in terms of whether or not they want to pursue becoming a professional athlete. That has never been more apparent than in the case of Todd Marinovich.