" For the nine months prior to Todd's birth on July 4, 1969, Trudi used no salt, sugar, alcohol, or tobacco. As Todd was being cleaned up, Marv convinced the coach that Todd needed to go back in the game. "That has always been my favorite route," he says now, sitting outside a little coffee shop on Balboa Boulevard, drinking a large drip with six sugars and smoking a Marlboro Red.As a baby, Todd was fed only fresh vegetables, fruits, and raw milk; when he was teething, he was given frozen kidneys to gnaw. He tells the story from a place of remove, as if describing something intimate that happened to someone else. It was spiraling and there was blood just flying off of it, splattering out into the air." When the catch was made, there was silence for a beat.The press dubbed him Robo Quarterback; he was the total package. Thereafter, among his other transgressions — nine arrests, five felonies, a year in jail — he would be known derisively for naked surfing.His Orange County high school record for all-time passing yardage, 9,182, stood for more than two decades. "One thing that I am today and that's completely honest," he tells the Chiefs.Fathers hover on the periphery, wincing with every missed tackle and dropped pass.
The Raiders' colorful owner, Al Davis, made him one of the NFL's first strength-and-conditioning coaches.Now he is thirty-nine, wearing surfer shorts and rubber flip-flops. "I wouldn't change anything for the world."As he speaks, Todd fondles and flips and spins the ball.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. It seems small in his hands and very well behaved, like it belongs there.Before Todd could walk, Marv had him on a balance beam. 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.He would stretch the boy's little hamstrings in his crib. Then Todd points the football at a boy with freckles.Years later, an ESPN columnist would name Marv number two on a list of "worst sports fathers." (After Jim Pierce, father of tennis player Mary, famous for verbally abusing opponents during matches.) At the moment, Marv is sitting at the back of the Chiefs gathering, resting his bum knee, eating an organic apple. It's quite an experience playing in front of a hundred thousand people. Everyone is holding their breath, wondering, What's he gonna do next? Here's a name you'll recognize: I was drafted ahead of Brett Favre in the 1991 draft. I made some amazing friends — we're still in touch."Todd surveys the young faces before him. "You said you only played three years in the NFL," the boy says, more a statement than a question. The Newport Beach Cheyennes were scrimmaging the best fourth-grade Pop Warner team in Orange County. Todd was nine years old, playing his first year of organized tackle football.Nearly seventy, he has bull shoulders and a nimbus of curly gray hair. In about a minute, he has summarized the entire first half of his life. "Correctamundo," Todd replies, at ease now, playing to the crowd, not really thinking about what's coming next — which has always been his biggest strength and maybe also his biggest weakness. Todd was the quarterback, a twig figure with flaming-orange hair.Marv's conditioning was designed to train the body and the mind to push beyond pain and fear.Throughout his career, Todd would be known for his extraordinary focus and will — qualities that would both enable and doom him.Before every USC game you'd find him, wearing his cardinal-colored shirt and bright gold pants, tailgating in his regular spot in front of the L. He was associated with the program for nearly fifty years as a coach, assistant athletic director, TV commentator, and fan until his death, the result of organ failure due to alcoholism. After high school, Marv played football for Santa Monica City College. After the championship, he was named Most Inspirational Player. I overtrained so intensely that I never recovered." After a disappointing three-year career with the Raiders and Rams, Marv turned to sports training.Marv Marinovich grew up with his extended family on a three-thousand-acre ranch in Watsonville, in northern California. The team went undefeated and won the 1958 national junior-college championship. Over time, he would develop his own system for evaluating athletes and maximizing their potential.