NFL

Todd Marinovich Admits ‘Robo-QB’ Upbringing Contributed to His Life of Drugs, Prison

Todd Marinovich was forced into a life of football. Recently, Marinovich, who starred at quarterback for the University of Southern California back in the late 80s, admitted as much. His father Marv groomed him to be a professional athlete since the day he was born. That upbringing led Marinovich to eventually becoming a first-round pick in the NFL. It also led to a life of addiction, rehab, and prison.

Todd Marinovich’s football career

As a freshman at the University of Southern California, Marinovich had himself a strong season on the football field. The left-handed quarterback guided his team to a 9-2-1 record and a PAC-10 Conference championship. Marinovich was named College Freshman of the Year in 1989 by both The Sporting News and United Press International.

Marinovich entered his sophomore season as an early Heisman Trophy candidate. Along with the hype came speculation that Marinovich would be leaving early to enter the 1991 NFL draft. His second season was marred by personal issues and some clashing with head coach Larry Smith. About a month after USC lost in the Sun Bowl, Marinovich was arrested on a cocaine charge and then opted to leave the school for the NFL the next season.

Marinovich was taken by the Los Angeles Raiders in the first round of the 1991 NFL draft. He was the second quarterback selected behind Dan McGwire. He was taken with the 24th overall pick – nine spots ahead of future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Marinovich lasted just three seasons because of his erratic play and three failed drug tests that resulted in his suspension for the 1993 season.

Todd Marinovich’s upbringing

Todd Marinovich’s father, Marv, was also a former member of the USC football team back in the 60s and later became a strength coach in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders. Marv Marinovich wanted Todd to be a professional athlete from the get-go and he pushed his son from the time he was an infant, grooming him for future athletic success.

According to a 2019 article in Sports Illustrated, Marv Marinovich had his son trying to lift medicine balls before he could walk. Marv was stretching Todd’s hamstrings when the youngster was a month old. He had his son on a strict diet. He used specific training methods to build a young quarterback, prompting Todd Marinovich to be nicknamed the Robo Quarterback.

Marinovich’s youth was filled with lies. He had to lie about not eating candy on Halloween. He lied about wanting to train with his father. It got so out of hand and Todd was so afraid of Marv that he told people he wanted to train – that it was his decision to do so.

Todd Marinovich’s goal in high school was to go to college and get away from Marv. He was scared and he was overwhelmed. He said he didn’t want to be Todd Marinovich anymore.

Addiction and prison

Away from his family while at USC, Todd Marinovich was torn between enjoying his freedom and its temptations and following his father’s orders. His mind was all over the place. After his sophomore season, he was arrested for cocaine possession and then failed multiple drug tests while in the NFL, resulting in a suspension. The Raiders sent him to rehab and he never took it seriously.

“The Raiders sent me. I was definitely not ready for rehab then. Not too many 21-year-olds are,” Marinovich once said. “It was a 45-day in-patient treatment and I couldn’t wait to get out. I was surrounded by all these old guys who were … well, the same age I am now. And I sat around the circle going, ‘Yeah, thanks for the horror stories but what happened to you isn’t going to happen to me.’ And then it did … and worse.”

After football, Marinovich found himself in and out of prison, In March of 2018, he was arrested twice in four days. Marinovich used drugs to escape from football and his father’s intense training.

Today, Marv Marinovich is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, while Todd Marinovich has found a passion of his own – art. Some of his work can be found at marinovichart.com.