HALL OF FAME Memory time for Marino
The NFL's most prolific passer has avoided talking about the past -- until now.
MIAMI (AP) -- As a player, Dan Marino never was much for discussing the past.
No. 13 always regarded conversation about his record-breaking games and seasons as a distraction from the games and seasons to come. Reflection could wait.
Now, five years into retirement, Marino is ready to reminisce.
This weekend will be all about memories and achievements as Marino enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Steve Young, Benny Friedman and Fritz Pollard. The ceremony is set for Sunday at the Hall of Fame in Canton.
"It's a great time in your life, when you think about all the things that you were able to accomplish," Marino said. "It's a little bit overwhelming to think that in all the years of the NFL, 80-some years, I'm one of the few guys that's going to be in the Hall of Fame. That's pretty special."
In his prime with the Miami Dolphins, Marino always was reluctant to rate his feats or help put them in perspective.
The most prolific passer in NFL history preferred to let his 61,361 yards passing, 420 touchdown throws and 37 fourth-quarter comebacks do the talking.
But now that Marino's willing to wax nostalgic, we learn that his favorite pass -- among the 8,358 he threw -- came on a trick play.
Among the 242 games he played, he singles out a Monday night victory 20 years ago against the Chicago Bears.
Among the flood of impressive statistics, he's most proud of his 145 consecutive starts from 1983 to 1993, excluding the 1987 NFL strike.
We also learn that his biggest thrill has nothing to do with football, but instead involves the South Florida children's hospital bearing his name that he helped establish in 1998.
"When a mother or dad comes up to me and says, 'Hey Dan, the center is helping our kid and making a difference in our family's life,' it makes you feel great," he said. "That's something I enjoy hearing."
Community work has kept Marino busy in retirement, as has a successful TV career. His fit physique and boyish good looks make it easy to forget he turns 44 in September, and while he wishes he was still throwing passes, he knows he no longer belongs on the field.
"It would be awfully dangerous for me to go out and try to play," he said with a smile, "because I couldn't get out of the way."
He played 17 seasons, all for the Dolphins, and while injuries eventually took away his mobility, his arm remained strong to the end.
Blessed with football's fastest release, he transformed plays seemingly destined for disaster into touchdowns, zipping passes into places where mere mortals would dare not throw.
No wonder he trotted onto the field with a swagger.
"He simply was the best that ever played," said Mark Clayton, who caught 79 of Marino's touchdown passes.
"Marino brought the feeling you were never out of a game, no matter what the score," said his former coach, Hall of Famer Don Shula.
One comeback in 1994 culminated with the pass Marino remembers most fondly. He faked a spike that would have stopped the clock in the final 30 seconds and instead threw for a game-winning touchdown against the archrival New York Jets.
"People remember it because it's kind of the first time anybody's done that," Marino said. "That makes you smile."
The Monday night victory over the Bears came at the Orange Bowl in 1985, ending Chicago's bid for the only perfect season since the 1972 Dolphins. Marino and Miami scored 31 points in the first half and won 38-24.
"It was probably the loudest stadium I've ever played in," Marino said. "The Bears were considered one of the best defenses ever. I remember we matched up really well against them, and it was a great night for us. I would have loved to get an opportunity to play them again, but we didn't get there. That would have been a fun Super Bowl."
While Marino is honored this week, contrarians are sure to seize upon the one big blemish on his resume. The subject resurfaced last week during a national conference call to promote his Hall of Fame induction, when the first reporter asking a question noted that Marino never won a Super Bowl.
"I think about it sometimes, probably more while I was playing than I do now," Marino responded. "But that's part of life. There are a lot of people where I'm sure there are things in your life that you've wanted to accomplish that you haven't. You have to deal with things like that. I don't think it has taken away from my career at all."
In truth, it likely eliminates Marino from consideration as the game's greatest quarterback, even though his failure to win a ring is largely a reflection of the Dolphins' mediocre defense and lousy running attack for most of his career.
He's too gracious to mention that at his induction ceremony Sunday in Canton. He'll be introduced by his 18-year-old son, Daniel, a budding actor.
Marino's other five children will also be there, along with wife Claire, his mom and dad, Shula and many others.
The Marinos sent out 500 invitations to friends and family from Miami, his native Pittsburgh and elsewhere.
Marino said he hopes he doesn't cry. He'll try to heed the advice of Hall of Famer Joe Greene, who told him a well-prepared speech is the best way to withstand the emotions of the occasion.
"He said, 'You better have it together,' " Marino said. "I'm not sure I will. It's a lot of years of memories."
The time for Marino to savor them has arrived.