About 26 years ago, Todd Marinovich was a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Raiders and it seemed he had a long professional career ahead of him.
Nobody expected him to be playing more than a quarter-century later, though Marinovich’s return to a football field this year has been as circuitous as one could ever dream. Marinovich, whose battles with substance abuse have been making headlines for decades, announced at a news conference on Friday that he’ll be playing for the SoCal Coyotes of the World Developmental Football League. He’s 48 years old.
“It’s the greatest game on the planet and I’ve been away from it for so long, and I can’t think of anything more fun,” according to Shad Powers of The Desert Sun. “Recovery has changed every aspect of my life and made it better so why wouldn’t that carry over to the football field?”
Last August, Marinovich was arrested after being “found naked wandering around someone’s backyard with marijuana and a paper bag with meth and syringes in it,” The Desert Sun said. He moved to the Palm Springs area a month later and has been sober since, he said.
That’s great news for anyone who has followed his story. Marinovich, a prodigy in high school and a star at USC, lasted only two NFL seasons. He has been in and out of trouble due to substance abuse often since.
“The only thing that I was given was the gift of desperation, which it takes to get started,” Marinovich said, according to The Desert Sun. “And I am a work in progress. God works in ways that I never really saw until I moved to the desert. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I needed help and that I couldn’t do it alone. And this area out here has a beautiful recovery community, which I jumped into.”
Marinovich joined the SoCal Coyotes as an assistant coach last season, but then everyone noticed that the former USC star still had the ability to throw the ball well. That’s how he’ll end up on the practice field in pads and not with a whistle in August.
This isn’t the NFL, but it’s still pretty impressive to play in any competitive league at nearly 50 years old (the league boasts of a “number of ex-pro and college players” on its rosters). And it doesn’t sound like Marinovich is harboring any big dreams. He just is in a good place in his life and wants to play football.
We didn’t really figure on Marinovich’s story taking us here – to a football comeback at age 48 – but the Marinovich story has never really followed a script.
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