If you are old enough to have seen the old cop show from the 1980’s, Hill Street Blues, you probably know who Ed Marinaro is. He played Officer Joe Coffey.
Or, if you have seen Blue Mountain State from 2010-2011.
Or, you would have to be a pretty hard core football fan such as myself to remember Ed Marinaro.
Originally from New Milford, New Jersey Ed Marinaro attended the Ivy League’s Cornell University, and he was the first Running Back in college football history to rush for over 4,000 yards. The amazing thing about that stat is that Marinaro did it when college football players were not eligible as true freshmen. So, he ran for well over 4,000 yards in 3 seasons.
As a sophomore in 1969, Ed Marinaro ran for an impressive 1,409 yards to finish 3rd in the NCAA in rushing behind Leon Burns from Long Beach State and that season’s Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens from Oklahoma. 1,409 yards doesn’t seem all that great when compared to today’s statistics, but people just didn’t put up the kind of numbers back then as they do today. Plus, teams played 10 games in 1969, they didn’t count Bowl Game numbers. Some teams even played 9 games like Cornell.
Ohio State and Oregon during the past football season played 15 games and stats count from all of the games.
In spite of huge numbers by Marinaro, the Cornell Big Red struggled to a 4-5 record and a 4th place
finish in the Ivy League.
During the 1970 season Cornell finished up 6-3 with another 4th place finish. But Ed Marinaro ran wild again rushing for 1,425 yards which was good enough for 2nd place to Ed McCauley of North Carolina who had an amazing season with 1,863 yards on the ground.
1971 was a record breaking season for Ed Marinaro as he ran for a really nice 1,881 yards beating out such stalwarts as Greg Pruitt from Oklahoma, Robert Newhouse of Houston and future Dallas Cowboy fame, Terry Metcalf of Long Beach and Lydell Mitchell of Penn State.
He also helped lead his Cornell Big Red team to a first place finish in the Ivy League for 1971 which was their first league championship.
Marinaro finished his college career with 4,715 yards rushing with 50 Touchdowns. The career rushing record only lasted until 1975 when Archie Griffin of Ohio State came along and smashed it while becoming the only player in college football to win 2 Heismans.
Griffin’s record, in turn, only lasted 1 year before Tony Dorsett broke it at Pittsburgh. Freshmen became eligible in 1972, thus allowing Griffin and Dorsett 4 years to break the record.
As an Ivy League player, Marinaro never gained the respect he may or may not have deserved and he finished second in the Heisman voting to Pat Sullivan of Auburn. Supposedly, Marinaro did not take losing the Heisman very well and said he should have won it and Auburn students had a 2nd place trophy made just for him. Classy move.
Marinaro was a big back for his time standing 6-2, 215 and was a good athlete. Even though he was Ivy League, the Minnesota Vikings took him with a 2nd round draft pick in the 1972 draft.
He stuck around the Vikings for 4 seasons and a year for the New York Jets and the Seattle Seahawks.
After 6 NFL seasons, Marinaro got into acting where he starred in such shows as Laverne and Shirley, Hill Street Blues, Falcon Crest, Dynasty and Blue Mountain State. He even played Joey Buttafuoco in the Amy Fisher Movie.
A guy from New Jersey got a degree from an Ivy League school, played in the NFL and then got acting jobs in Hollywood.
Not a bad way to go.