Former USC and NFL player Todd Marinovich will battle for the starting quarterback job on the Coachella Valley-based SoCal Coyotes, which would make him the oldest professional quarterback in nearly 50 years, team officials said Thursday.
Marinovich, who turned 48 on Tuesday, will battle for the starting QB spot against 25-year-old former NAIA National Player of the Year Jacob Russell. Should Marinovich make the cut, he will be the oldest quarterback on a professional team since George Blanda, who also played until the age of 48 in the 1970s.
Marinovich, who previously played for USC and the Los Angeles Raiders, will be introduced by the team at a Friday press conference in Indian Wells.
Coyotes officials say he was initially hired as an assistant coach earlier this year, but the staff saw promise in his playing abilities during workouts with the team.
"When he started throwing, his mechanics, arm strength and accuracy are obvious. Overnight, he went from being the QB coach to the elephant in the room," Head Coach J. David Miller said.
Marinovich’s promising career was derailed by substance abuse and legal problems, including multiple arrests for drug possession. His latest run-in with law enforcement came last August, when he was arrested in Irvine on drug and trespassing charges and was found with methamphetamine and marijuana on him. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in March and received three years of formal probation.
Team officials say he has been clean and sober since the incident though and has undergone weekly drug tests, as well as sharing his story at public speaking events at schools, churches and other venues throughout Southern California.
Marinovich has acknowledged in the past that his drug use contributed to the failure of his NFL career. Following his release from the Raiders in 1993, he had subsequent stints with the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the British Columbia Lions in the 1990s.
"Todd’s been focused on sobriety and God since he’s been here," Miller said.
Besting Russell, who came off a stellar 2016 rookie season, where he threw a league-best 2,048 yards, 35 touchdowns and only two interceptions, may prove tough, but team officials say Marinovich should at least be given the shot.
"Nobody really wants to admit what we were seeing. But perhaps the only thing more outrageous than a 48-year-old quarterback is to deny a talented man the opportunity to play the sport he loves, break the tape, and to leave it on his terms. We anticipate the naysayers, but Todd’s passion, sincerity, humility and desire is extraordinary."
The Coyotes, who play their home games at Indio’s Shadow Hills High School, start training camp Aug. 10.