1989 - 1990
Things are going well for me. I'm coaching young quarterbacks in Orange County. I do private lessons for sixth and seventh graders. Bob Johnson at Mission Viejo has a high-profile camp there, but I was never part of his system.
I was highly recruited as has been reported, but it was always assumed I was heading to USC. I really didn't go to any other schools but I almost rebelled and went to Stanford. I like Northern California and identified with the lifestyle up there. I went on a trip to Stanford and two "trips" to USC. Jack Elway asked me on a scale of one to five, what were the chances I'd come to Stanford, and I told him four, but Larry Smith
put on his best suit during the recruiting process, and it came down to playing in the Rose Bowl. I just didn't want to come down to the Coliseum every year and lose like John Elway had done. There was that allure of the quarterback history at Stanford, plus it appealed to my artistic interests, which had started ever since I was a freshman at Mater Dei High School. I transferred to Capistrano Valley High School as a sophomore.
What a dream to have played for Pete Caroll and Norm Chow! I went to practice and he's a quality guy. What a dream I told him it would have been. That atmosphere is alluring and attractive. He makes it fun. They stopped practice while warming up and he introduced me to the team. I waved and they acknowledged me. I've not seen any other group that is so classy.
I "red-shirted" in 1988. With the Rodney Peete situation I walked into, it made all the difference in the world. I had a year to mature and learn from a guy like Rodney whose a quality person, to watch how he handled himself on campus and with the media. You learn through experience. You can't put a price tag on it. I traveled that year, though. They took me to all the away games to give me a feel for the road.
My first start was the 1989 season opener with Illinois at the Coliseum. The game was scheduled for Moscow, but plans fell through for political reasons. The Berlin Wall came down two or three months after that game. We ran a very conservative offense but seemed to have it won, until Jeff George got hot and they upset us, 14-13.
A few weeks later came the defining game of my collegiate career, at Washington State's Martin Stadium. It was an intense game and we trailed, 17-10, with a couple minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The noise was phenomenal.
The comeback was unbelievable. We were getting ready to stop them and give ourselves the opportunity to drive for the winning score. Cleveland Colter was standing on the 50-yard line waiting to catch the punted ball, and he's an All-American, so I'm figuring we'll have great field position. But the punt goes off his head and just bounces and bounces and bounces until we recover it on our own eight-yard line.
That took all the wind out of my sails and we started out the series 0-for-three. Then I hit Gary Wellman for a first down. Wellman pretty much did it all. Wellman and Leroy Holt. We did it all with passes and converted four fourth down conversions on that drive. We just advanced until we scored a touchdown from three or four yards out. I looked to Ricky Ervins in the flat pattern and then came back to Wellman. That made it 17-16 and we decided to go for two and the win. We stayed with the same play as the TD and made it.
I didn't call any audibles on that drive. I love two-minute situations. I always enjoyed it because I was in the "shotgun." I loved it because I could see the field and was more comfortable back there calling my own plays. The coaches called the plays except in a two-minute drill. They gave me the green light to do audibles and call my own plays because most of the plays came in from a run/play "check with me" from the offensive coordinator, but with two minutes we didn't have time to run plays in. Our offensive coordinator was either Ray Dorr or John Matsko.
We returned to Los Angeles after the game, which was played at mid-day. I was downstairs at Heritage Hall putting my stuff away when Smith's secretary came down and said, "You've got a phone call from President Reagan." I thought it was a joke. Reagan had been out of office since January but was at the height of his popularity with Communism on the verge of defeat.
Larry walked out and gave me his office, and I thought this was different. It was Reagan. I immediately recognized his voice. He was the in hospital recovering from surgery and had watched the whole game, and he had this distinctive way of saying,"Way-uhl, Nancy and I enjoyed your game today. You inspired us . . ."
He played The Gipper and a lot of people thought he was a Notre Dame guy, but President Reagan's a Trojan all the way. I was quiet and grateful for the call. The others, they thought I was full of crap. As I told the story people still think I was full of crap, but guys who were with me at the 502 Club that night all had been there and verified it happened.
The energy at Notre Dame in 1989; one of the greatest experiences of my college career was that stadium. It's similar to the Rose Bowl. There's not a lot of room between the field and the stands there, the bands and the crowd are right on you, and their crowd is knowledgeable about when to get loud and when not to. I was wearing a turtleneck and two shirts. I'm calling from behind the center at the line and I see Chris Zorich, their All-American, and he's wearing a cut off-jersey with steam coming out of his facemask. The helmets are cold but they were used to it. It was the first cold game I ever played, it was in late October. It was not a real factor but they were all baring their arms and looking beastly. It was one of the most exciting games in the rivalry history, but they prevailed, 28-24 to knock us out of the national title hunt.
We played Michigan in the 1990 Rose Bowl. It's funny, I don't know how I can sum it up except there was not much excitement. It was a combination where I played well but they thought Ricky was the MVP. We just broke their backs and controlled the ball at the end to win, 17-10. What finally stands out about that game is that it was Bo Schembechler's last game. As a kid I watched him forever. On the play that sealed it, we made a big punt, and he threw his headset to the ground. I knew it was over then.
In 1990 I was a Heisman contender and we were a national championship contender. We opened at the Kickoff Classic near New York City. The big thing that stands out is that prior to that game, at the pre-game meal that afternoon, USA Today was spread out front on the table, and the sports page had my photo and it asked, "Marinovich swan song? Is this his last year?" I'd not even thought about it but third-year players were coming out for the first time. We'd lost Junior Seau and Mark Carrier, and the paper brought attention from the coaching staff, but it wasn't my idea, it was the New York media. We beat Syracuse and looked really good.
We had an all-time shootout with Tommy Maddox and UCLA at the Rose Bowl at the end of the season. A lot was going on with Smith and I, and he's playing games. He took Shane Foley to ASU and we only beat 'em, 13-6. The reason given was my attendance, missing classes, which was a joke because all they go by is G.P.A., but this was the thing he used to make a pit for me. For what reason, I don't.
They didn't announce I would start the UCLA game until the game that day. I wanted to make the most of it to prove my worth. That is the best stadium I ever played in, that Rose Bowl energy is the best. We didn't do much in the first half. I didn't do much but we broke out in the fourth quarter. Johnnie Morton was the youngest receiver I threw to in my era, and he just beat this guy on the cover to give me a chance. The main receiver wasn't clear, so I went to the right guy on the sidelines and gave him a shot at a great catch.
The last touchdown I was going for Gary while he made a timing/crossing route from the 14 or the 17. We called a time-out and I said, "Let's try Gary up the middle between the two safeties," but he got bumped at the line of scrimmage so we had to go to the "mack" side for Johnnie Morton. It was just like catches made by Sam Dickerson to beat UCLA in 1969, and J.K. McKay's catch to beat Ohio State in the 1975 Rose Bowl. It was my favorite route since Pop Warner, the corner station.
What It Means to Be a Trojan. The deciding factor on why I went to USC was my grandfather, "Chief" Henry Fertig, who ran the Huntington Park police department. Chief asked me, when I'm done playing college football, where did I want to live? I said I wanted to live in Southern California.
He says, "Why make your name in Miami or someplace? It doesn't make sense to go out of state." That was the deciding factor. I found out over the years that the Trojan family extends long and far. Wherever I go I am welcomed with open arms. The love and support of my fellow Trojans, along with my faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has sustained me through some really tough times.
Todd Marinovich set the all-time national passing records, and was perhaps the most highly-recruited, sought-after and heralded prep football player who ever lived coming out of Capistrano Valley High School in Orange County. His father, Marv was the captain of the 1962 national champions. His uncle coached Pat Haden and J.K. McKay at Bishop Amat High. His mother was the sister of Craig Fertig, hero of the 1964 USC-Notre Dame game. His grandfather, Henry "Chief" Fertig, was a legendary figure at Troy. He possessed perhaps the greatest Trojan pedigree ever. Nicknamed "Robo QB" because he had been raised and nurtured on a steady health food diet and workout regimen by his father, he was a freshman All-American who led the Trojans to victory over Michigan in the 1990 Rose Bowl and the next year engineered a stunning 45-42 win over UCLA in Pasadena. Todd had problems with Coach Larry Smith but was a first round draft choice of Al Davis and the Los Angeles Raiders, but did not achieve success. His life has been a Shakespearean drama, but he appears to found peace through Christ, and today coaches high school quarterbacks in Orange County.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism