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‘The Marinovich Project’ Is A Cautionary Documentary About The 'Test-Tube Quarterback'

Updated October 17, 2019 3.1k views11 items

Todd Marinovich was born and raised to be a champion. Dubbed "Robo QB" and "Test Tube QB," Marinovich spent his young life under the watchful eye of his father, Marv. Marv Marinovich hoped to develop the perfect athlete through a regimented diet and rigorous training - practices he employed in his personal and professional life.

As a strength and conditioning coach, Marv Marinovich was in a unique position to craft the perfect athlete from birth with his own son. Todd began physical training in infancy with a controlled diet that traced back to his time in the womb. Todd benefited from his father's knowledge to a certain extent, but the end results of the younger Marinovich's upbringing were anything but triumphant.

Todd Marinovich's life has been one of struggle, as he fought his own demons and repeatedly found himself in trouble with the law - a story documented in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Marinovich Project, which premiered in 2011.

  • Todd Marinovich, The ‘Robo QB,’ Was Meticulously Engineered To Be An NFL Superstar

    Todd Marinovich, The ‘Robo QB,’ Was Meticulously Engineered To Be An NFL Superstar
    Photo: ESPN Films

    Born into a family of athletes, Todd Marinovich was raised to be a star. His mother, Trudi, was a former swimmer and the sister of USC football player-turned-coach Craig Fertig. Todd's father was Marv Marinovich, who had also played for USC before being drafted into the NFL in the early 1960s.

    Marv's own career in the NFL was short-lived, in large part due to over-training and burnout. According to Marv, he "ran, lifted, pushed the envelope to the nth degree... I hadn't yet figured out that speed and flexibility were more important than weight and bulk. I over-trained so intensely that I never recovered."

    Marv transitioned to coaching and became one of the first strength and conditioning coaches to be employed by the NFL. His techniques were innovative. After his son was born on July 4, 1969, he decided to test out some of his training theories on his own child. His goal? To create the ultimate NFL quarterback through a regulated and regimented diet and exercise program.

  • Extreme Dietary Regulation Was Instituted From Birth

    Renamed Todd by his mother, Marvin Scott Marinovich was given what his father called "the perfect environment" in utero. Trudi abstained from sugar, salt, alcohol, and tobacco while pregnant. Once Todd entered the world, he was given only fresh fruit, vegetables, and raw milk. When he was teething, his parents allowed him to chew on frozen kidneys. 

    Todd was never fed processed food, junk food was never an option, and when he went to other kids' birthday parties, he brought his own carrots and carob muffins

    According to Marv, "We wanted to have the healthiest possible mom and the healthiest possible child. It's fanatical, but I don't know if you can be a great success without being a fanatic."

  • His Physical Conditioning Began At 1 Month Old

    After studying training methods in Eastern Europe, Marv brought what he learned to the Oakland Raiders. Hired by team co-owner (and eventual principal owner) Al Davis, he employed new training techniques on members of the team while simultaneously applying what he knew to his young son. Before Todd could even walk, his father was stretching the boy's legs while he was in his crib.

    Next to the infant, a football. "Not a real NFL ball... That would be sick," Marv said. "It was a stuffed ball."

    As a young boy, Todd did pushups and played a throwing game with his father using a medicine ball. Marv described a common exercise Todd did as a child:

    [It] required him to stand on a balance beam in a dark room and bounce a ball while doing multiplication tables out loud... What I wanted to do was continuously raise the level of performance.

    Soon, Todd began lifting weights and running, jogging four miles on his fourth birthday.

  • His Athletic Training Regimen Was Rigorous And Legendary

    His Athletic Training Regimen Was Rigorous And Legendary
    Photo: ESPN Films

    In his youth, Todd went through a daily mix of speed, agility, weight, and flexibility exercises. When he wasn't visiting museums or watching old movies with his mother and sister, Todd was visited by throwing coaches, psychologists, and numerous other experts brought in by his father

    Todd played Pop Warner youth football as a blocker. At the age of 9, he took a heavy hit to the face and began bleeding from the nose. His father insisted he move to quarterback, which he did. Todd remembered the game and how, blood and all, he knew he had to win. His last-minute throw to a receiver in the end zone won the game, as the ball spiraled with "blood just flying off of it, splattering out into the air."

    Todd's diet remained austere; according to legend, he was never allowed to visit McDonald's or eat "an Oreo or a Ding Dong." The ketchup he ate was homemade, the beef was hormone-free, and the dairy was unprocessed. In truth, his mother took him to McDonald's on occasion and his uncle sometimes gave him pizza.