In this episode of Slingin It with QB Velocity we had a chance to sit down and talk to Ed Marinaro who played in the NFL for six seasons for the Vikings, Jets, and Seahawks. He is also known for his role as Coach Marty in the hit TV show Blue Mountain State.
Ed Marinaro was an amazing college athlete playing running back for Cornell. He was the first rusher to reach over 4,000 yards in a career and led the nation in rushing in 1971. He was a runner up for the Heisman Trophy and then was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Vikings.
In the interview we got to talk about how he got into the film industry, how it was being in Blue Mountain State, what was it like almost winning the Heisman, and how the NFL is different now from when he played.
How did you get involved with the show business?
“I needed a job, you know. OK, so it was probably after my 4th year with the Vikings. I played out my option with the Vikings and just as a little side note, I was one of the first players in history to really have legitimate free agency. They declared the Roselle rule unconstitutional in 1976, actually 1975. I had played four years with the Vikings and at that time he really had no option. You were playing through that team. And then the courts declared the Rozelle rule, which was, that's why they call it unconstitutional.
So, there's a handful of players that got to pretty much leave the team. I played four years in Minnesota the last year with the Vikings, I took a 10% pay cut. Ironically, that was the year I was third in the NFC and 16th in the NFL in receiving started 15 games and almost went to the Super Bowl. So that was when I played for 10% less than I did the year before. So anyway, they declared the Roselle rule. Roselle was the commissioner, they declared unconstitutional. And that year there were probably 10 players who left their team and got to go to any team that would sign them.
When I went to The Jets, John Riggins, who was a great running back Hall of Fame running back from The Jets, he went to Washington, Calvin Hill from the Dallas Cowboys to the Cleveland Browns and I went to the Jets so. You know that was that was end him telling this story? Because Joe Namath has been a friend of mine since I was in college. We met at the College Football Hall of Fame dinner in 1972. I was a senior. I was pretty hot stuff, and someone came over and introduced me to him. And you know we became friends. He's older, a little older than I am. He's just a great guy and we've been friends since I was 21 years old.
And then I go to the Jets, and it was orchestrated a little bit by his attorney Jimmy Walsh getting me from Minnesota to The Jets and then again, we've been friends when I was in Minnesota after the season in Minnesota. And you know, fortunately for me, I had played in two Super Bowls and The Jets really sucked so. He goes down to Fort Lauderdale to his place down there and soon as my season was over, I boom get a plane and fly down to Fort Lauderdale and we would have some fun.
Couple weeks of fishing and golf and drinking and you know chasing chicks and all that stuff. It was pretty cool, trust me. And so, we've been friends ever since then. That was my kind of introduction into Hollywood because I went out there with him just to hang out and I met some people.
My first kind of introduction was. I met a lot of people out there and one of them was an agent who I met, who called me later to see if I would come out and do a screen test. To replace Lee Majors in the $6 million man and you might not remove show, but it was very popular show, and he was threatening to leave the show. So, they were looking for somebody to replace him, and you know, anyway, I went out there. I didn't get the role, because he came back to the show but it kind of got my interest in Hollywood and show business and acting.
So that was between my last year in Minnesota and my first year with the Jets. I lived in Los Angeles and gotten Workshop Acting Workshop and studied acting. And you know, pretty much that was something I knew I wanted to do when my career was over. Yeah, obviously, it worked out pretty well.”
What was your overall experience being Coach Marty Daniels on Blue Mountain State?
“Well, you know it was interesting at best during this stage in my life. You know, I don't want talk about my age. Obviously, I was the youngest person on the cast, [laugh] oldest person. I didn't know what it would lead to. I mean it was a fun role. I read it and you know I said wow, this is crazy. I said I had no idea. That you know what it would become.
And you know we shot it up in Montreal, Canada. Which was outstanding, it was like it was so cool. It was just a great place that I got to go to. I brought my wife and my son up there and my son was little like 10 years old or whatever. You know we did it with no real expectations because it was kind of a, you know, it's kind of a I didn't know where you would be categorizing this thing, it was crazy. Drug use man it was nuts, but it was kind of fun.
I was able to draw on my personal experience as a football guy. You know the real and again you guys grew up on social media. You got up the streaming networks you got. But you know the thing that's made Blue Mountain State the cult classic was it was on Netflix. Yeah, you know, because we were on for three years and it was sort of appointment TV, I guess Tuesday night 9:30 and if you didn't TiVo it or whatever used to do back then, you know you missed it and you try to watch it again. And then you know, after the show was cancelled, we did a movie that was, I don't even know how they did.
But I think if we still have very avid rabbit fans, and you know I could tell that. It was just the new internet social media. It was a whole different world for me personally, but it's sort of the ability to go on a streaming network and have you show on there where normally if the show is cancelled and go to like some graveyard and you never see again. Blue Mountain State you know got picked up by Netflix and was on, I think four years and it introduced to show do a whole different generation of kids.
You know, and then you know my son being wanted to me when I was doing the show, he was nine years old, right? He couldn’t even watch it. I wouldn't let him on set you know; it was like scary. But then it you know it became this this cult hit. And kids were binge watching it, which you know, you could never do before.
But now I see these college kids all the time who come up to me. There like oh I watch Season 2 last night. You know they watched the whole thing. I can't imagine doing that. I can't imagine staying awake that long, going to watch a whole new season. So, it really, we benefited from. You know this is new technology if you will. Netflix and we're on Amazon Prime right now. So, I guess it's kind of exciting because I'm you know I've been, you know, like you guys, your part of my fan base now, whether you like it or not, you know.
At my stage in my life to have You know. 25-year-old guys, you know, go freaking nuts when they see me and you know, come up to me and one pictures taking me. You know it's there. It's a trip which is fun. You know, it's like. You know I've had a second sort of career; you know. It Is really fun; you know it's draining because everybody wants me to sort of get drunk with them and stuff so. But it's really been fun. It's really fun. You know with all due respect I don't think there are many actors in Hollywood who are my age who have a fan base is young as you guys so it's kind of cool thing you know.
You don't even remember I did Hill Street Blues, which was probably the most to this day, is considered one of the great Dramas in TV history. Yeah, it was, and it won like 25 Emmys or something stupid like that and so that was kind of cool. And you know it's been a great run. You know I can confirm. I'm very happy and You know, I don't feel like I'm done even though I."
Do you and the cast of Blue Mountain State stay in touch at all?
“A little bit. Yeah, let me tell you about how it works, OK? I've done around 30 movies and I have done 3,4, or 5 TV series. Were all well intended. You'll become best friends, but there's something that’s a really interesting phenomenon. Once you're done. Everyone goes in a different direction. And even though you so well intended, and I don't mean this as criticism, but you know I have buddies. And I went to high school with that I'm still in touch with. I mean, I just talked to one of my buddies the other day.
Yeah, I have my oldest friend in the world we met when we were six years old, so I don't know what that says except. The strength and the essence of your relationships usually start early. Then I mean my college buddies, I got teammates that I talk to all the time. But in Hollywood it’s and I don’t mean to sound trait but very superficial. But I definitely did love being on set with those guys. I mean it was it was truly one of the great experiences of my life doing that show. It was so much fun with such a great character.
Frankly, I was so happy that I was working and you know it was fabulous. And then you know this. What happens subsequently has been even better but unexpected now. It's being a cult hit. You know we are kind of, I would use this as an example. We are your generations, Seinfeld. You know you can watch the show over and over again and you love watching you know you do. If it's on you to get a watch it. I was the same way with Seinfeld I love all those episodes. So again, you know, obviously at this stage in my career having that you know it's kind of little to ego trip and it's been great.”
Was there a cast member on Blue Mountain State that you had a good relationship with?
“Yeah, well it will have to be Alan Ritchson who played Thad. He and I were pretty good friends. In fact, like the first time my son had an overnight it was with Alan. I mean we were living in LA. You know he came over and you know my son was getting along. I forget how old he was still probably around 10-11 years old. Alan had a couple of dogs and he took him to his house and it was his first sleepover without us. So, Alan is a very talented guy and a good guy.
Yeah, but they were all honestly, and I'm not just saying they were all just really good guys. It was so much fun. You know, I've done a lot of stuff, movies and stuff over the years. Doing a comedy is just actually fun work. It's fun because you're laughing all the time. Just opposed to doing the drama. You know, I've done drama and there so serious everything is serious. Doing a comedy is like just a gas, you know.
It was, it was just a great experience and you know, Romanski was one of the producers' and writers. He's a funny, funny guy. Darin Brooks, who played the quarterback he was just a good guy. Funny but also a really good actor. I mean, I really think that the chemistry was really special. I think everyone was having such a great time. And I don't think any of us when we were shooting it thought it would become this a cult hit.
You know, I mean, it's sort of You know, for me it's not a big deal because I'm an old fart, but for these young guys you know the show. That's who they've you know they're in that sort of gray area and negative more people know them for Blue Mountain State than anything they've done. And they you know it's kind of can sort of hurt, not hurt their career. But you know affect their career when you become so identifiable with a character.
So, I'm at the point where I don't care, you know. Whatever you ask me, I'm available, I will know my lines too. Yeah, I mean you know some of the guy's some of the secondary characters again we're all away from home. We were in Montreal which is really exciting and just a fabulous city. If you never been up there, you got to go. It's a trip but it's great.
It was just exciting and we had some of the secondary roles you know, or you know the kicker and they were just great guys we get together. We had so much fun, so much fun it’s hard to even describe just how much fun we had. I will never forget it. It was one of the great experiences of my life at a perfect time for me and I think everybody really got into it.
And you know what? The thing that made Blue Mountain State so good, was it was clever? And we had some over the top stuff that was like, yeah, stupid, crazy. But you know when you look up the definition of clever. We had some really clever stuff that took you a second or two to let it register and you laughed. It wasn’t in your face comedy but it was funny. It was funny but in a delayed way, which is always the best kind of comedy, and he did so funny ****.
I mean, you know I remember some of the stuff you know and I haven't watched the show in several years, but I remember some of the stuff that we would do. It was, it was so subtle but funny, funny little lines. And I think when you watched it over and over again you see those moments and those moments were really, really funny. The concept of a pocket ***** was, like you know, a dick pic thing. It was just funny.
It was funny stuff and you know what? We were scheduled to do another movie. I remember that, yeah, I mean, I was signed, you know, I had my deal made and everything and then it just never happened. I believe a lot of it had to do with our culture in the United States and what we're going through. The opioid epidemic and the Me-Too movement. It was, you know but with all due respect, I think we've lost our ability to laugh at ourselves. You know, we take everything really seriously and nothing's funny anymore.
That was Blue Mountain state. We would laugh at ourselves. It was absurd. Some of the stuff that we did, but I think the producers, the powers that be. Kind of were afraid to. Do another movie like that when you when you look at all the kids who are dying of opioid overdoses and you see Thad, put his face in the bowl of cocaine you know that's funny.”
What was it like to almost win the Heisman trophy?
“Well, you could only imagine when I played there. Now I had scholarships to some big colleges like Penn State, Penn State was the 1st school to offer me a full scholarship and then Duke and Wake Forest you know? Legitimate football schools. Yeah, and then you know what I just always wanted to be an Ivy League guy. I recognize the significance and what it would mean for me.
You know, I come from blue collar family in New Jersey. Yeah, I wasn't coddled guy. So anyways when I went to Cornell. You know my expectations were kind of different. I don't even remember what I was thinking. But you know, I remember wanting. We had freshman football back then. My freshman year, Cornell, we had 130 guys come out for the freshman football team. Well yeah, I mean some of them I don't think they even played high school football but they just came out for the team.
And then the process I you know; I became the starting running back on the freshman team. And then I, you know that my sophomore year to make the Varsity team. I always tell my son. I said, I took one step at a time. I never got ahead of myself. I never imagined what would happen to me but ultimately happened to me when I was freshman or sophomore? I wanted to make the Varsity team. You know my sophomore year I wanted to make the varsity. Then I want to be first string running back on the Varsity and you know I was 19-year-old sophomore so you know I was. I took one step at a time and it just kind of.
Looking back at it, it was kind of phenomenal. You know my 4th varsity game which was my second starting varsity game. We played Rutgers, which was in New Jersey and really went out there. I was the running back. And I gained 245 yards on the ground and wrecked Rutgers which was a school record. So, people were going nuts, you know. I mean, I don't know how it happened, but I was just running over everybody.
Two weeks later, we play Harvard and we are three touchdown underdogs against Harvard and this is my 4th Varsity game. I gained 281 yards and scored five touchdowns. I was Sports illustrated back in the week. I was Associated Press the back of the week. And all of a sudden, I was thrust into this national limelight, which was like. You know it's the last thing I thought was whatever happened. I mean it happens so fast.
And you know why I just kept doing it? I mean I; you know, I never really faltered my, you know I gained more yards every year. Yeah, I mean it was it was pretty phenomenal. Reflecting back, I mean the amazing thing is I never got hurt like I think I averaged 40 carries a game in my career and you know, I never missed a game. That was an accomplishment on itself, so it was. It was pretty overwhelming, you know to think about.
Being an Ivy Leaguer and you know being able to go to the NFL. You know I didn't. I didn't think about the NFL until. Enter my sophomore year. I was third team, all American as a sophomore and I said, you know, I might be able be a free agent. Then next year I have a better year and I was first team All American. I was getting a lot of attention. Then I really thought about the NFL. So, it was a kind of a very natural. Healthy process, you know. I wasn't a blue-chip guy. You know, going into college and I you know I just enjoy the whole process and I never got ahead of myself and that's like I said that's what I tell my son I said hey just do with what's going on right now. You know anything can change every freaking day, and you know you never know what's going to be.
You know they say luck is when preparation meets opportunity and the only thing you have to be is prepared cause you might get the opportunity. You might not get the opportunity, but when you get the opportunity better be ready and that's how I look at my career when I got the chance. Yeah, when I was when I went to Cornell there were like 15 running backs. It was a challenge.”
What was it like playing in the Super Bowl?
“Well, it currently wasn't like it is today. OK, you know we. I played in the last two single digit Roman numerals, Super Bowls 8 and 9. Yeah, the game obviously was not of the magnitude it is today. It was. Yeah, it was kind of. You know, it's hard to describe it, I mean. It was cool. I was making extra money by being in the playoffs. It wasn't like it is today. It's like a freaking worldwide spectacle and all that is pretty. Pretty new, I guess.
Super Bowl 8 was kind of knew we were. We played the Miami Dolphins and we played at Bryce stadium in Houston. For whatever reason, we couldn't play in the Astrodome. I mean, we're playing this college stadium, which was you know.
And you know the NFL was the Super Bowl was only eight years old. Yeah, so it wasn't a spectacle. Like I said it is today so. Yeah, it was kind of, you know, like I got a ring for losing, I got two rings for losing. You know it's cool to say, you know I played in two Super Bowls. People are very impressed.
Looking back, it was sort of like a nonevent. We didn't make a whole lot of money for being in it. You know, like I said, it's kind of neat to be able to say I played in the Super Bowl and that I played in 2 Super Bowls. That's about it that's only neat thing about it.”
What was it like playing against the Steel Curtain Defense?
“By far it wasn’t easy. Alright, yeah. No, well I have a funny story. Prepared for the game and our offensive coordinator is going through a game plan for the game. He said so listen, this is their defensive front these guys are good. We got LC Greenwood 6’6” he's tough you got to keep his hands down. Burne Holmes he’s 6’3” 250 and he is hard to move. If we want to run the ball, we got to move him. He said next thing I'm going to say you guys are going to think it's funny. But it's true. I talked to the coaches around the league who played Pittsburgh. They all agreed about one thing. When you play Pittsburgh. Don't get Mean Joe Green pisted off.
If you get him pissed off, he will hurt somebody. So don’t hit him late and help him up. Keep him smiling and we might be able to control him. And he said, and I know you guys would think we all thought it was kind of funny. Right, so we put together a clip of teams that they played. And showed us like, you know, played with Joe Green. Somebody kind of hit him late and then show the next play. Where he takes the guy, he's spinning around like throwing him down. It was as if he was like a beast. He was scary.
He was scary and they had a great defense. They were great team. Great offense with Bradshaw, Lynswain, and Franco. Franco's was a great player, so that was kind of fun. We probably played two of the best teams. One of the best Miami team and the Steelers in the best era team. Can you know we were we were good but we weren't as good as those guys.”
Who had the biggest impact on you?
“Well, you know I mentioned Joe Namath was. He was kind of like a Big Brother to me during my career. Later my career, but you know, I had some good friends. You know, with the Vikings you know there was. They were kind of a veteran team, so there were a lot of older than me. My roommate was a fellow named John Gilliam, who's a wide receiver. He got traded to Minnesota from I think the Saints. And you know, he was probably four years older than I was. He and I become good friends. I still talk to him; he lives in Atlanta now.
There its kind of like Hollywood. Everybody goes their different directions and especially in the NFL guys, the trade in my day until those free agents and you know most guys stay with same team for a long time. Now that's kind of different. I don't know, maybe unusual if you have really had that one guy with the Vikings.
A couple of guys that I still think of as good friends, but there was Mark Mulaney who played for the Vikings to 12 years of defensive tackle and he was from the University of Colorado first round draft pick. He and I are still good friends. We still communicate and he's a few years younger than I am. I sort of took him under my wing and I fixed him up with a really hot chicks.”
What was it like playing with Fran Tarkenton?
“Well, you know it's funny because I met Fran when I was like a Senior in college and he was playing for the Giants. And we ended up, you know, I met him at some dinners and stuff. You know he just got traded back to the Vikings and I got drafted by Vikings and he was kind of a New York guy I was born in New York City and I was a New York, New Jersey guy so we kind of hit it off right, right from the beginning. Even before I was on the team. And I was drafted, and so that was that was pretty.
He was an amazing guy. You know I've been lucky I got to play with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. I tell my son trying to keep him in line. You know that I took handoffs and caught passes from 2 Hall of Fame quarterbacks. You know you would think they would be impressive, right? Not really, not for him. Yeah, so Fran was a good guy you. You know the thing about Fran was?
My last year, Minnesota. I caught 54 passes in 14 games in which I mentioned earlier I was third in the NFC and 6th in the NFL. 54 catches I had, I held a Viking record for most catches in a game when I left there, I caught 11. When you played with Fran the play was never over because he was such a scrambler. So, you know, I would, you know. I mean, I probably I bet a third of the passes I ever caught were broken patterns. You know, I, if you're not getting it on rhythm. He didn't give up on the play. You turn inside, you do it yelling so. So, he was fun to. He was kind of fun to play with in that regard because the play was never dead, right.
And you know his statistics over his career speaks for themselves. He was an interesting guy, very smart, very smart person, not just a smart football player but very smart person. Yeah, it was his second turn with Minnesota from New York so it was you know, he was kind of cool. It was cool to be part of it and that was a great era in Viking football.
Really great players and lot of Hall of Famers such as Alan page and Carl Eller. But we had a purple people eaters that was not fun practicing against them. It was kind of cool you know. In New York I thought that the last place I ever thought I'd end up was freaking Minnesota.
I pulled up to training camp my rookie year with a Viking purple Porsche. I took a lot of crap for that for like 7 years, because everybody was driving a Station wagons or a pickup truck. I pull up with this Viking purple Porsche. It was beautiful. I took so much shit for the whole time I had it, but it was so cool.
We had a lot of rules, which made our team do good things back then. We stood at attention during the national anthem, I mean we practiced standing at attention. It was more about a team discipline than anything else. It was a really a great experience for me, we were a very disciplined team. You know, a lot of veteran players. You know Bud Grant a Hall of Fame coach was, very, you know. And then that was kind of cool. I thought it was cool. Kind of, you know, I went from like an Elite Ivy League College to this.
I don’t want to say conservative, but Minneapolis is was a very Midwest conservative town. But I loved it. I had a great time there. Still have made many friends from that time. I think it kind of, you know, forced me to be a little more focused, there weren't a lot of distractions, unless you like to ice fish.”
How is the NFL different from when you played to now?
“Well, I mean some of the differences are pretty obvious that the size of the players. And that's not just in the NFL, this in college. Cornell football when I played, I bet that our biggest lineman was 240 as an offensive lineman. We had guards that were one 195 to 205 and stuff like that. Probably now every offensive lineman at Cornell is 300 pounds. And so, the sizes dramatically changed. I think the speed of the game is, you know, the athleticism is. You know there's no denying. It's like so much. Better today than that. It was back in my day that they had a train better and we did.