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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Marve is heir apparent for starting job
By WALTER VILLA, Times Correspondent
Published January 15, 2008
[Times photo: LARA CERRI]
Plant High coach Robert Weiner embraces player Robert Marve at a news conference announcing Marve's commitment to Miami in February.
MIAMI - When asked the key to success for a quarterback, former Plant High star Robert Marve practically roared his response.
"The key for a quarterback is to win the game," said Marve, sounding a lot like Kansas City coach Herman Edwards. "It doesn't matter if you have to throw the ball 50 times or hand the ball off 50 times, a great quarterback simply refuses to lose."
Marve did just that as a senior, leading Plant to the Class 4A state title while earning Florida Mr. Football and Parade All-American honors. He broke Tim Tebow's state records for touchdowns (48) and passing yards (4,380).
Now, with Kyle Wright out of eligibility and Kirby Freeman having transferred, Marve is the heir apparent to the University of Miami's quarterback job.
In past years, quarterbacks such as Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar, Ken Dorsey and others have used the Hurricanes program to rocket their way to the NFL.
"All those guys were crazy film-watchers and crazy workaholics," said Marve, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound freshman.
Plant coach Robert Weiner said Marve fits right in with that description.
"He is probably the hardest-working person I've ever met in any business, not just football," said Weiner, 43. "When he was on holiday break from UM, he came up and worked out with me for two hours on Christmas Day. We also worked out on New Year's Day.
"There are no holidays with Robert. When I was his high school coach, I knew I had to be ready at any time of the day or night if he wanted to lift weights, throw or go over game film."
All that work has produced a player who is supremely aware of his surroundings.
"Robert is an incredibly accurate passer, can throw it 70 to 75 yards and can run a 4.5 40," Weiner said. "But I think his greatest strength is his knowledge of everything that is happening on the field at every moment. Football is a kinetic game. But because of his awareness, he is able to slide in the pocket or scramble and still make plays."
Weiner said Marve actually benefited from the July 2007 car crash that caused him to miss the season as a medical redshirt. Marve hurt his left (non-throwing) hand in the accident.
"Had he played this past season, I don't know if he would have been completely ready for college football," Weiner said. "Don't get me wrong - he would have competed. But I think that the redshirt ended up being the best thing for him."
Marve rooms with wide receiver Jermaine McKenzie, who was in the same crash and also redshirted.
"We talk about it every day, waiting to get our opportunity to play," Marve said. "But it is what it is. I'm a religious guy, and I believe in God's plan."
The Hurricanes' plan is to have Marve compete for the starting job with three freshmen who have committed to UM: Jacory Harris, Cannon Smith and Taylor Cook. Harris, the most high-profile challenger, and Smith are expected to participate in spring drills. Cook is expected to join the battle in the fall.
Recruiting expert Larry Blustein said Marve has the advantage over Harris, who led Miami Northwestern to a 30-0 record and two state titles the past two years.
"Harris and Marve are about equal in talent," Blustein said. "But Marve is one year ahead in the system. Marve is also probably a bit better throwing on the run.
"But the key will be how each will react to adversity. They both played on excellent high school teams and rarely got touched in the pocket. At UM, the Canes are coming off a 5-7 season. How are these kids going to react to pressure? Harris hasn't faced adversity since he came out of the crib."
But Harris, who was named Florida's Mr. Football, is confident. Skinny at 6-4 and 174 pounds, Harris conceeds that Marve has the edge physically at the moment. But that is all he will concede.
"Robert is a funny character, tells jokes," Harris said. "He is a great person and a good friend. But you can't have any friends on the field. I plan to fight for the job. We both promised to outwork each other. But we never downgrade each other."
Marve said he is ready for the challenge.
"I am excited to get back to football," he said. "I love the game. It's my life - football and my family. I just can't wait for The U to be The U again, to be hungry and take whatever we want on the field."