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Fennelly: Marve comes full circle with Bucs tryout

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Published:   |   Updated: May 6, 2013 at 07:49 AM
TAMPA -

There he was Saturday, a local legend again playing quarterback on a local field, seven years after putting Plant High football on the national map. It seems like longer. Now he was simply looking to be seen.

“I had a lot of fun out here, slinging it around,” Robert Marve said.

It was a tryout at Bucs rookie minicamp, the longest of shots. There was Marve, listed at 6-foot-1, standing next to 6-7 Mike Glennon, the Bucs' third-round draft pick. Marve went undrafted. No matter.

“I'm proud of him,” Plant football coach Robert Weiner said. “You have to appreciate Robert's persistence, all the twists and turns. Everyone's journey is different. It doesn't always go in a linear path. The amazing thing, at the end of the day, is he's trying out for an NFL team, which we all imagined for him, but never the circuitous route …”

“I kind of had a crazy college career,” Marve said.

Kind of?

Two different schools, Miami and Purdue, six years of eligibility, three knee injuries, starting, sitting, sitting, starting, career over, career reborn, and his share of mistakes, one becoming part of an NCAA investigation. The 24-year-old Marve is still standing — on one ACL, no less.

“I don't have an ACL,” Marve said, meaning his left knee.

You heard right. Marve lost it early last season in a loss at Notre Dame. He thought his career was done. Then he willed himself back. He returned later to lead Purdue to a bowl, his only one as a starting college quarterback. It wasn't the career he had envisioned, or anyone else had, but he didn't give up. He overcame.

“I really thought he threw the ball well throughout training camp,” Bucs GM Mark Dominik said.

“Robert did a really nice job,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.

Plant football is a powerhouse, but Robert Marve powered it first. In 2006, he led the Panthers to a perfect season and their first state title. He was The Marvelous One, tagged for greatness.

“Robert raised everybody up, including his coach,” Weiner said. Other Plant titles followed, other great Plant quarterbacks, including Aaron Murray, a Heisman contender at Georgia; and Phillip Ely, part of championship Alabama teams.

“Robert was the trailblazer,” Weiner said. “He hacked his way though the jungle where there was no path. When he left (for Miami), he had the possibility of doing anything any kid would dream about.”

Then it got crazy.

There was that car accident before Marve arrived at Miami. He broke his arm. He battled academics. Marve started as a redshirt freshman in 2008, but was replaced by Jacory Harris late in the season. He decided to transfer; he had problems with head coach Randy Shannon. Miami initially forbid him from jumping to an ACC or SEC school, or any in-state school. Marve fought it. He eventually chose Purdue.

Then he first injured his ACL, in a summer workout before reaching West Lafayette. After sitting out as a transfer, Marve was named Boilermakers starting QB in 2010, only to re-tear his ACL, ending his season after four games.

In 2011, he was a backup. He also was linked to receiving improper benefits while at Miami from infamous booster Nevin Shapiro. Marve reportedly cooperated with the NCAA. He kept his eligibility. He then gained a sixth year of eligibility because of his injuries. He was still the backup.

Then, last September at Notre Dame, Marve came off the bench and led Purdue to two scores. In the fourth quarter, game tied, he drove the Boilermakers inside the Irish 20 — his time had finally come. Then he was sacked. There went his ACL, one last time, nothing left of it. Eugene Marve, a former Bucs player, was there.

“I shed some tears with my dad,” Marve said. “I kind of told him it was over, I gave it all I got, I went out, guns blazing.”

But a Purdue trainer convinced Marve that maybe he was a truly rare case, and Dr. James Andrews agreed. Marve returned inside of a month, no ACL, no problem. Teammates were amazed.

“I definitely thought he was done after number three,” said former Purdue running back Akeem Shavers, who was at Bucs rookie minicamp as a free agent. “It was crazy how he came back like three weeks later. I was like, 'Rob, you sure you want to do this?'”

He was sure.

“My dad's the hardest-working man I know,” Marve said. “There's not a lot of room for being soft in the house. He's kind of instilled that in me, that never-give-up mentality.”

“Robert was one of the best leaders we had,” Shavers said. “You couldn't help but listen to him because of what he'd been through.”

Robert Marve finished his college career as a starter, helping Purdue win its final three games to gain a bowl. He grew up along the way. He earned his degree. After those struggles at Miami, he was all-academic Big Ten for three years. “I'm proud of that,” Marve said. He was proud of his Bucs tryout, too. He's at peace, no matter what. He tried.

“I'm not the tallest guy, but I think I bring a little something. This is a blessing, an opportunity. I'm not stressing this. I can do other stuff. I enjoyed the opportunity. I loved playing football. If it works out it works out. If it doesn't, I'll be fine. Like I said, it's always fun spinning the ball in Tampa.”

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