Playing for Pitt was fulfillment of dream for Marino

Updated: August 7, 2003, 7:37 PM ET

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Dan Marino grew up watching the Pitt Panthers, and dreaming that one day he'd get to play on the team.

Years later he did, guiding Pitt through the winningest three-year stretch in the school's history. His efforts have now earned him a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

"To play quarterback there for four years and then get into the Hall of Fame, it's something I'm proud of," Marino said. "It's part of my heritage."

Marino planned to bring his wife, parents and two of his sons to see him enshrined Saturday in South Bend. Joining him will be 23 others, including former Tennessee defensive tackle Reggie White, former Southern California safety Ronnie Lott and former Missouri tight end Kellen Winslow.

Marino led the Panthers to three straight 11-1 seasons. His best year was his junior year, passing for 2,876 yards and 37 touchdowns. He threw six TD passes in a game against South Carolina.

But his senior season was a bit of a disappointment.

"Everybody's expectations were extremely high because of what we had done the three years," Marino said. "And on paper, with the talent we had, we probably did have the best team. But that doesn't always result in wins."

The Panthers struggled to a 7-6 season-opening win over North Carolina. They were 7-0 when they were upset 31-16 by an unranked Notre Dame squad, and finished the season 9-3.

Marino's completion's rate dipped slightly, from 59.4 percent as a junior to 58.4 percent as a senior. But he threw for 444 yards less and his TD passes dropped from 37 to 17.

There was talk Marino wasn't throwing with the same velocity, that his arm looked sore. He was the sixth quarterback drafted and the 27th player taken overall.

It was a hard day, but Marino said that's all forgotten.

"If I'm going to start thinking about something 20 years ago that's going to bother me, then I have a real problem," he said. "It comes back to people's different opinions and what they needed at the time. I mean John Elway, Jim Kelly, Eric Dickerson were in that draft, Darrell Green, Bruce Matthews. There are just a ton of players in that first round that are potential Hall of Famers."

Elway, former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, former Clemson safety Terry Kinard, former Arkansas defensive end Billy Ray Smith and former Michigan wide receiver Anthony Carter are among those in the Class of '82 already in the hall. Marino's Pitt teammate, offensive tackle Jimbo Covert, will be enshrined next year.

"So you can see how you got kicked back a little bit in the first round. There were just so many great players," he said.

Marino is happy just to be one of them.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index