Marve getting 1 last chance to prove himself

At 23, Robert Marve feels like the old man on campus.

As the Purdue quarterback looks around Ross-Ade Stadium, he sees

the baby-faced freshmen and can’t believe he’s still here, playing

with teenagers.

After transferring from Miami, sustaining two season-ending knee

injuries and having his name dragged through a major recruiting

scandal, the once highly-touted prep quarterback from Florida is

preparing for his sixth and, yes, final college season,

”Yeah, we call him Grandpa Marve,” receiver O.J. Ross joked.

”He’s a real mature quarterback and he’s a play-maker, too.”

Forget the age, Marve still throws well enough to be in the

midst of yet another quarterback derby at the Cradle of

Quarterbacks.

Two years ago, the job was Marve’s to lose. Back then, he was

considered the next big thing at a school that has produced a long

line of star quarterbacks – Drew Brees, Gary Danielson, Len Dawson

and Bob Griese among them. Injuries never allowed him to reach

those heights, and now, with next weekend’s season-opener against

Eastern Kentucky looming, he’s the underdog in a competition with

Caleb TerBush.

It was never supposed to be this tough for Marve, who was

considered a shooting star with unlimited potential in 2006.

Instead, his college odyssey has been one twisted chapter after

another.

The trouble began in the summer of 2007 when Marve, then

Florida’s reigning Mr. Football, wound up in a car that

crash-landed on its roof. The most serious injury Marve suffered

was to his left hand, which required season-ending surgery.

When he returned to the field the next season, there were more

problems.

Misdemeanor charges for minor criminal mischief and resisting

arrest without violence forced him to miss the 2008 season-opener.

Violating the team’s academic rules kept him out of the

season-ending Emerald Bowl game against California. In between,

Marve started 11 games for the Hurricanes, going 116 of 213 for

1,293 yards with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

By the end of 2008, it was clear Marve’s career was in a free

fall. He was falling behind future starter Jacory Harris, running

out of chances with then Miami coach Randy Shannon and in need of a

new start. So when Marve went looking for a new school and Miami

essentially told him to leave his native South, the 6-foot-1,

212-pound quarterback headed North where he found a first-year

coach willing to give him a second chance.

”Robert is a high-energy guy who really loves football,”

Purdue coach Danny Hope said. ”He’s always been a great effort

guy, but he’s matured a lot here and I think that helps us as a

football team and as a football program because he’s a special

talent.”

The bad luck followed him to West Lafayette.

While sitting out the 2009 season because of the NCAA’s transfer

rule, Marve tore the ACL in his left knee.

He returned in 2010, won the Boilermakers’ starting job, then

hurt the same knee in Purdue’s third game and reinjured it the next

week against Toledo. After throwing just 99 passes and completing

67 in his second college season, an MRI confirmed Marve’s worst

fears – he had retorn the ACL in his left knee.

For the first time in his memory, Marve contemplated life

without football.

”You begin to understand that it is a sport, it’s something you

love to do. It’s not who you are,” he said. ”It’s a great feeling

to be on the field and have fun with your friends. But it put me at

a point where I realized family was No. 1.”

Hope wanted Marve to work his way back into Purdue’s lineup

slowly.

And again, the plan went awry.

He was clearly not 100 percent when he was practicing with the

Boilermakers last August and former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro

delivered yet another blow to Marve’s image – naming the former

Hurricanes quarterback as one of dozens of players to whom he

provided multiple improper benefits. It didn’t take long for

questions to surface about Marve’s eligibility and whether he would

ever play another college down. The NCAA decided to let him

continue playing.

A week after that, Rob Henry, Marve’s replacement in 2010, tore

the ACL in his right knee, putting Marve back in the spotlight as

the possible starter.

With Marve not fully healthy, Hope made the safe choice and

handed the reins to TerBush, who led the Boilers to their first

bowl game since 2007 and their second bowl win since 2003. Marve

wound up playing in 10 games and went 61 of 109 for 633 yards with

four touchdowns and five picks.

So after five mostly disappointing college seasons, who would

have blamed Marve for walking away from football?

He just couldn’t.

Purdue petitioned for a sixth-year of eligibility, which the

NCAA granted, allowing the wiser, more mature Marve to return this

fall – as the second-oldest football player in West Lafayette – and

prove the critics wrong. Defensive tackle Kawann Short is eight

days older than Marve.

”It (the competition) is a good thing,” he said. ”I don’t

have any added pressure and you have to understand that at Purdue

there are good quarterbacks all around.”

But it’s not just about scoring touchdowns or winning games

anymore.

Marve has become a sounding board for teammates.

He’s improved in the classroom, off the field and emerged as a

leader.

He’s also keeping this quarterback competition in perspective

and staying within the confines of team unity, regardless of

whomever Hope names the starter for next week’s season-opener.

Teammates like what they’re seeing.

”He’s healthy, that’s one of the biggest things. He’s back to

his old ways,” TerBush said of the difference between Marve this

year and last. ”It’s competitive, but I think we’re all trying to

help one another.”

Even Marve feels good about it.

On media day, he told reporters he’s feeling healthier than he

has at any point in his college career.

And though he looks and sounds older than the wide-eyed

teenagers just starting out at Purdue, Marve believes he’s not too

old to make a difference at Purdue.

”I had a lot of growing up to do in college, and I view life

very different now and I feel blessed,” he said. ”I don’t know

too many guys that have blown out two ACLs and had nerve damage in

their hand and still have a chance.”